After suffering a tough loss to Clemson in the Music City Bowl, Rich Brooks followed up on hints that he might be retiring by saying that he's "80 percent sure" he will not return next year. Brooks is 68 and speculation on when he would retire has circulated since he pegged Joker Phillips as head-coach-in-waiting a couple of years back.
Although Brooks failed to break the Wildcats into the SEC's upper echelon, his success in taking a team that had always struggled in the SEC off probation and into four straight bowls--three of them wins--has been nothing short of remarkable. Brooks has consistently made the most of what he's had at Kentucky, which struggles to recruit alongside the SEC's powers. While I have a lot of respect for our coaching staff, we can't exactly say the same in defense of our middle-tier status. You have to give Brooks credit for what he's done in Lexington.
Whether Phillips can take the 'Cats to the next level remains to be seen. Outside of 2008, Phillips has generally been a decent offensive coordinator for Kentucky, and he's been grooming to be the head honcho for a couple of years now, so the transition should be smooth. Kentucky still, though, faces a talent differential in contrast to us, UF, UGA, and UT that Phillips will always struggle to overcome.
One thing's for sure: Phillips will inherit a number of quality young players on his 2010 offense that should help him make a push to move Kentucky up in the standings. Kentucky has been biting at the bit for the past few years to take our spot in fourth place in the SEC East, with us often only retaining it due to the tiebreakers our series dominance has given us. It won't get any easier to hold off the 'Cats next year, I suspect.