As Kentucky prepares to face the Tennessee Volunteers on Saturday, the Wildcats have already secured a bowl bid and a piece of Wildcat history along the way. Kentucky has never been bowl eligible for four consecutive seasons and the Wildcats haven't won seven or more games in four consecutive seasons in nearly a century.
You can thank head coach Rich Brooks for that accomplishment. The last four seasons, Kentucky has won 30 games and they still have two more contests to go this season. In this, his seventh season, Rich Brooks and the Wildcats are a win away from placing second in the SEC east, which is a considerable jump from where the Cats stood when Brooks took over.
What Brooks has done is build a solid foundation for the program to stand on. He and his staff have recruited solid players who minimize mistakes and come up with big plays when needed. The staff, although still near the bottom of the conference in recruiting, continues to find diamonds in the rough and develop those prospects into players who can contribute through the long haul.
A big part of the continuing development of these prospects is the additional practices that are provided to them for going to a bowl game. It may not seem like much, but the bowl game gives coaches another month to practice with his team. If a player redshirts and is in the program five years, that's five months of extra practice that schools not in bowl games don't have. Five months is nearly a full season of practice. That added bonus can benefit underrated prospects in a major way.
Also by continually taking his program to the post-season each year, the Wildcats can build momentum on the recruiting trail. They can advise prospects that they are a program on the rise and they will have a chance to play in bowl games each year. This process also legitimizes the program in the eyes of higher prospects.
Coach Brooks has also given recruits a sense of continuity. In the past, many Wildcat coaches have had struggles and there were fears from recruits that the coach recruiting them wouldn't be at the school for the four or five years that he'd be attending the school. Brooks has stabilized the program by cooling his seat and winning games that aren't normally won at Kentucky.
He's also agreed that Head Coach of Offense, Joker Phillips, would be the next head coach at Kentucky. With coach Phillips being in line to become the next coach, it's likely that recruits know that they won't have to get to know an entirely new staff if Brooks decides to hang it up.
Rich Brooks has also given a new-found confidence to Wildcat fans. No longer to fans believe they don't have a chance to win. Wildcat fans have been expecting bowls each year and expecting to win games that they don't normally have a chance to compete in. That change in attitude is a big part why the program is blossoming into a respectable one in the SEC and with more success, the program can blossom nationally as well.
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