Celebration of Coach Brooks Brings Music to Ears of KY Kids

March 30, 2009

LEXINGTON, Ky. − Building on the past success of the Maker's Mark/Keeneland charitable bottle series that supports projects at the University of Kentucky, Maker's Mark and Keeneland are continuing the program with the celebration of UK football coach Rich Brooks , whose likeness will be featured on the bottle label. Coach Brooks has led the Wildcats to multiple wins in bowl competition and is the first coach to win three consecutive bowl games in UK Athletics history.

This year, the coach will join forces with University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra , Maker's Mark and Keeneland to raise money for a unique extension program highlighting the performing arts for elementary schoolchildren throughout the Commonwealth.

“I can’t tell you how excited I am and honored that I was chosen to be part of this and be able to help the music department and help the orchestra get out into the state of Kentucky and expose and make more future bright UK students to come here and learn in what is obviously a great department” said Brooks.

“We could not ask for a better example than Rich Brooks to be commemorating (the bottle) this year,” UK President Lee T. Todd, Jr. said. “When I do write a book – and I do intend to write a book someday – there is going to be a chapter devoted to how he has turned around this football program with class, with character and with continuum improvement.”

Maker's Mark will donate its proceeds from the sales – estimated to be about $200,000 from 18,000 bottles – to an extension program bringing the UK Symphony Orchestra and students from the UK School of Music into public schools and communities throughout Kentucky. UK is in the process of securing matching grants that, if sales of the bottles are successful, may create funding for this unique program in excess of $1.2 million.

"The performances around Kentucky funded by this program will be tremendous for our students in the UK Orchestra, the children who will participate in the programs, and the communities who will hear the concerts," said John Nardolillo , director of UK Symphony Orchestra. "Maker's Mark and Keeneland are doing something which will have a lasting impact at the university and around the Commonwealth."

In a time when budgets do not allow for extensive arts programs in public schools, this three-phase program developed by Nardolillo will introduce third and fourth grade students throughout Kentucky to the joy of music and the performing arts. 

Maker's Mark President Bill Samuels Jr. said, “Celebrating Coach Brooks this year is appropriate as he truly brought life back into the football program. More important is his dedication to education. This is also a wonderful way to show how collegiate athletics can support the greater good of the university and education throughout the Commonwealth.”

Samuels added, “If the bottles sell, we will look at supporting this program with a three-year series as we did for the Markey Cancer Center, where this partnership created $3 million for clinical cancer research.”

Born in Forest, Calif., Brooks was a football player at Oregon State University. He began coaching after graduation and held assistant coaching jobs at Norte Del Rio High School, Oregon State, UCLA, and with the Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers of the National Football League. 

His first head coaching job was at the University of Oregon from 1977 to 1994, when he took the Ducks to bowl games in four of his last six seasons. In 1994, Oregon won the Pacific-10 Conference championship and played in the Rose Bowl, earning Brooks National Coach of the Year honors from the Football Writers Association of America (Bear Bryant Award), The Sporting News and ESPN. 

Brooks returned to the NFL as head coach of the St. Louis Rams in 1995, where he compiled the team's best two-year record in nearly a decade. He then spent the next four seasons as assistant head coach/defensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons, helping guide the team to the only Super Bowl appearance in the franchise's history.

Brooks took over at Kentucky in December 2002. After three years, Brooks' squad had a breakout season in 2006, finishing 8-5 and winning the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl over heavily favored Clemson. The 2007 season produced another 8-5 record, including a victory over eventual national champion Louisiana State University and Music City Bowl win over Florida State. The 2008 squad fought its way to another postseason appearance with a 7-6 record, capped by a victory over East Carolina in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl. In the process, Brooks joined Paul “Bear” Bryant as the only two coaches in school history to reach the postseason in three consecutive years, and marked the first time that UK won bowl games in three consecutive seasons. Brooks has been named to the Northern California Sports Association Hall of Fame and the Independence Bowl Hall of Fame.

Since Nardolillo took the conductor's podium of the UK Symphony Orchestra, it has enjoyed great success racking up recording credits, performing on prestigious stages at the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall and sharing the stage with such acclaimed international artists as Arlo Guthrie, Lynn Harrell and Gil Shaham. Among its recording credits are: "In Times Like These," recorded live with folk icon Guthrie in March 2006 at the UK Singletary Center for the Arts; the premiere cast recording of Thomas Pasatieri's "The Hotel Casablanca" with UK Opera Theatre; "Music of the Horse," a collection of equestrian-inspired music sponsored by UK School of Music and the Keeneland Foundation; and most recently a critically acclaimed recording of composer George Frederick McKay's "Epoch: An American Dance Symphony" with the UK Women's Choir. The latest recording is the first CD UK Symphony Orchestra produced as part of the orchestra's contract with Naxos, the world's largest classical recording label.

Maker's Mark will produce 18,000 numbered, limited edition bottles honoring Brooks, which should be available statewide Friday, April 3, opening day of Keeneland's Spring 2009 meet. The bottle should retail for about $45 to $49 if retailers take their normal markup.

In an effort to better accommodate the growing legion of fans who attend the Maker's Mark bottle signing at Keeneland, a few guidelines and a ticketing system have been established. Security officials will begin distributing tickets Thursday evening, April 9, to fans in line who are 21 years or older. The ticket will allow each holder to have up to two of the 2009 commemorative bottles signed. Tickets will not be numbered and will not dictate a place in line, but will assure the holder up to two bottles will be signed. Anyone leaving the line after receiving a ticket will have to return to the end of the line. All ticket holders should be in line by 6:30 a.m. on Friday, April 10.

A concession stand will be open to serve beverages and snacks throughout the night before the signings. No coolers and no alcohol, other than the 2009 commemorative bottle, will be allowed inside the gates.

The signings, scheduled the day of the Grade-1 Maker's Mark Mile, will begin at 6:30 a.m. Friday, April 10, trackside at Keeneland, with Coach Brooks, Maker's Mark President Bill Samuels and Keeneland President Nick Nicholson.