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Brooks, Blair Receive Call to Hall
Courtesy: GoDucks.com
Release Date: 08/05/2011
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PORTLAND, Ore. - Former Duck luminaries Rich Brooks and Kelly Blair are among the seven selections for the 2011 Oregon Sports Hall of Fame & Museum.

According to Mike Rose, executive director, the Hall of Fame will induct seven new members to join over 340 prior inductees. The presentations will be made at the Multnomah Athletic Club, Wednesday, September 28, during the 32nd annual induction ceremony.

This year's class includes Tom Trebelhorn, long time MLB manager and current field boss of the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes; Clive Davies, masters marathoner; Kelly Blair-LaBounty, University of Oregon track sensation and Olympic heptathlon participant; Les Gutches, Oregon State, National and Olympics championship wrestler; 1982, '84, '86 and 2004 Linfield championship football teams; Rich Brooks, Universities of Oregon and Kentucky, and St. Louis Rams head football coach; and Morris "Bucky" Buckwalter, long time Portland Trail Blazers assistant coach and team management executive.

Each year the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame helps preserve Oregon's rich sports heritage through its recognition of outstanding Oregon athletes and special contributors to sport.

 Kelly Blair-LaBounty - Track & Field

A Prosser Washington High School graduate, Kelly Blair-LaBounty was a three-sport standout and declared "arguably the best school girl athlete ever in the state" by the Seattle Times. Kelly was an all-league volleyball player, three-time all-league basketball player, two-time all-state basketball player, basketball state tournament MVP, while leading her team to the state championship, and winner of 10 individual state track titles.

While basketball was Kelly's first love, track seemed to be her strongest suit. After being heavily recruited for her skills on the court, Kelly decided to attend the University of Oregon, where she played basketball and participated in track. After being awarded two letters on the court, Kelly decided it was time to concentrate on her track career. The decision proved to be rewarding.

The three-time NCAA All-American as well as three-time Pacific-10 Conference champion was regarded among the best female athletes in Oregon history both on and off the track. The 1993 NCAA heptathlon champion (6,034 points) still holds the Pac-10 championship meet record (5,989 points, 1993) and remains third on the conference's all-time list (6,038 points) as the Oregon school record-holder. One of the Ducks' nine individuals (male or female) to claim a minimum of three U.S. Track and Field Championships, she finished eighth in the heptathlon in the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta before qualifying for a return trip in 2000. In the process, she became the first American in three years to beat heptathlon world record-holder Jackie Joyner- Kersey in the ‘96 U.S. Olympic Trials.

The two-time World Championships participant ranks fifth all time on the U.S. list in her specialty and 11th on the career collegiate ledger. She was named Pac-10 women's track athlete of the year as a junior (1993) and individually accounted for 56 of the Ducks' 170 conference-meet points her final two years. Upon graduating with a degree in finance and economics in 1994 (3.89 gpa), Blair ranked among Oregon's top four performers of all time in five separate events (heptathlon, 100 hurdles, 400 hurdles, high jump and long jump), and in the top 10 in a sixth specialty (200 meters). The two-time first-team academic All-American and five-time first-team academic all-conference honoree was a 1994 NCAA Post-Graduate Scholarship recipient as well as was one of four NCAA Top Eight Award recipients in school history

In recent years she has been working as a personal coach and promoting physical literacy with Bev Smith at Kidsports. She is married to former Duck defensive lineman Matt LaBounty who was an NFL 12th-round selection in 1992 by the San Francisco 49ers, and later played with the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks. The couple have two young sons, Jacob (7) and Lucas (3).

 Rich Brooks - Coaching

Assuming a job that few men wanted, Rich Brooks elevated a program to heights that few deemed possible at that time. While he may best be remembered as Oregon's football coach who guided the Ducks to their first Rose Bowl appearance in 37 years, his legacy meant so much more -- he provided the foundation for the most successful era of college football in school history. Through his 18-year tenure, the Oregon State graduate became the Ducks' first coach to guide them to four post-season appearances, the first ever to take Oregon to back-to-back bowl berths and completed his tenure as the winningest football coach in school history.

The two-time Pacific-10 Conference Coach of the Year and 1994 national honoree led the school to its first undisputed conference championship in 46 seasons in 1994 in addition to serving as the University's director of athletics from 1992-94. The Northern California native became the school's first to coach the Ducks to nine wins since 1948 and a valiant Rose Bowl effort against No. 1-ranked Penn State. He concluded his Oregon reign posting a 14-3-1 record against rival Oregon State.

After leaving Oregon, Brooks returned to the pro game and was head coach of the St. Louis Rams (1995-96) and defensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons (1997-2000). He left the NFL for another chance as a collegiate head coach, a risk that paid off when he took a job at an apparent long shot at Kentucky.

He had two goals when he became the head football coach at the University of Kentucky. First, stay on the job longer than any head coach in school history. Second, leave the program in better shape than when he found it. The first goal will not be met, but it is on his terms as Brooks chose to retire after seven seasons with the Wildcats. The second goal undoubtedly has been achieved, as Brooks became the first coach to take Kentucky to four-consecutive bowl games and the first to win three-straight bowls.

"Rich Brooks changed the culture and the direction of the University of Kentucky football program," said UK President Dr. Lee Todd. "He was willing to take the heat and face the critics in the early years and build our program the right way. His no-nonsense, high-integrity approach earned the respect of his players, our fans and the media. "It has been a pleasure having Rich as our football coach because I always knew that whatever decisions he was making were in the best interest of the program and his students. The University is grateful for his impact on our program and for paving the way for future success."

"The University of Kentucky cannot begin to express its thanks to Rich and Karen Brooks for their contributions to the Wildcat football program," said Mitch Barnhart, UK Director of Athletics. "Rich took a program from a very difficult time and raised it to respectability on a national level, all the while doing it with dignity and class. "His toughness was a trademark for the program he put together. The foundation that he has laid will give those that follow an opportunity to experience success on a conference and national level. I wish him all the happiness he deserves in his retirement and look forward to continuing our friendship for many years to come."

The achievements are even more remarkable when one considers the rebuilding job done by Brooks, who took over a program for the 2003 season that was burdened by the effects of NCAA probation. Inheriting a low number of players and further hampered by probation-imposed scholarship reductions, Brooks had only 70 recruited scholarship players for the 2003 season, 72 recruited scholarship players in 2004, and just 69 for the 2005 campaign - well below the NCAA maximum of 85.

The results were predictable as Kentucky produced a 9-25 record for the 2003-05 seasons. But all along, Brooks and his coaching staff were building a program. The fruits of patient coaching and tireless recruiting were realized when the Wildcats went 8-5 in the 2006 season, capped by an upset of highly favored Clemson in the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl. It was the most wins for a Kentucky team and first bowl victory since 1984.

Following the season, Brooks was recognized for his performance by the Kentucky chapter of the National Football League Players Association Alumni, which gave him the Blanton Collier Award in recognition of his on-the-field accomplishments and off-the-field steadiness that were hallmarks of Collier, the former UK and Cleveland Browns head coach.

More dramatic results were produced in 2007 - another eight-win season, coming against a schedule rated as high as the fifth-most difficult in the nation - capped by a Music City Bowl triumph over perennial power Florida State. Additional landmarks featured:
Simply going to postseason play in 2008 was a big achievement for the Wildcats, who had massive graduation departures from 2007, then sustained major losses to key personnel during the '08 campaign.

Despite the obstacles, the team reflected Brooks' hard-nosed attitude and fought its way to a 7-6 record and another bowl championship. Along the way, UK posted come-from-behind fourth-quarter victories over Middle Tennessee, Arkansas and, finally, Conference USA champ East Carolina in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl.

Rallying to win in the fourth quarter became a trademark for Brooks' teams. In the '08 win over Arkansas, for example, UK tied the school record for overcoming the largest fourth-quarter deficit in school history. The Wildcats trailed 20-7 with only five minutes to go before posting two late TDs to win, 21-20. It's not surprising that the previous time a 13-point deficit was erased in the fourth quarter was also by a Brooks team, in the 2004 season vs. Vanderbilt.

UK's win over East Carolina in the Liberty Bowl was another of Brooks' coaching gems. Trailing 16-3 at halftime, a fiery speech motivated his team to yet another fourth-quarter comeback triumph. In the process, it was the first time in school history that Kentucky had won bowl games following three consecutive seasons.

Brooks also received an individual accolade when CollegeFootballNews.com named him the 2009 SEC Coach of the Year. Brooks' versatile coaching abilities were reflected in the various achievements made by his offensive, defensive and special teams units.

Brooks' teams also posted accomplishments in the classroom. UK had a first-team Academic All-American from 2005-08, with only one other school in the nation able to make that claim. In 2005, UK led the nation by having three players on the Academic All-America squad. Hayden Lane and Jacob Tamme were the 2006 and 2007 SEC Football Scholar-Athletes of the Year, the first time in league history that one school had back-to-back winners of the award.

Brooks' amazing turnaround of Kentucky's football fortunes marked the second time in his career that he has resurrected a troubled program. He followed a similar course at the University of Oregon from 1977-94, taking a downtrodden team and eventually advancing to four bowls in his final six seasons. The 1994 season was his best, as he led the Ducks to the Rose Bowl and Brooks was named National Coach of the Year.

In his rebuilding jobs at Oregon and Kentucky, Brooks has a career record of 130-156-4, including 91-109-4 in 18 years at Oregon and 39-47 in seven seasons at UK. He went 30-22 in his final four seasons with the Wildcats.

A native of Forest, Calif., the 69-year-old Brooks played his collegiate football at Oregon State while obtaining his bachelor's and master's degrees. He coached at Oregon State and UCLA, and also had NFL stints with the Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49'ers, before landing the head coaching role at Oregon.

In retirement, Brooks will enjoy more time with his wife, Karen, four children (daughters Kasey and Kerri, sons Denny and Brady), five grandchildren, and countless friends made during a lifetime of coaching. He'll also have more time for his hobbies of fishing and golfing.

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