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Barnhart vows to 'finish the job' with contract extension

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Barnhart.jpgMitch Barnhart's foreseeable future is at the University of Kentucky as the department's continuing director of athletics.

With the announcement of a contract extension Wednesday, Barnhart's existing five-year contract will be extended by three years. Barnhart's annual "rolling" extension clause will be terminated with the extension and his overall compensation will be increased $125,000, from $475,000 to $600,000, including incentive clauses tied to the performances of the football, men's basketball and women's basketball teams.

You can read the complete details of Barnhart's extension here.

"In my judgment, Mitch Barnhart is one of the outstanding leaders in intercollegiate athletics today," UK President Lee T. Todd, Jr. said in a statement. "During his tenure, we've had consistent and, in many respects, unparalleled success for our entire program, not just pieces of it. We have a comprehensive athletics program at UK, which is directly attributable to Mitch's leadership and vision. This move ensures a sense of continuity for a department clearly moving in the right direction with a mission of being one of the top programs in the country."

Speaking at his contract extension announcement on campus Wednesday, Barnhart admitted he wasn't sure when he left the Oregon State athletic director job to take the gig at Kentucky that it was his final destination, telling a Lexington Herald-Leader reporter at the time that 10 years would be a good run. He even joked that the plan for a new basketball arena would be on the next athletic director's agenda.

Now it's on his.

Although he didn't close the door on possible future endeavors once his contract ends June 30, 2019, Barnhart said he's "not done yet."

"At the end of the day, I don't think we've finished the job," Barnhart said, "and I want to finish the deal."

Barnhart said there are peaks and valleys with every job and that everyone has to look at their career in the mirror at some point. Barnhart said he's had other opportunities and has explored other options, but most of the rumors of his departure, including recent Kansas rumors, have been exactly that - chatter.

Todd praised Barnhart at the announcement for his department-wide contributions and ability to relate with all sports, coaches and student-athletes.

"That's the kind of person we want at this university," Todd said. "I want him as long as he wants to stay here. It's the right thing to do and I can't tell you how good I feel about it."
Said Barnhart: "Nine years later, I'm as excited to be the athletic director at the University of Kentucky as I was on day one."

Barnhart said his goals remain unchanged, chief among them, to compete with integrity both inside and outside the lines, to give back to the university and improve academically.

Inheriting a program that had just been through three years of NCAA probation for violating recruiting violations, UK has committed no major NCAA violations under Barnhart's watch while raising the bar athletically across the entire department.

"The things we inherited nine years ago, we don't want to go back there again," Barnhart said.

A few years ago, Barnhart constructed the 15 by 15 by 15 Plan, a department-wide mandate to win at least 15 conference or national championships and rank among the NCAA's top 15 athletic programs by 2015.

Barnhart stressed that Kentucky's goals not just be about men's basketball and football. While those are the primary revenue sources for the department, he wants to make an impact across the board in the Southeastern Conference, a league he tabbed the most difficult in the country.

Barnhart has gained a reputation as being a passionate supporter of every sport at UK. Football head coach Joker Phillips said he knows the name of every single student-athlete, and Todd told stories of Barnhart sitting through swim meets, yelling at officials on the sidelines and traveling to Minnesota to prepare just one cross country runner for a meet.

"From A to Z, it's not just about football and basketball," Barnhart said. "You think those are the only ones that feel pressure? They all feel pressure to win. It is a daily deal. They all feel pressure because the stakes have been raised, and they all understand that."

Barnhart pointed to rifle coach Harry Mullins, who was in attendance, as an example for the job he's done with the rifle team.

"We've got a coach over here that just set a school record last week and won a conference championship by beating the No. 1 team in the country," Barnhart said. "Was it important to those kids? Absolutely it was important to those kids. It was important to them, so it makes it important to us. We're going to work as hard for them, hopefully, as everything we do with football and men's basketball."

Kentucky's coaches showed their support for Barnhart as well as a handful of them appeared at the announcement. Among them were Phillips, Mullins, women's basketball coach Matthew Mitchell, volleyball coach Craig Skinner, and gymnastics coaches Chuck Dickerson and Heather Hite. Men's basketball coach John Calipari could not attend the news conference because he was on a recruiting trip.

"(Stability) is important," Phillips said. "But all of that aside, I am not worried about stability for me but stability for this university. Being a graduate of here, the first thing that you look at is having a good man running your athletic department and Mitch is a good person."

As Barnhart moves forward with the contract extension, he said one of his top priorities in finishing the job at UK would be an upgrade for the school's facilities, most notably a "personality uplift" to Commonwealth Stadium.

What those upgrades are, how much they'll cost and where the funding will come from, Barnhart isn't quite sure yet, but the video boards and a recruiting room will be one of the first steps. Barnhart said the video boards in Commonwealth, which have a 10-to-12-year existence, are in their 11th year.

A new or renovated Rupp Arena is also being explored by the city. UK will have an active voice in the final decision, Barnhart said, but there is no timetable set.

Todd, whose last day as the university's president is June 30, 2011, said he's been mulling a contract extension for Barnhart for two or three years.

The longtime Kentucky president was asked why he would extend the contract of an athletic director when the new president may want to bring in his own AD. Todd replied with stability, vehemently supporting his decision to extend Barnhart's contract.

"I'm doing a heck of a favor for the university, and don't think I'm not," Todd said.

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1 Comment

Congratulations to Mr. Barnhart.

I have a questions about the men's basketball program. Is there a goal for the program? If so, what is it. I believe that Coach Calipari is one of the best. However, it seems his main interest is his personal goals, i.e., have the most players from one school drafted by the NBA. As a fan, I'm interested in seeing NCAA championship banners raised in Rupp. Its been said that two of the freshman will be leaving for the draft. If that is true, how can anyone build a championship team? The current team is doing very well-there just isn't enough of them. I don't expect them to go deep in the NCAA tournamnet. Not because they lack talent-they lack depth. I'm very disappointed.

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  • Alice: Congratulations to Mr. Barnhart. I have a questions about the men's basketball program. Is there a goal for the program? read more