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UK Athletics reaffirms partnership with university in extending contribution

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UK Athletics will contribute $3 million to funding academic scholarships in 2012-13. (UK Athletics) UK Athletics will contribute $3 million to funding academic scholarships in 2012-13. (UK Athletics)
During Mitch Barnhart's time as Athletics Director at the University of Kentucky, UK Athletics has remained one of a handful of self-supporting athletic departments in the nation. At the same time, the decade under Barnhart's leadership has seen unprecedented successes, culminating in a 2011-12 season that ranks among the best in program history.

Through those years, UK Athletics also solidified an already strong relationship with the university and former President Lee Todd, demonstrating its commitment by contributing millions in scholarships and royalties. When Dr. Eli Capilouto was tabbed the school's next president in May 2011, both he and Barnhart dedicated themselves to continuing to forge that partnership.

At a meeting of the University Athletics Committee of the University of Kentucky Board of Trustees, the health of the relationship was clear. On Tuesday morning, Capilouto accepted the recommendation that UK Athletics increase its contribution to funding academic scholarships to $3 million annually.

"We are proud to be able to make this substantial increase in the amount of dollars contributed for the benefit of the academic side of the university, most especially in helping students with greater scholarship opportunities," Barnhart said. "While this increase is not a recurring commitment, our goal is to continue to support the university's academic mission as long as our budget will sustain it."

The $3 million contribution is up more than 75 percent from the $1.7 million UK Athletics has been contributing the past several years. The contribution will play an important role in funding the Singletary Scholarship program - UK's most prestigious award - which will include a record 51 freshmen in 2012-13, up from 34 just last year.

"The athletic department, through their generosity, is covering with this single contribution the entire cost for the next four years of these 17 additional Singletary Scholars," Capilouto said. "This is important and I am grateful."

This increased contribution is just the latest example of an athletics department enriching life at the university with more than just on-field success. Through 2011-12, UK Athletics has donated $21,083,420 to the university in scholarships and royalties during Barnhart's 10-year tenure. Going beyond that, UK Athletics has contributed over $100 million in scholarships, indirect royalties and expenses.

"We are fortunate to have an athletics program that is self-sustaining - one of the few in the country - and that makes a concerted effort to contribute to the academic life of the institution," Capilouto said. "Thanks to that financial strength and commitment, we are able to help many additional students make their UK education more affordable."

Even with these contributions and a 22-sport program - broadest in the Southeastern Conference - UK Athletics' budget of $91.9 million for the 2013 fiscal year remains in the middle of the pack among conference mates.

Not only that, these challenging economic times for the university and Kentucky state government as a whole have dictated that UK Athletics pursue new facilities and facility upgrades without significant bonding authority. The new outdoor track and revamped UK Softball Complex that will open next season have been and will be paid for without incurring debt.

"All of our facility projects are basically done out of our cash flow," Barnhart said. "Whatever we get in cash flow, we're pouring back into either the general maintenance of our facilities or the growth of our facilities."

Along with covering the escalating expenses associated with athletic scholarships, salaries and travel, facility development is where the projected $3.5 million generated by the men's basketball K Fund and ticket increases approved at Tuesday's meeting will go.

Both Capilouto and Barnhart were sure to emphasize the importance of the experience every student-athlete has while at UK. Football and men's basketball may be the financial engines that drive the train that is UK Athletics, but the impact on the lives of thousands of young people that those other 20 sports have had should not be lost.

"I think we've all had children that played sports that might not have been football or basketball, but we wanted them to have an opportunity to play," Barnhart said. "That's what college is about: providing opportunity. And that's not new to college athletics. Football and basketball, the other sports have always lived on the backs of those two sports."

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Keep up the great work. Our priorities seem to be the right ones.

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