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Link: Education Executive profiles UK Athletics

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Education Executive is a magazine is a source of news and information designed for leaders in the field of education. This week, Eric Slack from that publication wrote a feature that spotlights UK Athletics and Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart.

It touches on Kentucky's success in competition, but the piece centers more on how the department seeks to help its student-athletes develop as people. Here's an excerpt:

Barnhart has led the Kentucky Wildcats since 2002, having previously served in a similar capacity with Oregon State University from 1998 to 2002. His experience running major collegiate athletic programs at the NCAA Division I level has shown him how athletic programs can act as a major part of the educational experience, even during an era when it is more difficult than ever for student-athletes to balance their competitive commitments with the academic and social demands of today's world.

"Balancing that dynamic as an 18- to 22-year-old is very difficult," Barnhart says. "I believe that we are chasing a culture that is difficult to catch, because the rules of society and technology change so fast and can become detrimental to relationships. We concentrate on making sure our coaches have everyday relationships with our kids and know what is going on in their lives. That day-to-day relationship is where the real teaching begins."

There can be no denying the success the University of Kentucky has experienced on the field of play. It is a founding member of the Southeastern Conference, and its men's soccer team competes in Conference USA. The university has won eight men's basketball NCAA titles (most recently in 2012), as well as winning national titles in football and women's cross-country and rifle, not to mention a cheerleading squad that has won 19 national titles.

With all the competitive success, it is easy for the public eye to wander from the fact that the vast majority of Kentucky Wildcats will never earn a dime as professional athletes. Therefore, the athletic department puts as much emphasis on academic success as it does on wins.

"We have almost 500 student-athletes, and most of our kids know they won't play professionally," Barnhart says. "When I got here, the athletic department's graduation rate was around 40 percent, and now we are in the 60 percent range. We have made progress, but we want to be better."

Link: Education Executive profiles UK Athletics

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