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Celebrating a record year and looking to the future

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Men's basketball's trip to the national championship game helped lead UK Athletics to a record Directors' Cup finish in 2013-14. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Men's basketball's trip to the national championship game helped lead UK Athletics to a record Directors' Cup finish in 2013-14. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
We have been together on this journey for 12 years now, and what a ride it's been. We have won national championships together and celebrated All-American performances. We have played in some of the best games the University of Kentucky has ever seen and had some of the best players to wear the Blue and White.

Today, we close the book on one of the most extraordinary seasons in UK Athletics history.

We received the news this morning that we came in 11th in the national all-sports standings, far and away our best finish in the 21-year history of the Directors' Cup. In doing so, we achieved our goal of becoming a top-15 athletics department a year ahead of the schedule set forth in our 15 by 15 by 15 Plan.

We did it with remarkable efforts across the program. Eighteen of our 22 teams contributed to our final point total, with seven finishing in the top 10 in their respective sports and 15 in the top 20. All those moments we'll remember for so long - Aaron Harrison shooting men's basketball to the national championship game, Kelsey Nunley pitching softball to the Women's College World Series and A.J. Reed proving himself the best baseball player in the country - made this happen.

Every step of the way, the Big Blue Nation has been there. On game day, you create the best home-court and home-field advantage in college sports. Outside of competition, we rely on you just the same. You might not be there for practices or workouts, but we call on your passion constantly.

We've needed that inspiration, because it's taken an incredible amount of work to reach this point. Our student-athletes, coaches and staff have embraced an ambitious set of goals and attacked it. In doing so, they have shown yet again how much a great group of people working together can accomplish on the field, all while excelling in the classroom and the community. I want to thank and congratulate them for all they have done in turning what seemed like a far-off goal in November 2008 into a reality.

Finishing in the top 15, of course, is an accomplishment worth celebrating, but our journey is far from over. We have moved into the same neighborhood as the best schools in the country, but we aren't content with that.

We want UK to be the best athletics department in America. Just as I challenged our student-athletes, coaches, staff and fans to pursue a goal many thought impossible six years ago, I call on everyone involved with UK Athletics to seize the momentum we built in one of the best years we've ever had and turn it into something even better.

Many of our student-athletes are already on campus for strength and conditioning. Our coaches -- the best group I have been around in my three decades in college athletics -- are recruiting and honing their strategies for next season. Our staff is working hard to make sure our teams have all they need to compete for championships.

Before long, we'll open the 2014-15 season. Let's make it one to remember.

'Til the Battle Is Won,
Mitch Barnhart

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As proud as ALWAYS to be a Life Alum...
Goooooooo, CATS!

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