UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart is climbing Mount Kilimanjaro this week. (Photo via RMI Expeditions)
During the offseasons of his 10-year tenure, Kentucky Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart has made a habit of stretching his physical limits. He's scaled Mount Rainier - the tallest peak in the contiguous United States - and skydived already, but now he's taking things a bit further...and higher.
On Thursday, Barnhart, along with a small group led by RMI Expeditions, completed day one of an ascent of Mount Kilimanjaro. At the end of the first day, Barnhart is already nearly 10,000 feet above sea level, but barely halfway to the peak of the tallest mountain in Africa.
"I wanted to find something that challenged me mentally and physically and this is a good deal," Barnhart told WKYT earlier this month. "And it's extremely quiet and I love nature and I will tell you when you get up high and look down low there's nothing more beautiful."
At the base of the mountain, temperatures were in the 80s, but the 19,341-foot apex is typically below zero. The climb is expected to take five days and Barnhart spent the weeks leading up to his trip to Tanzania running the steps at balmy Commonwealth Stadium to prepare for the physically exacting climb.
"I love being up high, there is some intrigue, there is some degree of risk, a pretty good degree of risk," Barnhart said. "Not a lot people do it, which is really good, and they can't find you very easily on the mountains the cell phones don't work."
This week, eight UK student-athletes, along with members of the athletic department staff, are participating in a service trip to Ethiopia. On the trip are Megan Moir from women's golf, Brooke Keyes and Kayla King from women's soccer, Kayla Hartley from gymnastics, Grace Trimble from women's tennis, Kastine Evans from women's basketball, Emily Holsopple from rifle and Aubrey Lamar from softball. Each athlete was nominated by her respective head coach for this trip. On these blog posts, you'll find the personal views of the athletes as they share their unique perspectives on their service and learnings in Ethiopia.
July 21-22, 2012
Nathan Schwake - UK Athletics Staff
As we left the Joe Craft Center on campus Saturday morning at 8:30 am, many of us were in for the longest trip of our lives. Flying through Minneapolis; Amsterdam, Netherlands; and Khartoum, Sudan, we finally arrived in the capital city of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa, on Sunday night at almost 11 p.m. After multiple airplane meals and thunderstorms that delayed our landing into Addis by 90 minutes, we were very grateful to be to our final destination. Each of us paid $20 for our visas, we collected our baggage and prepared to spend another significant amount of time waiting to get through customs. Thanks to a very generous customs agent, we were granted a pass to the front of the line and went out to meet our hosts. Our suitcases and gear piled into a 20-passenger van and we took the (thankfully) short trip to the guest house that will serve as our home base for the week.
While our student-athletes know one another to some degree, it's been rewarding to see them already begin a bonding process that will likely last the rest of their lives. Trips like these have a way of bringing people together, experiencing another culture that is so different from our own to have a greater view of the world, themselves, and each other.
After getting a quick bite to eat placing our breakfast orders for the next morning, we shuffled off to our rooms anxious to see what Monday had in store.
July 23, 2012 - "Korah"
Megan Moir - Women's Golf
UK student-athletes Megan Moir, Brooke Keyes, Kayla King, Kayla Hartley, Grace Trimble, Kastine Evans, Emily Holsopple and Aubrey Lamar are participating in a service trip to Ethiopia this week. (Photo by Nathan Golden)
As the old adage goes, "a picture is worth a thousand words". Today we spent the day in Korah, a very poor area on the outskirts of Addis Ababa. Most of the people in the area search through a nearby dump to find food for their families and make a living. We spent the day working with a community to help expand their current outdoor meeting area. The work consisted of putting up wooden beams to hold up a tarp that will keep the rain off, especially during the current rainy season. The "walls" and outer fence of the church consist of some sheet metal, which we painted with sky blue paint.
When we arrived in Korah we were immediately greeted by the pastor and a few other people who work for the church. There was one man who spoke decent English but most of the people only knew a few words. The language barrier posed some difficulty when we first arrived. Thankfully, we brought a Polaroid camera today and soon began taking pictures of a few people who were around. Most of the people there have seen their picture on a camera but they have never had a photo of themselves they could keep. It was difficult at first explaining to shake the photo and eventually a picture would appear, but once the first girl's photo developed it was an instant hit. Everyone was flocking around to have picture taken and shaking Polaroid pictures. This formed an instant bond between us all and somehow we began to communicate through these little pictures.
Photo by Nathan Golden
The children are beautiful and carefree. They "helped" us paint but I'm not sure who had more paint on them by the end of the day, us or the walls! We had so much fun playing with the children and teaching them new things. Most of the kids have never seen any sports besides soccer; Aubrey started teaching a boy how to swing a "bat" - a piece of wood - and hit a plastic bottle. This event gathered about 200 hundred people around to watch! I also went on a quest to use a bathroom which was quite the experience, traveling through muddy land and small gaps in houses to a very small hole in the ground. Toilets really were a great invention and something I will not take for granted anymore.
We went to lunch with some of the men from the community and were able to hear more about the city and their work. I am overwhelmed by what God is doing in and through a few faithful men in Korah. We learned and witnessed that many of the people in the area suffer from HIV and leprosy. The leaders in Korah could not stop talking about the people from the University of Kentucky who have come to serve and love their community and what an impact those in the past (and us now) have made upon him. I have simply been overwhelmed with the acceptance, love and gratitude of the people here in Ethiopia. We are surrounded by so much pain, suffering and poverty but it is impossible not to see God at work here. These people are beautiful because they possess infectious joy, joy in spite of their circumstances and it radiates from their being.
I love these people and this country. They are so simple, their culture so different, yet they are just like me. They desire to love and serve the Lord, to love and be loved, to live a meaningful life, and to provide for their families. To the world, they may have so little to offer materially, but I know I have so much to learn from my brothers and sisters here in this foreign land. Much to learn about gratitude and hard work, thankfulness and perseverance, and most importantly much to learn about their abounding joy and love for life and those who are different than them. I am so honored and blessed to have the opportunity to serve here over the next 6 days.
Three years ago, University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy Professor Joseph Fink was tabbed as the school's faculty athletics representative by then-President Lee Todd. Now, he has been appointed for a second term by President Eli Capilouto.
According to the university's administrative regulations, the faculty athletics representative (FAR) "shall represent faculty concerns for the institution's conduct of its intercollegiate athletic program. The FAR shall demonstrate the faculty's belief that the intellectual and emotional development of students is the primary mission of the institution and that the value of athletics shall be measured by their contribution to that goal. The FAR will work closely with athletic administration and staff to ensure that these goals are realized."
As FAR, Fink represents the university's faculty in not only the Southeastern Conference (SEC), but also in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
And no one better fits the job than Fink. The man is like Forrest Gump around UK's campus; he's done almost everything and met almost everyone that UK has to offer. He is currently a professor of pharmacy law and policy in the UK College of Pharmacy, as well as a professor in the College of Public Health. He is also a professor in the Martin School of Public Policy and Administration, where he once served as acting director.
At midnight on Sunday, Texas A&M and Missouri officially joined the Southeastern Conference. University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto welcomed them to the conference on behalf of everyone at UK in this video message:
Last week, the 2012-13 budget for the University of Kentucky was approved by the Board of Trustees. The $2.6 billion budget is a reflection of difficult times in higher education, featuring necessary strategic cuts.
The athletics department will navigate many of those same challenges, and its budget for the 2013 fiscal year was also approved last week. A review of the budget and UK Athletics' financial records shows that UK Athletics is a crucial contributor to not only life at the university, but also its financial health.
For the sake of transparency, the following is a breakdown of the budget for FY2013 and an overall look at the finances of UK Athletics during Mitch Barnhart's tenure as Athletics Director. FY2013 budget and student fees
Due to escalating costs of tuition, salaries and travel, UK Athletics' projected budget for FY2013 is $91.9 million, representing an increase from last year. However, by maximizing available revenue streams, UK Athletics was able to balance its budget, and in spite of fielding a 22-sport program - the broadest in the Southeastern Conference - UK Athletics' budget ranks only in the middle with respect to its conference counterparts.
UK Athletics plays a vital role in cultivating the brand of the university as the whole, but its budget comprises just 3.5 percent of the university's overall budget. More importantly, UK Athletics balances its budget with the help of no state or university funds, making it one of the few self-supporting departments in the nation.
UK Athletics also provides students a low-cost outlet for entertainment and school spirit. UK students pay an annual athletics fee of $38, which accounts for just 0.89 percent of the department's projected revenue for FY2013. Throughout Barnhart's tenure, UK Athletics has remained committed to keeping its student fee low while many other schools have relied more and more on students to fund operations.
In looking at student fees across the SEC for 2011, UK Athletics compares very favorably. Of its 10 conference peers in USA Today's college athletics finances database (Vanderbilt is private, so the school does not disclose this information), all but three schools receive more money in student fees than UK. While UK Athletics raised $819,124 in student fees in 2011, seven SEC departments received $1 million or more, including Auburn, which received $4.3 million.
Three SEC athletic departments - Arkansas, Alabama and LSU - received no money in student fees, but two were subsidized by the school. In 2011, Arkansas received $1.85 million in university funds and Alabama received $5.25 million. Combining student fees and school funds in 2011, only LSU received less than UK in 2011.
With respect to fellow in-state institutions, UK also stacks up well, including with the University of Louisville, the only other department from a BCS conference in the state. For example, UK's annual student athletics fee of $38 is 62 percent lower than U of L's $100 fee. U of L also received $39,318,575 directly from the university from 2006-11, according to USA Today. UK has not received a penny over that time. Contributions to university
Each of the past few years, UK Athletics has donated $1.7 million annually to help fund scholarships and was proud to announce it would extend that contribution beginning in 2012-13. Although the increase does not represent a recurring commitment, UK Athletics will donate $3 million directly to the university in FY2013, which will play a part in funding the Singletary Scholarship program, UK's most prestigious academic award.
Barnhart enacted the increase to help the university at a time of budgetary woes, but it is hardly the first demonstration of the department's commitment to its partnership with the school. Through 2011-12, UK Athletics has donated $23,836,194.90 to the university in scholarships and royalties during his 10-year tenure. That number will go up with the more than 75 percent increase in the amount of scholarship funding in FY2013.
UK Athletics' annual donation to the school does not come close to encompassing the department's wide-ranging contributions. Since Barnhart's arrival in 2002, the department has contributed more than $100 million to the university.
Approximately a quarter of UK Athletics' FY2013 budget - more than $25 million - will be spent back on campus. The department pays the full rate to the university for 340 scholarships - which equates to $11.7 million - and a $1.8 million University Assessment Fee. Additionally, UK Athletics is responsible for improvements, utilities, maintenance, parking and upgrades to all its facilities.
**Note: Expenses for scholarships in FY2013 have not yet been finalized and could increase slightly from the dollar amounts projected above.**
Royalties also play a role in UK Athletics' contributions as the university has received $11.7 million dating back to 2002. The athletics department and university shared 50-50 in merchandising royalties, which totaled $4.5 million in 2011-12. UK Athletics is responsible for all costs associated with managing the licensing program and 90 percent of merchandise sold is athletic-related. Keeping UK Athletics' facilities competitive
The greatest challenge UK Athletics currently faces is the task of providing student-athletes and coaches with state-of-the-art facilities. The department is responsible for pursuing all facility upgrades and new construction on its own, without being granted bonding authority. Barnhart has equated this exercise to buying a house without being able to take on a mortgage.
In spite of incurring virtually no debt in doing so, UK Athletics will open new softball and outdoor track and field facilities in 2012-13. National champion men's basketball will have a new locker room in Rupp Arena, while the headquarters of UK football - the Nutter Training Facility - underwent a massive facelift this summer and debuted new scoreboards and ribbon boards last fall.
With those financial circumstances, UK Athletics has taken on a flexible approach, and is continually exploring ways to upgrade its facilities, particularly its football and baseball stadiums.
As it happens every year around this time, the finances of UK Athletics have been the subject of public discussion this week with the approval of a new annual budget. Unsurprisingly, debate has arisen, with some saying the athletic department spends too much and should support the University more than it already does. Other still believe the budget isn't high enough.
After a good deal of analysis, this was my conclusion on UK: It is a model athletic program in terms of its financial structure and practice. It does not take a dime of university money. Its student fee is modest and hasn't increased in a decade. It gives money back to university efforts -- including money that is not on the books (it splits merchandise revenue 50-50 with the school, even though estimates are that 90 percent of that revenue is athletics-generated, and uses $500,000 of its athletics media commercial time to promote university, rather than athletic, initiatives). The UK athletic department is not carrying a high debt load. It is truly self-supporting, and has become so without becoming overly commercialized or corporate in nature. It funds a broad-based athletic program that sponsors the most sports of any school in the Southeastern Conference.
This has not always been the case at UK. Much of what now is in place is the product of Barnhart and the administration he has built. Talk to him about UK athletic finances and you're going to hear the word "stewardship" a great deal. He's serious about it.
Against the landscape of College Sports Inc., with universities subsidizing their athletic departments or finding any number of ways behind the scenes to funnel money their way, UK has, in this area, what I would think most universities should aspire to.
Crawford goes on to address multiple viewpoints on the topic, but his thesis is that UK is doing the best it can given the challenging climate it has to deal with.
In recent years, the NCAA has emphasized the importance of the Academic Progress Rate, imposing tougher goals and enforcing stricter penalties on programs that fail to meet them. The 22 teams from the University of Kentucky Athletics Department have responded.
Once again, UK's programs exceeded the four-year NCAA cut score of 900 (which will escalate to 930 over the next few years), ensuring that each remains eligible for postseason play. UK teams combined for an average four-year APR of 975.3, more than two points better than the NCAA average of 973. To take it a step further, 15 of UK's 22 teams exceeded the national average in their respective sports.
"With the increase of the cut score, achieving the APR has become even more challenging," Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart said in a release. "Our coaches and support personnel have done well in adjusting to the requirements and I'm proud of our student-athletes for their work in posting strong scores."
Leading the way was men's golf, which earned a perfect APR of 1000. Following behind closely were women's cross country (994), men's cross country (993), women's golf (993) and women's tennis (992). Also exceeding the national average for their sports were men's basketball (963), football (951), baseball (975), women's basketball (970), softball (984), men's tennis (987), women's indoor track (984), women's outdoor track (986), volleyball (990) and rifle (982).
Not only did UK teams compare favorably to their counterparts at other institutions, but they also showed improvement. Sixteen of UK's 22 teams had better four-year scores than in 2004-05, including baseball, which is up 77 points over that time frame.
The men's basketball team, fresh off a national championship, also continued to show significant progress. Its score of 963 is 41 points better than 2004-05 and stands to improve even more. In each of John Calipari's two seasons as head coach, UK's single-season APR has been 979, including in 2010-11, the last year included. The 2011-12 academic year will be reflected in the APR release next summer, which bodes well given that the combined team grade-point average for the spring semester was 3.12.
See below for four-year APR information by sport and a comparison to UK's 2004-05 totals and national averages:
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."
It is the nature of the world today that we are constantly moving onto what comes next. Before we can even close the book on a day of work, school or our personal lives, thoughts immediately turn to tomorrow. For those in the athletic realm, concern over the next season or recruiting class begins as soon as the final buzzer sounds on the year's last game.
At the University of Kentucky Athletics Department, our players, coaches and staff are already setting goals and preparing for what we believe will be a great 2012-13, and that's healthy. However, as we enter a couple of short summer months, I want to encourage us all to pause for a moment and reflect on what has been accomplished over the past year.
Of course, the indelible moment from 2011-12 is the national championship John Calipari and our men's basketball team brought home. From the moment I arrived in Lexington 10 years ago, I have wondered what it would be like to be a part of winning this school's eighth title. After experiencing this remarkable season and the celebration that followed it in New Orleans and back in the Bluegrass, I can attest that it exceeded my expectations, but not because of how it made me feel, at least not directly. Seeing the hard work and sacrifice of a supremely talented group of young people rewarded with the sport's ultimate prize is such a powerful lesson for all of us. Then, witnessing the joy it brought to the entire Big Blue Nation made it all that much more special. I hope you will look back on those moments as a reminder of the reasons why we came to love sports in the first place.
Thankfully, we had plenty of such reminders this past season. When I set forth the 15x15x15 plan almost four years ago, I viewed its goals as ambitious, yet achievable, but I'm not sure even I could have envisioned winning four conference championships and a national crown this year.
Our women's basketball program has made incredible strides in recent seasons, but none more significant than this year's Southeastern Conference title. From Duke to Louisville to Tennessee, there were so many incredible victories, especially in Memorial Coliseum, where you, the fans, have helped to create one of the best environments in the country. Matthew Mitchell's new contract hopefully will be the start of turning him into a UK institution like Harry Mullins and Dennis Emery. Mullins and the rifle team, on the heels of a national title, continued to spoil us this year with yet another conference championship and a second-place national finish, while Emery led men's tennis to a perfect record in the nation's toughest league.
In my decade at UK, I cannot remember having a group of coaches like the one we have now. Calipari, Emery, Mitchell and Gary Henderson all won well-earned SEC Coach of the Year honors in their respective sports, but there are outstanding coaching staffs all over our campus. From Craig Skinner and Rachel Lawson making volleyball and softball annual contenders, to Jon Lipsitz rebuilding women's soccer into an NCAA Tournament team, to Tim Garrison's excellent first year leading our gymnastics program, we are fortunate to have strong leadership throughout our 22 sports.
Serving as an example for what we want our coaches to be is Don Weber. For the past 28 years, Don has led our track and field and cross country programs with character and dedication and I felt a mixture of sadness and gratitude as I talked with him about his decision to retire. Don has been a vital part of making the job he left such an attractive one, but more importantly, he has done so much to enrich the lives of the young people he worked with. We thank him and wish him and his family the best.
The kind of leadership that Weber embodied is so important because, as a department, we measure ourselves first and foremost by the way our student-athletes develop as both competitors and people. On the field, the honors that stars like Anthony Davis, A'dia Mathies, Luis Orta, Greg Ferrucci, Stephanie Klefot, Austin Cousino and so many others have raked in tell me all I need to know about our Wildcats as competitors. Our student-athletes are making memories that will last a lifetime, and none more than Matt Roark. Could you have imagined a wide receiver battling his way back from the bench to a starting role, then ending the Tennessee streak playing quarterback and being carried off the field by fans in the final game of his college career?
Ultimately, our responsibility is to prepare student-athletes for life after college and I am proud of how many Wildcats will have the opportunity to pursue professional careers. Roark will be one of eight Wildcats to enter NFL training camp this summer, while a record nine baseball players were selected in the MLB Draft. Later this month, a record six basketball players are expected to go in the NBA Draft.
Eric Quigley is another student-athlete who is pursuing a professional career. Even if I didn't know the SEC Player of the Year and national runner-up has the talent to do big things on the tennis tour, I would be excited to see what the future holds for one of most impressive young people I have ever had the privilege to watch for four years. He is the most decorated player in the history of our program, but it's his sportsmanship, leadership and service that make him so unique.
The thing is, though, that Eric isn't nearly as unique on our campus as he would be at many other places. During one of the best overall seasons in the history of UK Athletics, our student-athletes logged over 4,000 hours of community service, nearly half a year's worth. They did it while remaining committed in the classroom and achieving a grade-point average of just below 3.0 for both the fall and spring semesters.
It goes without saying that we will never be satisfied with our work, because the moment we do will be the moment our competition surpasses us. I hope fans continue to demand greatness in all that this program does, because that's a major reason for our success, a major reason why we are UK.
What I am asking you to do is to be thankful for what we have and for who we are. As we gear up for another season, I ask you to continue to take pride in calling yourself a Wildcat.