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Mark Coyle becomes the new athletics director at Boise State University after six years under Mitch Barnhart at Kentucky. (UK Athletics) Mark Coyle becomes the new athletics director at Boise State University after six years under Mitch Barnhart at Kentucky. (UK Athletics)
It is said the best leaders help lift up and inspire those around them to greater achievements. In that vein, Mitch Barnhart is sending a protege west to fulfill his dream for the second time in 18 months.

On Thursday, Kentucky deputy director of athletics Mark Coyle accepted an offer to become the new athletics director at Boise State University. In July of 2010, Coyle succeeded Rob Mullens, who left Kentucky to become the athletics director at the University of Oregon.

"I'm incredibly excited for Mark and his family," Kentucky athletics director Mitch Barnhart said. "Mark has been a great asset to the University of Kentucky over the last seven years and I'm happy that he's getting this opportunity. The work he's done in terms of facilities and donor relationships has been tremendous.  Boise State made a great choice and he'll be missed by the Wildcat family. Mark is ready and capable to lead a Division I program. We wish him, Krystan, Grace, Nicholas and Benjamin nothing but the best."

Coyle played a key role in the functions of UK's athletic department, assisting Barnhart in its overall direction. He also oversaw the day-to-day activities of Kentucky's tradition-rich basketball program.

Before stepping into his role as deputy director of athletics, Coyle served as the senior associate athletics director for external affairs, directing the marketing, fundraising licensing and ticket units of the department.

Coyle joins Mullens and Scott Stricklin as understudies of Barnhart to move on to athletics director jobs. Stricklin is currently in that role at Mississippi State University after serving as associate athletics director for media relations.

Coyle arrived in Lexington in 2005 from the University of Minnesota, recognizing what Barnhart was building at UK.

He graduated from Drake University in 1991, where he was a three-year letterman as a wide receiver on the football team. He subsequently earned graduate degrees from Drake and Florida State University.

Coyle will move to Boise, Idaho with his wife and three children.

UK Rewind: Nov. 30

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Letter to the Big Blue Nation

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Today's victory reinforces the belief of Dr. Capilouto and I that Head Coach Joker Phillips continues to be the right fit to lead our football program. Although this season certainly fell short of our expectations, today we celebrate a victory that has eluded this program for 26 seasons. Congratulations to Coach Phillips and our football team.

As I do after each season, I will follow up on our regular,  in-season conversations with a more formal and thorough review of all aspects of our football program and address any needs after that meeting with Coach Phillips.

Bowl games and a climb up the rigorous SEC ladder continue to be my expectation and markers of our program's progress. I remain confident in Coach Phillips, his continued ability to find and develop young talent and his plan to return Kentucky football to post-season play.

The Big Blue Nation has been very supportive of our football program as we strive to reach our goal of championship football in Lexington. Coach Phillips helped turn our offense around to what our expectation level is today and I'm confident he will do it again. Only with your continued support can we reach our dreams of celebrating our accomplishments together.

Til the Battle is Won,

Mitch Barnhart

SEC announces Missouri as 14th member

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Missouri_web.gif On Sunday morning, the Southeastern Conference announced the University of Missouri would become the conference's 14th member institution. The move is effective on July 1, 2012, meaning the Missouri Tigers will begin competition in all sports beginning with the 2012-13 academic year.

Here is the SEC's complete press release:

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (November 6, 2011) - The Southeastern Conference Presidents and Chancellors, acting unanimously, announced today that the University of Missouri will join the Southeastern Conference effective July 1, 2012, with competition to begin in all sports for the 2012-13 academic year.

The addition of Missouri will increase SEC membership to 14 institutions.  The additions of Texas A&M, announced on September 25, 2011, and Missouri, are the first expansions for the SEC since September of 1991 when the University of South Carolina joined the league.  The University of Arkansas joined the SEC in August of 1991.  With the addition of Arkansas and South Carolina, the SEC was the first conference to split into divisions and add a conference championship game in 1992.

"The Presidents and Chancellors of the Southeastern Conference are pleased to welcome the University of Missouri to the SEC," said Dr. Bernie Machen, President of the SEC Presidents and Chancellors and president of the University of Florida.  "The University of Missouri is a prestigious academic institution with a strong athletic tradition and a culture similar to our current institutions."

"The Southeastern Conference is a highly successful, stable, premier athletic conference that offers exciting opportunities for the University of Missouri," said Chancellor Brady J. Deaton. "In joining the SEC, MU partners with universities distinguished for their academic programs and their emphasis on student success. The SEC will provide our student-athletes with top flight competition and unparalleled visibility. We came to this decision after careful consideration of the long term best interests of our university.  We believe the Southeastern Conference is an outstanding home for the Mizzou Tigers, and we take great pride in our association with this distinguished league."

Missouri, located in Columbia, will also be the fourth institution in the Southeastern Conference to hold membership in the prestigious Association of American Universities, joining University of Florida, Texas A&M University and Vanderbilt University.  Missouri has an enrollment of 33,800 students, which would be the fourth largest institution in the SEC, with Florida, Georgia and Texas A&M having a larger student body.  There are more than 260,000 "Mizzou" alumni around the world.  The State of Missouri borders three SEC states: Tennessee, Kentucky and Arkansas, and they bring an existing rivalry with former conference foe Texas A&M.

Missouri athletic teams have excelled recently.  Its men's basketball team has made it to the NCAA Tournament three straight seasons and 24 times overall.  The Tiger football team has been to post-season bowl games for six straight years and 28 times overall.  The softball team has participated in the College World Series each of the last three seasons.  The Tigers have won Big 12 Championships in men's basketball, soccer and softball.

"I am pleased to officially welcome the University of Missouri to the SEC family on behalf of our presidents, chancellors, athletics directors, students and fans," said SEC Commissioner Mike Slive.  "Missouri is an outstanding academic institution with a strong athletic program.  We look forward to having the Tigers compete in our league starting in 2012."

The Tigers sponsor 20 varsity sports.  Men's sports include baseball, basketball, football, golf, swimming and diving, wrestling, indoor and outdoor track and field and cross country.  Women's sports include basketball, golf, gymnastics, soccer, softball, swimming and diving, tennis, indoor and outdoor track and field and cross country and volleyball.  Missouri participates in every sport sponsored by the SEC except men's tennis and the SEC sponsors every sport the Tigers participate in except wrestling.

On Thursday, the Division I Board of Directors announced the adoption of two different sets of proposals that will affect the following areas:

  • Stricter academic standards for teams as measured by the Academic Progress Rate (APR)
  • Stricter academic standards for incoming high school and transfer students
  • Additional athletics aid to address the "miscellaneous costs of attending college"
  • Contact rules for men's basketball recruiting

The first set of changes has to do with the first three bullet points listed above, while the second impacts recruiting for men's basketball. Visit those two links to see the complete releases, but I am going to do my best to summarize the major changes.

Stricter academic standards for teams as measured by the APR

In a piece of legislation that will take effect starting in the 2012-13 school year, the APR benchmark for all teams moves from 900 to 930. The implementation will be phased, with teams needing to maintain a 900 multi-year APR or a 930 average for the most recent two-year period to maintain eligibility for postseason play. In 2014-15, teams must achieve a 930 benchmark for their four-year APR or a 930 average in the most recent two years to be eligible for the postseason. In 2015-16, the new benchmark of 930 will be fully implemented and the "APR requirement for postseason play will be waived only in extraordinary circumstances."

Along with the new guidelines for maintaining postseason eligibility, a new three-tier penalty structure has been enacted. Level one limits teams to 16 hours of practice per week, with the four hours lost "to be replaced with academic activities." Teams being penalized at the second level will also be subject to reduced competition, "either in the traditional or nontraditional season." The third level allows for a "menu of penalty options", ranging from coaching suspensions to scholarship reduction to restricted NCAA membership.

Clearly, the NCAA is calling on its members to take academics seriously and these new requirements and penalty structure are proof.

Stricter academic standards for incoming high school and transfer students

Students enrolling in Division I schools from either high school or two-year colleges will face higher standards for eligibility beginning in August 2015. The following changes apply to high school applicants:

  • Student-athletes with a minimum core-course GPA of 2.0 will still be eligible to receive athletically related financial aid and practice and will be able to earn a second term of enrollment by passing nine semester or eight quarter hours.
  • The standard for immediate access to competition will be raised to a GPA of 2.3 and an increased sliding scale legislating required test scores.
  • Student-athletes who reach a GPA of 2.0 but fall short of 2.3 would essentially be subject to a so-called "academic redshirt year."

Also, in response to data that show the struggles of transfer students from two-year institutions, the Board increased the mandated minimum grade-point average of incoming students from such schools from 2.0 to 2.5 with additional rules on courses those students must take in order to gain eligibility.

Walter Harrison, the president of the University of Hartford and the Division I Committee on Academic Performance chair explained the new rules.

"We're trying to balance being tough with being fair," Harrison said. "These are noticeably higher standards than in the past, but we recognize we need some time to change behavior."

Additional athletics aid to address the "miscellaneous costs of attending college"

Colleges will now have the option of offering up to $2,000 or the full cost of attendance to student-athletes who receive full athletic scholarships or get other school financial aid. The rule applies to "head-count sports" like basketball and football, as well as equivalency sports who award the value of a full scholarship.

The Board also approved multi-year scholarships for use at the discretion of the member colleges, with one-year scholarships remaining the minimum. Institutions are now also allowed to provide financial aid to former student-athletes who remain at or return to school to complete their degrees.

Contact rules for men's basketball recruiting

Many of the restrictions placed on college basketball coaches regarding where, when, how and how often they contact recruits have been eased. Coaches will now be able to send unlimited text messages and make unlimited phone calls to recruits beginning on June 15 of the player's sophomore year. Social networking restrictions have also been eased. The new structure also provides for two additional recruiting periods in April and cuts the summer period to three four-day periods in July.

The following changes were also instituted along with this ruling:

  • A start date for official visits beginning January 1 of the junior year, with schools able to pay travel expenses for the prospect and a parent/guardian.
  • Permitting some contact at a prospect's educational institution during the junior year in conjunction with an evaluation, with some restrictions and requirements.
  • The July period will be limited to three four-day periods beginning Wednesday at 5 p.m. and ending Sunday at 5 p.m.
  • The April period will be limited to certified events that begin after 6 p.m. on Friday and end before 4 p.m. on Sunday.
  • Permitting staged, on-campus evaluations in conjunction with official visits, though further details will be considered.

UK Rewind: Oct. 26

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dotcom_web.jpg On Tuesday, Oct. 18, UK Athletics announced the redesign of its website,  Senior associate director of athletics DeWayne Peevy had this to say about the new look of the site:

"We are excited about the new," Peevy said. "In an increasingly modern age, it is important for school websites to remain the first destination for fans and the new redesign of the site will create a more user-friendly website for our dedicated fan base. We certainly appreciate IMG and CBS College Sports, in addition to our talented staff - headed by Pete Camagna and creative director Kim Troxall - in helping get the new site off and running."

Over the past few years, UK Athletics has made a leap forward into that "increasingly modern age", launching this blog, Cat Scratches; developing the UK Athletics Interactive site; giving fans unprecedented access to photo and video content; and prioritizing social media. Above all else, the redesign of the website was undertaken to emphasize that new content.

As with anything new, it will take some time to become accustomed to the new look and feel of the website, so here is a guide to some of the major changes:

Home page interface
- This will be the first thing visitors notice when navigating to the new home page. The media wall featuring the top stories in UK Athletics now features larger photos and videos and a tabbed view that allows readers to see the latest video, blog and photo content without leaving the home page. On the blog tab, there is even a column displaying the latest feature articles posted on Cat Scratches.

Team-specific home page interface
- The new home pages for each of UK's 22 varsity sports work just the same as the overall home page with tabs for top stories and video, blog and photo content. The difference will be that only content for the corresponding sport will be shown on the page.

Team-specific menu navigation
- Under the old design, readers would have to look around the page to find relevant links to rosters, statistics, news, archives, schedules and more. In the new design, those links are located at the top menu for each sport.

Social media a focus
- Recognizing how often fans now turn to social media for the latest news on their favorite teams, Facebook, Twitter and other outlets have been integrated into the redesign. On all team pages, there are three buttons linking to that team's Interactive site, Facebook page and Twitter feed. Additionally, "Social Media" has a spot all to itself on the top menu navigation with links to Facebook and Twitter accounts for all UK teams. There is also a page exclusively dedicated to social media that features a directory of all coaches and teams using social media platforms.

UK Rewind: Oct. 19

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Barnhart tweets about fan feedback

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Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart talked about fan feedback Wednesday. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart talked about fan feedback Wednesday. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Kentucky Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart sent a series of four tweets this afternoon thanking fans for their continued support and reaffirming the athletic department's commitment to taking feedback from the Big Blue Nation into account:

"I haven't been active on Twitter lately but I wanted to remind #BBN how much we appreciate having the most passionate fans in the nation," Barnhart tweeted. "It never ceases to amaze me how much you care about our programs and we greatly value the feedback you give us. We answer or address as much of your constructive feedback as possible and I will ensure that we will continue to do so. We are striving for greatness and you can help us by supporting our student-athletes, coaches and staff as you always have. #WeAreUK"

Blue and White Weekly Awards (week of Oct. 10)

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With the University of Kentucky's 22 varsity sports, it can be hard to keep up with everything going on in UK Athletics. With that in mind, we will highlight the best from around Kentucky sports each week. We'll recognize the best performances from Wildcat teams and players, we'll show you the coolest videos and photos that you may have missed and we'll mix in some new stuff along the way. Here are your award winners for this week:

Team of the week - Volleyball goes 2-0, enters national rankings

This is the first week we have given out these awards here at Cat Scratches, but it's safe to say volleyball would have been in contention for team of the week pretty much every week this fall. With two dominant wins this weekend over Ole Miss and Alabama, Craig Skinner and the Cats moved to 16-3 (7-1 SEC) on the season. UK held its two opponents to a .072 hitting clip, including -.012 against Alabama. Junior libero Stephanie Klefot anchored the defensive effort and tallied 31 digs, moving her into fourth place all-time in career digs at UK.

The two wins earned the Cats a long overdue ranking in the AVCA Coaches poll, moving to 25th in the country ahead of a huge SEC showdown against first place and No. 18 Tennessee. Come out to Memorial Coliseum on Wednesday at 8 p.m. to see some great volleyball. Even if you can't tune into ESPNU to watch the game.

Player of the week - Eric Quigley (men's tennis) wins event

I'm going to go out on a limb and say this won't be the last time UK's star tennis player will earn this honor. Playing a fall schedule in preparation for the spring, the tennis team has played very well and, not surprisingly, Quigley is leading the way. The senior is the third-ranked singles player in the nation and participated in the ITA Men's All-American Championships in Tulsa, Okla., this weekend.

Quigley lost his opening match of the tournament, which placed him into the consolation bracket. He responded with five consecutive wins against players ranked in the top 40 nationally, including a straight-set victory over No. 10 Sebastian Fanselow of Pepperdine to claim the singles consolation title.

Game of the week - Women's soccer posts 2-1 comeback win over Arkansas

Down 1-0 after the first half on Friday against Arkansas, head coach Jon Lipsitz was not happy with the way his team was playing. The Cats had allowed the Razorbacks a number of chances on counterattacks and had failed to produce anything on offense in a crucial SEC battle. However, Lipsitz made a few halftime adjustments and his team responded.

Within the first five minutes of the second half, Caitlin Landis and Natalie Horner pieced together an offensive move that resulted in an equalizing goal from freshman Arin Gilliland. The Razorbacks managed to keep UK from scoring the rest of the second half to send the game to overtime, but the Cats wasted no time in notching the game-winner when sudden death overtime began. UK drew a foul in the Arkansas box to set up a penalty kick for leading scorer Kelsey Hunyadi and the senior calmly put away the golden goal to send UK to victory.

Play of the week - Gilliland's equalizer against Arkansas

It was a tough choice between Gilliland's game-tying goal and Hunyadi's winner, but the nod goes to Gilliland for the beautiful build-up that preceded it. UK attacked from the right side against the Arkansas defense, Landis was able to deliver a short, low cross right in front of goal, and Gilliland put it away. I'd say moving Gilliland from defense to attack at halftime was a pretty good move. Go to the 34 second mark of the video above to see the goal.

Photo of the week - Gilliland hurdles an LSU defender

Chet White, UK Athletics (Chet White, UK Athletics)

Alumnus/alumna of the week - Corey Peters, defensive tackle, Atlanta Falcons

Former star UK football defender Corey Peters has played his way into a major role with the NFL's Atlanta Falcons. After being selected in the third round of the 2010 NFL Draft, he signed a four-year deal with the team. He has played consistently in his first two NFL seasons, but he recorded his first career sack along with three tackles against Randall Cobb's Green Bay Packers on Sunday night. Peters missed a month with a torn tendon in his knee this fall, but he's back and better than ever now.

Peters had 11.5 sacks and 28 tackles for loss in his four-year UK career.

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