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.
I've been fortunate to be up close for arguably the best season in the history of this athletic department and there are so many memories that will last a long, long time. Men's basketball's national championship and the unbelievable season that proceeded it sticks out, but 2011-12 was a seemingly endless parade of incredible performances and unforgettable finishes, so much so that I couldn't possibly pick just one.
However, that's exactly what I'm asking you to do.
We want to know your favorite moment from this year in UK Athletics and we want to hear some details. Were you at the event in person? Were you watching on television? Who was with you? How did you react?
Tweet your responses with the hashtag #myUKmoment and we will retweet some of the best from @UKAthleticsNews over the next day or so. You can also post your response as a comment on this post.
The national title will of course be a popular choice, but we want some diversity too. Baseball, volleyball, football, women's soccer, men's basketball, women's basketball and all of our 22 sports, we want to hear them all.
Don't limit yourself to games either. If you met a UK student-athlete or coach or head coach this year or took part in a "C-A-T-S, CATS! CATS! CATS!" chant in a random foreign country, we'd love to hear it too. We want to know what made you most proud to be a Wildcat this year.
Oh yeah, and if it's too hard to narrow it down, feel free to tweet more than one.
With four different teams adding to Kentucky's tally, UK Athletics is fast closing in on Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart's benchmark of 15 conference or national championships by the year 2015.
With the work of all UK's varsity teams, the Wildcats are also on the cusp of Barnhart's goals in the classroom.
For the second consecutive semester, UK student-athletes narrowly fell short of the 3.0 department-wide grade point average set forth by Barnhart. All UK student-athletes combined for 2.97 GPA and the GPA for scholarship athletes was a slightly higher 2.98 GPA. The average team GPA for the spring semester was 3.07.
"I am very proud of the effort our student-athletes logged in the classroom this semester," Barnhart said. "We fell just shy of our GPA goal and will work tirelessly to reach it, but I am happy with the academic culture we have fostered at UK. I appreciate everything our student-athletes, coaches and support staff have done to make that happen."
Among all teams, women's tennis had the highest GPA at 3.55, while men's cross country had the highest GPA among men's teams at 3.29. Of UK's 20 Division I teams, 12 had a GPA of over 3.0, including the championship-winning men's basketball, rifle and men's tennis teams. ***See below for complete grade information for each sport***
The work of the men's basketball team was particularly impressive. The Wildcats brought home the program's eighth national championship, spending essentially the entire month of March away from campus for tournament play, yet still excelling academically.
Five players off this year's championship team opted to turn professional early - all projected first-round picks and three in the lottery - but also demonstrated their commitment to both UK and eventually graduating by finishing the semester strong as full-time students. Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague - three so-called "one and dones" - combined for a spring GPA well above 3.0. Additionally, the lone seniors on the team, Darius Miller and Eloy Vargas, each received their diplomas at May commencement.
"All these kids are good kids," John Calipari said. "We had a (3.12) GPA as a team for this term with five players who are leaving early, so all this stuff bitter old men say that they don't go to class, it's not true."
The men's basketball team is just the most high-profile example in a department full of student-athletes committed to excelling both on and off the field. With spring sports yet to be recognized, 90 Wildcats have already been named to the Southeastern Conference Fall and Winter Honor Rolls. UK student-athletes have also volunteered over 4,000 total hours to various charitable causes.
"I am excited about all the great things our student-athletes are doing," Barnhart said. "They do so much to enrich our athletic department, our University and the Lexington community. We are blessed to be a part of their development and take that responsibility seriously."
Forty-eight current or former Kentucky student-athletes completed their University of Kentucky degrees this spring and they received their diplomas at graduation on Sunday, May 6. The graduates came from 17 different teams, with football leading the way with 11 graduates.
The men's soccer team had five members earn their degrees, while women's soccer and women's swimming and diving each had four.
Spring graduation is the latest milestone in a strong academic year for UK Athletics. Ninety Wildcats have already been named to either the Southeastern Conference Honor Roll with the list for spring sports yet to be announced. During the fall semester, UK's scholarship student-athletes had an average grade-point average of 2.979, just shy of the department-wide goal of 3.0 set by Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart.
See below for a complete list of the 48 graduates by sport:
Football Nik Brazley Mark Crawford Jacob Lewellen Luke McDermott Billy Joe Murphy Cartier Rice Matt Roark Jon Thomas Ryan Tydlacka Collins Ukwu Dave Ulinski
Gymnastics Jasmine Minion (completed eligibility last year) Andrea Mitchell (completed eligibility last year) Colleen Williams (completed eligibility last year)
Earlier this week, the Southeastern Conference unveiled its Winter Academic Honor Roll. To be named to the list, student-athletes must have a grade point average of 3.00 or above for either the preceding academic year have a cumulative GPA of 3.00, among other criteria.
Forty-three Kentucky Wildcats were named to the Honor Roll, the fourth-highest total of any SEC school. Student-athletes from six different teams earned spots. Men's and women's swimming and diving led the way with 14 and 10 honorees each. Gymnastics and rifle each had six, while men's and women's basketball had four and three respectively.
Congratulations to all these Wildcats for their hard work and achievement in the classroom!
See below for a list of all 43 along with their majors.
Twany Beckham - M. Basketball - Communication Terrence Jones - M. Basketball - Communication Darius Miller - M. Basketball - Community Communications and Leadership Development Jarrod Polson - M. Basketball - Finance Kastine Evans - W. Basketball - Business Management Amber Smith - W. Basketball - Family Sciences Keyla Snowden - W. Basketball - Media Arts and Studies Caitlyn Ciokajlo - Gymnastics - Kinesiology/Exercise Science Audrey Harrison - Gymnastics - Business Management Kayla Hartley - Gymnastics - Hospitality Management and Tourism Storey Morris - Gymnastics - Community Communications and Leadership Development Whitney Rose - Gymnastics - Business Management Kayla Sienkowski - Gymnastics - Merchandising, Apparel, and Textiles Dayna Ferguson - Rifle - French Heather Greathouse - Rifle - Psychology Emily Holsopple - Rifle - Biology Henri Junghanel - Rifle - Mechanical Engineering Ed Ryznar - Rifle - Mechanical Engineering Stacy Wheatley - Rifle - Nursing John Bullock - M. Swimming and Diving - Finance/Business Management Greg Ferrucci - M. Swimming and Diving - Kinesiology/Exercise Science John Fox - M. Swimming and Diving - Political Science Blake Freeman - M. Swimming and Diving - Biology Travis Green - M. Swimming and Diving - Biology William Heidler - M. Swimming and Diving - Chemistry Luke Iannuzzi - M. Swimming and Diving - Biology Jonathan Keltner - M. Swimming and Diving - Finance/Business Management Pat Kemme - M. Swimming and Diving - Family Sciences Zack Peterson - M. Swimming and Diving - Kinesiology/Exercise Science Tyler Reed - M. Swimming and Diving - Secondary Education Matt Russell - M. Swimming and Diving - Psychology Maclin Simpson - M. Swimming and Diving - Marketing/Business Management Jacob Thomas - M. Swimming and Diving - Kinesiology/Exercise Science Claire Archibald - W. Swimming and Diving - Accounting Catherine Brueckbauer - W. Swimming and Diving - Marketing Megan Eppler - W. Swimming and Diving - Accounting Lindsay Lash - W. Swimming and Diving - Elementary Education Anna Mattox - W. Swimming and Diving - Communication Disorders Marisa McGlynn - W. Swimming and Diving - Marketing Chelsea Peterson - W. Swimming and Diving - Biology Jenna Willis - W. Swimming and Diving - Psychology Kristen Wilson - W. Swimming and Diving - Finance Samantha Wright - W. Swimming and Diving - Psychology