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Q&A with Barnhart: Starting a new season

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Mitch Barnhart is in his 11th year as Athletics Director at the University of Kentucky. (UK Athletics) Mitch Barnhart is in his 11th year as Athletics Director at the University of Kentucky. (UK Athletics)
Cat Scratches sat down with Kentucky Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart this week for a question-and-answer session. With another year in UK Athletics in full swing, Barnhart discussed the state of the athletic department, the upcoming football season and facilities, among other topics. Here is a complete transcript of the conversation.

Cat Scratches: UK Athletics had one of the best seasons in its history in 2011-12 and fall sports are already in action. How important do you believe it is for the fall sports to continue the momentum and set the tone for 2012-13?
Mitch Barnhart: I think it certainly creates momentum when you get off to a good start. We just completed our first weekend of play and we were 5-1 coming out of the weekend in a variety of sports between women's soccer, volleyball and men's soccer. Last year, we really only had two of our fall sports that had NCAA appearances - one of them was women's soccer, the other one was volleyball - so trying to recover from a slow start was difficult. We did make a good run in the winter in the spring and that was very helpful to us. To get off to a better start this year in terms of all of our sports is very important to us.

We've made some additions to our fall sports coaches roster, if you will, in Johan Cedergren (men's soccer head coach) and Edrick Floreal in our track and field and our cross country. That will take a little time to develop, but I think it is important that you get off to a good start. Clearly, we don't want to miss opportunities for our program to be in postseason play. I think winning and creating that atmosphere and the old theory of the rising tide raises all boats is very, very true. We certainly want to start out that way.

CS: Being around the program and interacting with coaches, it's impossible not to notice a community across the different teams at UK. How much of that culture did you envision when you arrived and how much is simply an outgrowth of bringing in good, like-minded people?

MB: We've tried to create a group of coaches, as well as administrators, that get along and that everybody is sort of rowing in the same direction. It starts with your two revenue-producing coaches and that is with (men's basketball head coach John Calipari) and (football head coach) Joker (Philips). They truly want Kentucky Athletics in total to be great. The things that they do and the things that they put in place help us to get to those spots. They produce and provide opportunities for everybody else, but they take great pride in that and I think they enjoy other people succeeding.

What we do is try to create an atmosphere where coaches enjoy feeding off one another's successes and I think that's sort of what we got. I've joked around and said I've got a group of very normal people. I say that in the nicest of ways in that they have real balance in their lives. The way that they treat people is with respect and they're honorable folks in the way they do their business. But most of all, they understand student-athletes and how to treat them and grow them into the young people we want them to be.

When you put all those pieces of the puzzle together, we've got a group that really, really gets along well. You'll go to matches or games and you'll see all the coaches from other sports hanging out on the sidelines or in the end zones or in the corners watching. And I think they learn from one another. I think everybody's learned a little bit how you manage superstar athletes like Cal has gotten. You've seen some people that have been what I call grinders in grinding away with a group of athletes and how they've won with that and how we've won with some overachieving athletes. They've all taken bits and pieces from one another and I think they're not territorial in any way, shape or form. They get along extremely well.

CS: Moving on to football specifically, expectations on the part of fans and experts are relatively low for this season, while many around the program seem to have a quiet confidence that the team is better and more talented than outsiders think. For the sake of ticket sales, you would obviously prefer that fans would agree, but are there also positives associated with being under the radar?
MB: I think, sometimes, you need to be able to play with a chip on your shoulder a little bit. I think that's what we're going to have to do this year. We're going to have to play with a chip on our shoulder. People aren't giving us much of an opportunity to compete and I think you're going to have use that as a rallying cry around your program. You're going to have to believe in one another. We're going to have to have some things go our way. We've got to stay a little bit injury-free and we've got to stay clear of that. And we've got to be able to go out and perform.

We've got some young people certainly capable of that and I think we've got a really good group of coaches. They believe in one another and they believe in our kids. That's the first step. I'd agree with you. I think there is a gentle confidence about them, but we've got to go out and prove that.

CS: Another much-discussed topic is the Alumni Charity Game at Rupp Arena at 2 p.m. on Sept. 15. What kind of thought went into planning that and why do you believe it can be a successful doubleheader with football's home game at 7 p.m. against Western Kentucky that same day?

MB: You've got some restrictions about when you can play the game and do those kinds of games by NBA rules. We've got a unique set of alumni - probably a different alumni base than most programs have - an alumni base of over 20 NBA guys, and it's growing rapidly. To have a unique group of folks that want to come back and be a part of something like that at Kentucky is very different from a lot of places.

I've always been a believer in creating multiple things for your fans to be a part of on a weekend and let them enjoy a lot of things. It goes back to what we talked about with the culture here. Just being able to share assets and share ideas and share fan bases and share things that promote Kentucky in total rather than one thing individually I think is really, really important. If we can use the incredible traditions we have in basketball to help augment people wanting to come be a part of an incredible weekend with Hall of Fame Weekend and Alumni Weekend and Western Kentucky, what an opportunity for us to do that.

CS: The Alumni Game is just the latest example of the department reaching out to former student-athletes. Across sports, former Wildcats are joining coaching staffs and being invited to be more involved with the program. Why do you believe that to be so important?
MB: I think that Joker has done a great job of bring guys back in the program and allowing them to work and begin their careers. That fosters that sense of family that we are trying to create. We want people in our program that love Kentucky and understand Kentucky and take great pride in what we do. To have Jeremy Jarmon, Andre' Woodson, Glenn Holt, Sam Simpson, Braxton Kelley and Tyler Sargent back on your staff in football (as director of player personnel) or to have a Marquis Estill who comes back to get his degree and works on (the basketball) staff and (former student assistant) Wayne Turner now out there in the working world out there representing Kentucky is really good. You've got Tony Delk and Scott Padgett out there in basketball (now assistant coaches at New Mexico State and Samford, respectively, after a stint on Calipari's UK staff).

Most of our coaches are beginning to reach out and pull those folks back. There was a time when there weren't a whole lot of folks interested in coming back to be a part of this, but that has become more the norm. Our athletes are now wanting to be a part of us differently than they have in the past. I think that's very helpful to us.

CS: It doesn't take long for anyone who regularly attends UK sporting events to notice that you attend pretty much every game or match that you can. Why do you make such an effort to do that?
MB: I think it's a couple things. One, the young people, our kids, put in an incredible amount of time. For us to be able to come and make sure they know that we care and that and we know who they are, I think that's important for them to know that you care.

Two, if you're going to evaluate your program properly, you've got to understand what the climate is in your program and what's going on. You've got to have an ability to see firsthand how your players, your athletes are reacting to the things that your coaches are teaching.

Three, I think we've got to know that the environment we're providing is organizationally sound and that it is run efficiently and safely for everybody that's coming, whether it's to play in it or to participate in it or to watch. We've got to make sure those things are sound.

I don't think you can do those things if you're not there and you're not around it. Come about mid- to late-June, I'm about done and I need to get away a little bit. So July I try to get away and go do stuff and get my head clear before we crank back up again.

CS: We have discussed the challenges UK Athletics faces in maintaining and building new facilities in similar settings before, but can you provide an update on how you believe the department is coping with those challenges and what your priorities are going forward?

MB: We came here and I would say - out of the 12 teams at the time that were in the SEC, now it's 14 - I'd say we were bottom three in the league in terms of actual facilities. The way that financing is done on campus and in our state, it is very difficult for us to secure financing. We don't have a private foundation. The way that funding in our state is done is very different from everybody else in our league, and that's another conversation completely.

We have basically piecemealed together everything that we've done. We've saved money, we've raised money, we've put pockets of money together systematically, piece by piece by piece taking care of facilities. We're in the process of finishing up the last two pieces of the soccer/softball complex down there on Alumni Drive. That would be a very important piece. That would leave us three or four projects away. Two of them are really, really big ones - one of them is a new baseball stadium and the other one is obviously the renovation of Commonwealth Stadium - that we're going to have find ways to get help on, whether that's through bonds or through additional fundraising. And then our indoor tennis center, which really desperately needs help. Those three facilities are still on the docket for us of things we really need help with.

How we get all that done and work on that is important because athletes today pick schools for a variety of reasons. We just did a study and they come for that relationship with that head coach, generally, and then secondarily with the players involved and the folks on the team. Can they make those relationships work? Beyond that, we have heard them say over and over again as they have left our program, 'It isn't about facilities, but we just don't want to have horrible facilities.' We've felt like we've always had decent playing facilities, but the amenities around them that make it really warm and accommodating have just not been where they need to be.

We've done the math. In the last 10 years, we've done about $115 to $120 million of cash, capital construction, but we close to no debt. That's a really good thing. The downside is that we haven't been able to move as fast as we've wanted to move. Hopefully, with getting some changes in the way we look at bonding, we'll be able to do that.

CS: The 15 by 15 by 15 plan to win 15 conference and national championships and finish in the top 15 of the Director's Cup standings by 2015 is the centerpiece of your goals for this department. Having won 10 titles already, that benchmark looks to be clearly within reach. But in 2011-12 - one of the best seasons in UK history - the department finished 29th. How difficult will it be to reach the top 15 and how important will the new direction of the track and field and cross country be to that?
MB: Our goal is to obviously get the championships, and that's one piece. You could legitimately capture three championships a year for five years, meet that goal and still not be closer to a top-15 program. Our goal is to be a top-15 program and that hasn't changed. We got to 29th last year and it's the second time we've done that in the 10 years we've been here.

The big piece in that is you've got to be able to have success in your track and field program consistently. It counts six times for you when you take cross country, both men and women; indoor track and field championships, both men and women; and outdoor track and field championships, both men and women. That is six opportunities with essentially the same athletes and same coaching staff. We've been relatively inconsistent. We've had some championship performances in those sports. We've had some people do, individually, very well, but not collectively as a team getting us to a spot where we could say we're finishing top 20 in cross country, top 20 in indoor track and outdoor. We've got to get to that spot.

When you get a guy like Edrick to come on board who has got a great ability to move your program forward coupled with the investment we've made in a 13 million dollar outdoor track plus the indoor track, the resurfacing of that, new locker rooms and a new lounge, it's about as good a scenario as you could possibly have for track and field. It gives us all the resources necessary to go compete to get us to that top 15. I'm not saying in year one we make this dramatic move from 29 to 15. It's going to take him a year or two to get all his folks in place.

In time, that has a major impact on our ability to be a top-15 program. If we had everything else in place like we've had the last few years, just the moderate successes we've had and some of the championships we've won, and you added four finishes out of six in track and field, we would have been a top-15 program in I think three of the last six years. That significantly changes the way you do your business. We've got to pay attention to that and we've got to work really, really hard to give that the attention it needs.

I think we've done that and I think we have a legitimate chance to be a top-15 program or we wouldn't have done some of the things we've done. I think we have a tremendous pool of head coaches. Now we have to find a way to keep them in place and grow them the right way for the long-term stability of our program so we're not a transition place where they come here to go to another place. We want to give them the resources necessary to say this is a destination spot at Kentucky and we build toward being a top-15 program and stay there.

No break in sight as Floreal takes over UK track

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Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart introduced Edrick Floreal as the head coach of UK track and field and cross country on Thursday. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics) Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart introduced Edrick Floreal as the head coach of UK track and field and cross country on Thursday. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
Edrick Floreal thought he was heading to a two-week "vacation" before he really got down to business at his new job. Kentucky's recently named head track and field and cross country coach would serve as Team USA's coach for jumps and combined events, where he assumed he would rub shoulders with some of the world's best athletes in a relaxed environment.

He turned out to be half-right.

Six of his athletes won medals at the Olympics - including Ashton Eaton and Trey Hardee, who took gold and silver in the decathlon - but Floreal had to do a lot more than just hold a stopwatch. Floreal was a two-time Olympian himself in 1988 and 1992, so his athletes trusted him. And relied on him. A lot.

"The guys really wanted me to be involved and they wanted to have no responsibility," Floreal said. "That's what they told me: 'We want you to do everything. You've been there, you've been to the Olympics, you've competed so we trust. We want you to tell us what time to be at the track. We want you to meet us at the bus.' "

After two weeks of 15-hour days on his supposed vacation, Floreal was likely ready for a break, but he's getting no such thing. Eighteen days before the Opening Ceremonies in London, Floreal was named the coach at UK. Four days after the Closing Ceremonies, he was at a press conference being introduced to the media and fans by his new boss.

"I'm not sure he knows what time zone he's in right now," Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart said. "But we're glad he's in ours."

He had a chance to begin to cobble together a staff and get to know his new athletes, but the real work begins now, along with the process of moving his family into a new home, though he admits his wife - LaVonna Martin-Floreal - will lead that charge.

With the success Floreal was having in his old job, not many would have figured he, his wife and his four children would be moving anytime soon. In 2011, Floreal led both the Cardinal men and women to top-15 national outdoor finishes. His six-year head-coaching tenure saw more than 50 athletes earn 142 All-American honors. Floreal was also a four-time Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Coach of the Year, the 2009 West Regional Indoor Coach of the Year and the 2006 West Regional Outdoor Coach of the Year.

He had built a consistent winner, a program that succeeded both on the track and off, but a three-year stretch as an assistant had always stuck with him. From 1996-98, Floreal served under his predecessor, Don Weber, at UK. More than a decade later, the lure of coaching in Lexington had always remained in the back of his mind, and his wife - the 1992 silver medalist in the 100-meter hurdles - sensed it too.

"A long, long time ago, my wife asked me, we were sitting having dinner and she said, 'You know what? Would you go back to UK?' " Floreal said. "And I said, 'Oh, in a heartbeat.' "

Earlier this summer, Barnhart put Floreal's off-handed answer to the test, initiating a conversation about succeeding Don Weber at UK at the Olympic Trials in Portland, Ore.

"When I came back from the Olympic Trials, I said, 'Remember that heartbeat thing we talked about a long time ago?' " Floreal said. "She was like, 'Yeah.' 'We'll that's going to happen.' We sort of chuckled and she knew right away. She said, 'I've already found a house.' "

However, the ultimate decision was not so easy. Floreal had built relationships with administrators, in the community and, most importantly, with his pupils, so telling them of his plans was difficult.

"If it wasn't tough, I wouldn't be able to coach," Floreal said. "It's tough to look at an 18-year old in the face and say your coach, your mentor, your friend and the person that's been sort of leading your way has to go somewhere else and be someone else's mentor."

It was what he saw in Kentucky, what he thought the track program could become that made him willing to turn to the next page in his career.

"Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder...In my eyes, what I see here, what I see that this place has to offer, I'm not going to try to explain it to anybody else because nobody else can understand," Floreal said. "That's for me. It's what I'm into. It's what I'm after and this place has what I look for. That's all I care about."

Not everyone may share his opinion, but he doesn't care. He knows his new assistants - Hakon DeVries, Jason Dunn and Andrew Ninow, all of whom come from Stanford - do, he knows Barnhart does and he knows his Wildcats eventually will. He wants to help the young people he works with grow in every facet of life. He wants to make lasting impacts on their future.

"I want to mentor young people enough to make an impact that when they grow older and they've got kids, hopefully their middle name can be Edrick," said Floreal.

If Floreal's charismatic performance on Thursday is any indication, getting current athletes and future recruits to buy in will be no issue. Media in attendance commented that Floreal's question-and-answer session was the early favorite for UK press conference of the year, saying even John Calipari would have a tough task in outdoing Floreal's combination of thoughtful answers and amusing one-liners.

He was at once self-deprecating in pointing out his wife's superior athletic accomplishments and supremely confident in speaking about the future, and engaging from start to finish.

"I typically shoot from the hip so what you hear is what you get," Floreal said. "Maybe I need to filter a little bit more."

That honesty was on display as Floreal offered his appraisal of where the program is now and where he wants it to go. He is adamant in his belief that UK track and field is a sleeping giant, that Lexington is "a logical place for great athletes to come," but he also knows there will be growing pains. The discipline and training habits he will demand of his athletes may come as a shock in the short term and the results may not come overnight, but he has a vision.

"Those who hear not the music think the dancer is mad," Floreal said, quoting a saying on his office door. "A lot of people are going to think I'm mad, but I have a tune in my head and I can hear it. By the time I'm done, people here will hear that too."

Floreal expects to compete at a high level and he's not talking in terms of rebuilding. He plans to hit the ground running and not stop anytime soon. He wouldn't be here if he didn't think Kentucky couldn't compete at the highest level.

"I'm not interested in participating if I don't have a chance to win," Floreal said. "That's not a game I want to play. I truly believe I have a chance to win here and we're going to find a way to do it. I can't say when, but I can tell you it's going to be as soon as possible."

With plenty of work ahead and barely two weeks before the start of the cross country season, it might be a while before Floreal gets that vacation.

Video: Fall sports media day

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Track & field head coach Edrick Floreal, AD Mitch Barnhart

Women's soccer head coach Jon Lipsitz, senior Alyssa Telang

Volleyball head coach Craig Skinner, libero Stephanie Klefot

Men's soccer head coach Johan Cedergren, midfielder Cam Wilder

Fall sports media day on Thursday

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Thursday is going to be a busy one here at the Joe Craft Center.

Beginning at noon, UK Athletics will host a press conference quadruple header ahead of the fall sports season. It will start with Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart introducing new track and field and cross country coach. Next, women's soccer coach Jon Lipsitz and midfielder Alyssa Telang will take their turn previewing the season. Volleyball's Craig Skinner and Stephanie Klefot will follow and Johan Cedergren and Cameron Wilder from men's soccer will close it out.

Each of the press conferences is expected to last 15 minutes and you can watch them all live on Throughout Thursday and Friday, Ryan Suckow and I will have stories from the event in addition to our regular football coverage.

There's no getting around it now. The season is upon us.
It's a story I'm sure you've heard before, but also one you won't mind hearing again. Josh Nadzam and Luis Orta from the Kentucky track and field and cross country teams have led shoe collections for Soles4Souls each of the past two springs. Kyle Scott from WLEX had a segment on Sunday's news about it.

Kentucky Olympic update (July 30)

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Five individuals with UK ties will compete or coach in the Olympics over the next two weeks. Five individuals with UK ties will compete or coach in the Olympics over the next two weeks.
On Friday, the Opening Ceremonies officially kicked off the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. After competition on Saturday and Sunday, medals have already been awarded in various events with China and the United States tied at 14 and 13 medals, respectively, as of 1:30 p.m. ET on Monday according to

While Cat Scratches won't be providing in-depth coverage of the Olympics, we figured now would be a good time to provide an update on current and former Kentucky student-athletes participating and when they will be in action over the next two weeks.

Anthony Davis - Basketball - Team USA

Davis is the lone Wildcat to have competed so far. Team USA faced off against France in its first game of play in Group A on Sunday, pulling away for a 98-71 win after leading by just one through the first quarter. Davis played only in the fourth quarter, logging three points, three rebounds and a block in eight minutes on the floor.

Named to Team USA as a replacement for the injured Blake Griffin, Davis isn't playing a featured role, but he's getting some incredible experience. The reigning national player of the year got some face time and a mention during the Opening Ceremonies and has gained the respect of his teammates, according to the broadcast of Sunday's game. As the tournament wears on, don't expect Davis to get much more than mop-up duty, but with how good the Americans are, there could be plenty of that available.

Upcoming schedule

Tuesday, July 31 - Team USA vs. Tunisia - 5:15 p.m. ET (Group play)
Thursday, Aug. 2 - Team USA vs. Nigeria - 5:15 p.m. ET (Group play)
Saturday, Aug. 4 - Team USA vs. Lithuania - 9:30 a.m. ET (Group play)
Monday, Aug. 6 - Team USA vs. Argentina - 5:15 p.m. ET (Group play)

If Team USA advances, it will play in a quarterfinal on Aug. 8 with the medal rounds on Aug. 10 and Aug. 12.

Jenna Martin - Track and field - Canada

Martin earned a spot on the Canadian National Team with a time of 51.53 seconds in the 400-meter dash. She is the all-time UK record holder in the event, with her top time coming in 2007.

Upcoming schedule

Friday, Aug. 3 - Women's 400m Round 1 - 7 a.m. ET
Saturday, Aug. 4 - Women's 400m Semifinals - 3:05 p.m. ET
Sunday, Aug. 5 - Women's 400m Final - 4:10 p.m. ET

Rondel Sorrillo - Track and field - Trinidad and Tobago

Sorrillo is an Olympian for the second time. He will compete in both the 100m and 200m, as he set the UK record in both events in 2010. Sorrillo will also run in the 4x100m relay.

Upcoming schedule

Saturday, Aug. 4 - Men's 100m Preliminaries - 5 a.m. ET
Saturday, Aug. 4 - Men's 100m Round 1 - 7:30 a.m. ET
Sunday, Aug. 5 - Men's 100m Semifinals - 2:45 p.m. ET
Sunday, Aug. 5 - Men's 100m Final - 4:50 p.m. ET
Tuesday, Aug. 7 - Men's 200m Round 1 - 6:50 p.m. ET
Wednesday, Aug. 8 - Men's 200m Semifinals - 3:10 p.m. ET
Thursday, Aug. 9 - Men's 200m Final - 3:55 p.m. ET
Friday, Aug 10 - Men's 4x100m Relay Round 1 - 2:45 p.m. ET
Saturday, Aug. 11 - Men's 4x100m Relay Final - 4 p.m. ET

Mikel Thomas - Track and field - Trinidad and Tobago

Thomas will race in the 110m hurdles. He holds the UK record in the event, running a time of 13.57 seconds in 2008.

Upcoming schedule

Tuesday, Aug. 7 - Men's 110m Hurdles Round 1 - 5:10 a.m. ET
Wednesday, Aug. 8 - Men's 110m Hurdles Semifinals - 2:15 p.m. ET
Wednesday, Aug. 8 - Men's 110m Hurdles Final - 4:15 p.m. ET

Edrick Floreal - Track and field (coach) - Team USA

Floreal's busy summer continues. In the midst of transitioning into his new role leading UK track and field and cross country, he will coach jumps and combined events for Team USA. Floreal was an Olympian himself in 1988 and 1992.

Upcoming schedule

Friday, Aug. 3 - Men's Long Jump Qualification - 2:50 p.m. ET
Saturday, Aug. 4 - Men's Long Jump Finals - 2:55 p.m. ET
Sunday, Aug. 5 - Men's High Jump Qualification - 2:05 p.m. ET
Tuesday, Aug. 7 - Men's Triple Jump Qualification - 5:45 a.m. ET
Tuesday, Aug. 7 - Men's High Jump Finals - 2 p.m. ET
Wednesday, Aug. 8 and Thursday, Aug. 9 - Men's Decathlon
Thursday, Aug. 9 - Men's Triple Jump Finals - 2:20 p.m. ET

Notes for a Wednesday evening

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A few VERY quick notes to close out your Wednesday, and I'll spare you any preambles:

  • The big news around these parts is the naming of Cedric Kauffmann as Dennis Emery's replacement. Kauffmann will take over Kentucky men's tennis after eight seasons as an assistant to Emery, the last four as associate head coach. Kauffmann, who was a three-time All-American during his playing career at UK in the late-1990s, is regarded as one of the bright young minds in the college game. Congratulations to Cedric and look for a feature on him later this week.
  • Speaking of new head coaches, Sean Cartell of the SEC Digital Network posted a Q & A with Edrick Floreal of UK track and field. He talks about why he took the UK job, his illustrious college career and coaching in the upcoming Olympic games. Check it out.
  • It's almost time for some football. Thursday and Friday will feature plenty of gridiron-related content, as I'll be attending both the Governor's Cup and Kickoff Luncheons. In addition, we're starting a series of features spotlighting some of UK's incoming freshman on Thursday.
  • Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart is continuing his climb to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro. Here's an update from his group leader.

Anytime a head coach takes over a program, there's a great deal of work involved. For new Kentucky track and field coach Edrick Floreal, the transition will be even more significant.

Floreal is balancing tying up loose ends at his former job at Stanford, moving his family to the Bluegrass and serving as jumps coach for Team USA at the Summer Olympic Games. And don't forget about getting to know his Wildcat student-athletes. Mark Maloney writes about that subject and others in a story in Thursday's Lexington Herald-Leader:

Under his watch, 91 Stanford athletes earned 197 All-America honors. The Cardinal won three NCAA women's cross country titles and finished among the top-five men's cross country programs in three of the last four years. Add to that seven NCAA track and field finishes indoors, as well as outdoors.

UK is coming off a seventh-place men's finish and 12th-place women's finish in the Southeastern Conference Outdoor Championships.

"I have to have (UK athletes) buy in, and buying in means 'wherever we're at right now, we need to do better,'" Floreal said. "Can we do three or four spots better? I certainly hope so, and I certainly think so. But it might be two spots better; it might be six spots better.

"I don't know right now, and I just don't want the kids to get discouraged. ... Like my former A.D. (at Stanford), Bob Bowlsby, said, 'you've got to eat the elephant one bite at a time.' I'm not interested in trying to eat the whole thing together, so we're going to keep biting at that until we eat the whole thing."

That challenge to build UK's program and take advantage of a new outdoor facility are part of what lured him from Stanford, Floreal said. He cited the support of his UK predecessor -- Don Weber -- and the passion of Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart as factors.

Give Maloney's full story a read to learn more about UK's newest coach.

Link: New Kentucky track coach Edrick Floreal has a full summer on tap

The SEC Digital Network is continuing its "40/40" series, which is a celebration of women in Southeastern Conference athletics since the passing of Title IX 40 years ago. Former Kentucky stars Jenny Hansen (gymnastics) and Valerie McGovern (track and field/cross country) have already been featured as a part of the series, but Tuesday was Valerie Still's turn.

Still is the all-time leading scorer in UK basketball history - men's and women's - and was the leader on the school's SEC title team in 1982. Written by Tim Letcher, this story gives some interesting perspective on Still's time as a Wildcat:

Still didn't know exactly what she was getting into when she arrived in Lexington. "I didn't even know about Kentucky basketball, men or women," she says. "All we knew was that they had a pretty good football team at the time, because Art was on it. We thought it was a football school," she says with a chuckle.
In the fall of 1979, Still embarked on what would be a record-breaking career. She led Kentucky in scoring all four years of her career. When she scored her 1,599th point as a junior, she passed Pam Browning to become the leading scorer in Kentucky women's basketball history.

"Pam was in that first group when they brought the program back (in 1974), and she was just inducted into the UK Hall of Fame this September," Still says. "When I came in, you knew Pam Browning if you knew women's basketball. She was a pretty special athlete."

"Passing Pam was pretty significant for me," Still says. "When I came to UK, one of the things I liked doing was, I'd take a look at the media guides and I'd look in the back and see who had the records, and she (Browning) had all of the records. And I thought it would be kind of nice if I could get my name in there."

Not only did Still get her name in the record books, she shattered nearly all of the women's basketball records at Kentucky. In addition to points and rebounds in a career, she holds school records for points in a game (42), rebounds in a game (27), field goals made in a career (1,118) and free throws made in a career (527), just to mention a few.

As she started to place her names among the greatest women's basketball players in Kentucky history, Still accomplished something that most people probably didn't expect.

In a game against Miami (Ohio) on December 5, 1982, Still scored her 2,139th career point, passing Issel as Kentucky's all-time scoring leader, man or woman.

When asked what she remembered about the moment, Still says, "Not a lot. I think when you're young and doing things, I was sort of limited in my knowledge. I was just doing something that I loved doing, and something incredible happened."

The story goes on to talk about life after UK for Still, touching on her professional career and now her career as an author. Take a look.

Link: SEC 40/40: She's Still the One

Floreal named track and field head coach

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Edrick Floreal was named head coach of Kentucky track and field on Monday. Edrick Floreal was named head coach of Kentucky track and field on Monday.
Bit by bit, Kentucky is turning into the kind of head coaching destination Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart envisioned it could be a decade ago.

On Monday, UK announced the hiring of Edrick Floreal as head coach of UK track and field. Floreal comes to Lexington after six years leading Stanford's program, the kind of job that would have caused a coach to consider leaving UK in the not-so-distant past.

Instead, recognizing the vast potential of the Kentucky program and the lure of coaching in the Southeastern Conference, Floreal is a Wildcat once more.

"I am very excited to return to Kentucky and guide this program into a new era of success," Floreal said in a release. "I am certain that with the support of the administration and the Wildcat community, we can accomplish great things. The new outdoor track and field facility provides the perfect venue to accomplish the many goals I have for UK. My wife and I are looking forward to being back in the SEC, competing against the best in track and field and taking part in the new rise of champions at Kentucky. The potential is limitless and I am excited to join the Big Blue Nation as part of the Wildcat Family."

After winning five NCAA triple jump titles and four team championships as a student-athlete at Arkansas and competing for Canada at the 1988 and 1992 Olympics, Floreal spent 1996-98 as an assistant under Don Weber at Kentucky. He would then depart for Palo Alto, Calif., where he spent 14 seasons and the last six as head coach. During his tenure, 50 of his student-athletes earned 142 All-American honors. In 2011, he led the Cardinal men (eighth) and women (14th) to top-15 finishes at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.  

"We are proud to announce Edrick Floreal as the new Kentucky track and field head coach," Barnhart said. "Edrick has found success in every step of his career, both on the track and in the classroom. He knows the SEC both as a student-athlete and as a coach, he has ties that span the country and he has developed student-athletes to compete on the national level and global level. His passion in the classroom is something we take great pride in at Kentucky, and we look forward to opening our new outdoor track and field facility under Edrick's direction."

At UK, Floreal will lead six different programs, including men's and women's cross country, men's and women's indoor track and field, along with men's and women's outdoor track and field.


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