Barnhart Nominated for Athletics Director of the Year by SportsBusiness
After a year of historic achievements on and off the field for UK Athletics, Mitch Barnhart has been nominated for Athletics Director of the Year as part of the Sports Business Awards.
Barnhart has been nominated alongside Jeff Long of the University of Arkansas, Ian McCaw of Baylor University and Dan Radakovich of Clemson University. The winner will be announced at the Sports Business Awards ceremony on May 20, 2015, at the New York Marriott Marquis at Times Square.
Launched in 2008, the Sports Business Awards were established by SportsBusiness Journal and SportsBusiness Daily to celebrate and recognize the leaders, visionaries and day-to-day practitioners who personify excellence in the business of sports. The 2015 nominees and winners will be recognized for excellence and outstanding achievement in the business of sports for the period from March 1, 2014 - February 28, 2015.
"I am honored just to be mentioned for Athletics Director of the Year," Barnhart said. "I am thankful for our student-athletes, coaches, staff and the Big Blue Nation. This recognition, as well as our growth as a department, has come because of them."
The honor comes the same month UK Athletics completed the final goal set as part of Barnhart's ambitious 15 by 15 by 15 Plan. The Southeastern Conference Tournament championship won by the men's basketball team gave UK its 15th conference or national title since the plan was announced in 2008. Last season, UK finished 11th in Directors' Cup standings, meeting Barnhart's aim to make Kentucky a top-15 athletics department nationally. UK has also reached the third prong of 15 by 15 by 15 in five consecutive semesters by achieving a department-wide grade-point average of 3.0 or better.
The UK men's basketball team has headlined the excellence in competition the last year, reaching the Final Four in back-to-back seasons and rolling to a 38-0 record entering Saturday's national semifinal. UK Athletics, however, has enjoyed comprehensive success under Barnhart's leadership. Eighteen of UK's 22 varsity teams contributed to last season's school-record Directors' Cup finish, with seven finishing in the top 10 of their respective sports. The success has continued this season, including a school-record fifth-place finish by the women's track and field team at NCAA Indoor Championships this month.
Barnhart has helped pave the way for UK's ascendance as an athletics department by innovatively pursuing facility improvements. In September, UK will play the grand-opening game in The New CWS following a $120 million project made possible by an unprecedented partnership with its university partner. The football program will also have a new $45 million practice facility in 2016, adding to a list of new facilities completed in the last two years that includes new softball and soccer stadiums and a new track.
Barnhart is steadfast in his commitment to putting student-athletes first, evidenced by their strong academic performances. He is active in community service and encourages student-athletes to follow suit. Putting that into action, UK student-athletes combined to serve 4,319 hours in the community during the 2013-14 school year. Also, over the last four years, UK football players have made educational/service trips to Ethiopia, a program that has been expanded to include athletes from multiple sports.
Even with the department's growth and the increasingly competitive nature of college sports, UK Athletics has remained fully self-sufficient, operating with a balanced budget and with the help of no state or university funds under Barnhart's leadership. As further proof of UK Athletics' financial stewardship, Barnhart directs a $1.7-million annual contribution to the University's scholarship program and UK Athletics is funding nearly two-thirds of the $100 million Academic Science Building under construction on campus. All told, UK Athletics has directly and indirectly contributed nearly $200 million to the university's mission since 2002.
Barnhart is also a leader in shaping the future of college sports on a national level. He was appointed to serve on the NCAA Division I Council, a body charged with conducting the day-to-day business of Division I athletics, after becoming the chair of the NCAA Basketball Issues Committee in 2010.