Kentucky AD Barnhart sees positives in programs

FILE - In this March 27, 2009, file photo, Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart listen to a question during a news conference to announce the release of men's basketball coach Billy Gillispie in Lexington, Ky. The Wildcats' failure to make the men's NCAA tournament and a football coaching change made the biggest news for Kentucky sports this past academic year. Mitch Barnhart believes brighter days are ahead for those programs and others that had their share of success this season. (AP Photo/Ed Reinke, File)

FILE - In this March 27, 2009, file photo, Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart listen to a question during a news conference to announce the release of men's basketball coach Billy Gillispie in Lexington, Ky. The Wildcats' failure to make the men's NCAA tournament and a football coaching change made the biggest news for Kentucky sports this past academic year. Mitch Barnhart believes brighter days are ahead for those programs and others that had their share of success this season. (AP Photo/Ed Reinke, File)

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart believes the program's overall success offsets this year's falloff by its two high-profile sports — one of which he acknowledges will be expected to rebound better than the other.

A year after winning their eighth NCAA basketball title, the Wildcats missed the tournament altogether and were upset by Robert Morris in the first round of the second-tier NIT. Their disappointment followed the football team's 2-10 season, resulting in the Nov. 4 firing of coach Joker Phillips after three years and the hiring of first-time head coach Mark Stoops to rebuild the program.

Barnhart believes both sports will improve but views the performance of several others as signs of an athletic department continuing to move in the right direction on and off the field.

"It's been an interesting year in that we've had some things to celebrate, and that's been fun," Barnhart said in an interview with the Associated Press. "Fans look at three or four sports, first and foremost, and it's interesting that while we might not have had the success that we've wanted or been used to, excitement for those sports is at an all-time high."

It's hard to imagine popularity of men's basketball being higher after leading the nation in attendance for the 17th time in 18 years despite a 21-12 finish. Barnhart's assessment had more to do with the record nearly 51,000 that came out for the Blue-White spring football scrimmage, more than the Wildcats drew for Southeastern Conference home games against No. 6 South Carolina and No. 20 Mississippi State last season.

That kind of attendance said a lot about fans' hopes that Stoops can return the program to respectability after an 0-8 SEC showing. Injuries and inexperience left the team near the bottom of several conference rankings and resulted in Kentucky's worst finish since 2005 (3-8) — not to mention, many empty seats at Commonwealth Stadium.

At Stoops' introduction on Dec. 2, the former Florida State defensive coordinator quickly declared that Wildcats fans would have something to cheer about even as they try to contend in an ultra-competitive league that has won the past seven national championships. While it will take time for Kentucky's young quarterbacks to execute offensive coordinator Neal Brown's pass-oriented 'Air Raid' scheme, the prospect of more wide-open play has resulted in 4,000 more than season ticket holders than 2012.

Spectators can eventually look forward to a planned $110 million stadium renovation expected to be completed by 2015. Until then, Stoops is intent on providing them an exciting on-field product.

"We're not here to play close to play close to anybody," said Stoops, who lifted FSU's defense from a No. 108 ranking in 2009 to second nationally last season. "We're here to compete to win, and there's no excuse not to.

"Maybe that resonates with the fans, but that's my mentality."

There's no mistaking the fierce mindset men's basketball coach John Calipari seeks from the nation's No. 1 recruiting class after their predecessors fell short of meeting high expectations last season.

Kentucky's rookie quartet of Nerlens Noel, guard Archie Goodwin, center Willie Cauley-Stein and forward Alex Poythress showed flashes of potential, though not always simultaneously or consistently. Having no returning starter also hampered efforts to find leadership and chemistry.

The Wildcats subsequently struggled all season for an NCAA tournament bid, a quest that was severely damaged when the 6-foot-10 Noel, Kentucky's best player and the nation's leading shot blocker, suffered a season-ending knee injury at Florida in February. A 4-5 finish followed and Kentucky was denied the chance to defend its championship before Robert Morris' 59-57 victory snatched hopes for an NIT consolation prize.

Nerlens and Goodwin are in next week's NBA draft, but Cauley-Stein, Poythress and junior forward Kyle Wilter return. They will be counted on to improve as well as groom eight ballyhooed newcomers including six McDonald's All-Americans, ratcheting up talk within Blue Nation of another title run.

"Obviously, we didn't finish like we wanted to, but recruiting is very good and fans are excited," Barnhart said. "We got some of the key members of the team coming back, and coupled with the new guys, there's a chance to be a really exciting year going forward."

Advancing to their first Final Four is the goal for Kentucky's women, who finished their most successful season and reached their third Elite Eight in four years before losing to eventual national champion Connecticut. Runners-up to Tennessee during the regular season and Texas A&M in the SEC championship, the Wildcats (30-6) set a school record for wins with eight coming against top-25 opponents.

Kentucky offsets the loss of two-time SEC player of the year A'dia Mathies with the return of four starters and the arrival of a top-five recruiting class including McDonald's All-Americans Linnae Harper and Makayla Epps, a consensus choice as Kentucky's Miss Basketball.

"As competitive as (coach) Matthew Mitchell is, I know he's anxious to break through that one spot and we're close on a lot of fronts," Barnhart said.

The same can be said for other Wildcat sports.

Kentucky softball (41-21) reached its second NCAA super regional in three years, set a school mark for victories and tied its highest final ranking (12th) in the USA Softball Top 25 poll. Playing in a new $9.5 million facility this season no doubt helped.

Volleyball reached the NCAA round of 16 in consecutive years for the first time since 1987-88.

Andrew Evans' bronze medal in the discus helped men's track earn its best finish (18th) since 2010 at the NCAA championships. Evans, Raymond Dykstra (javelin) and hurdler Keith Hayes were first-teamers of eight Wildcats named All-Americans.

All 22 programs surpassed the cut score on the NCAA's Academic Progress Rate report, and 15 exceeded the national average for public schools. That big-picture success explains why Barnhart isn't fretting about stumbles from the school's main revenue sports, which happen from time to time.

But in changing football coaches, his expectations might be higher than his fan base.

"When you have 22 programs, you have some highs and some lows, some things that you wanted to do really, really well and some things that you want to do better," he said. "Sometimes, we take it for granted because we've been steady the last few years in consistent growth. But clearly, the sports that gather the most attention, rightly or wrongly, are ones we've got to get better in."

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Comments » 21

Witch_Doctors writes:

Witch Doctor say Hal Mumme part deux.
Bones never lie.

GONAVY writes:

Actually, though sad...the Vol Nation is now reacting to a post about UK in football? How the mighty have fallen.

Witch_Doctors writes:

in response to GONAVY:

Actually, though sad...the Vol Nation is now reacting to a post about UK in football? How the mighty have fallen.

Witch Doctor say you cant spell "inferiority complex" without "Vanderbilt Commodores" lol
Bones never lie.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to Witch_Doctors:

Witch Doctor say Hal Mumme part deux.
Bones never lie.

Hal Dumme?? That's hilarious. Wasn't he the idiot that went for it on his own 20 yd line? It wasn't even close to a 1st down, like 4th & 7. Pitiful excuse for a coach.

Witch_Doctors writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEARE:

Hal Dumme?? That's hilarious. Wasn't he the idiot that went for it on his own 20 yd line? It wasn't even close to a 1st down, like 4th & 7. Pitiful excuse for a coach.

Witch Doctor say UK and Peabody U make life fun. Witch Doctor got many many miles out of the "Air Raid Sirens" jokes for years..Witch Doctor say looks both are reloading again! HAHAHA
Bones never lie.

chattabluetick writes:

in response to GONAVY:

Actually, though sad...the Vol Nation is now reacting to a post about UK in football? How the mighty have fallen.

Whats sad is there are constantly reports of other schools and how great they are doing. Thats why trolls are always on here pestering Vol fans because you keep writing about their schools. Stick to the Vols only and true Tennessee fans can discuss the Vols. Let those other universities tell how great their teams are on their own sites. Like I said before when Tennessee was kicking Bama's arse 1995-2004, 9-1 record against them, I doubt seriously Bama fans were on the Bama site talking daily about how great those Tennessee Vols are.

SevenT writes:

Barnhart managed to excape the horrble hires of Billy Gillespie and Joker Phillips. He probably saved his job by hiring Calipari. We shall see how hiring Stoops works out. He learned to be a AD working at Tennessee for Doug Dickey who was complete class.

underthehill writes:

in response to SevenT:

Barnhart managed to excape the horrble hires of Billy Gillespie and Joker Phillips. He probably saved his job by hiring Calipari. We shall see how hiring Stoops works out. He learned to be a AD working at Tennessee for Doug Dickey who was complete class.

Dickey was complete class? not when he lost a bowl game to Fla UT should have won ..and then went to Fla to coach..to his credit ..he did do a good job as AD when he came back to UT

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

I suspect that good FSU defense was a more about recruiting than Stoops genius. Sadly as soon as Bowden was forced out the high profile recruits came running back..Stoops "Air Raid" offense may lead to all his QB's on crutches just like last year. We'll see how loyal that fan base is after 5 straight losses. No doubt football will get way better especially if recruits keep buying that snake oil he's selling

SevenT writes:

in response to licknpromise777#651578:

I suspect that good FSU defense was a more about recruiting than Stoops genius. Sadly as soon as Bowden was forced out the high profile recruits came running back..Stoops "Air Raid" offense may lead to all his QB's on crutches just like last year. We'll see how loyal that fan base is after 5 straight losses. No doubt football will get way better especially if recruits keep buying that snake oil he's selling

The "air raid" comes from OC Neil Brown who was at Texas Tech prior to joining Stoops (who is a defensive coach) at Kentucky. Look up the stats Brown's system is balanced between the run and pass. TT had a lot of success under Brown's system.

Don't worry your Dols will meet Kentucky next November to see who is the worst team in the SEC East next year. Try a little reality.

Just Saying

Central_IL_Vol writes:

in response to SevenT:

The "air raid" comes from OC Neil Brown who was at Texas Tech prior to joining Stoops (who is a defensive coach) at Kentucky. Look up the stats Brown's system is balanced between the run and pass. TT had a lot of success under Brown's system.

Don't worry your Dols will meet Kentucky next November to see who is the worst team in the SEC East next year. Try a little reality.

Just Saying

You are a tool of the highest order; MORON!

Just Saying!

volforeverandever writes:

There are positives in anything about Kentucky athletics ? They are losers at everything. Even the basketball team made Tennessee look like the national champs.I guess if you want to talk about Louisville winning the national championship they are in Kentucky .

Colliervol writes:

in response to GONAVY:

Actually, though sad...the Vol Nation is now reacting to a post about UK in football? How the mighty have fallen.

You mean the humongous 13 posts? One of which is yours and two from the ethically challenged Wildcat Nation. Yep that's some response all right.

Colliervol writes:

Anybody that would hire Calipari is devoid of ethics. It's that simple.

OwensboroVol writes:

I have been a Prisoner of War behind Enemy lines in Owensboro, Kentucky, for near 35 years. There is one thing I have learned during that time and Coach Stoops will learn it before long. The culture in Kentucky is Basketball first, basketball second, basketball third, ...basketball 1,000,001, basketball 50,000,000 and so on. From the time the kids are 4-5 years old they are in organized Basketball Leagues and NO ONE is worried about Football except for a few Catholic High Schools such as Lexington Catholic, Holy Trinity, Owensboro Catholic, Newport Catholic etc. The boys, and their Dads, all think that they are going to be the greatest thing every in Basketball but the truth is very, very, very few kids from Kentucky are actually signed to play for the University of Kentucky. I'm not trying to bust Mr. Barnhart's dream, but the truth is the truth. Football Players will never be anything better than 2nd best at Kentucky. I feel for a Kid who thinks they are going to go up to Lexington and change the way things are. It just isn't going to happen! A really good High School Football Player in Kentucky usually leaves the State because He knows what the reality is or if He stays in State it will be because he is a legacy or some other reason which out weighs the facts concerning the Sports in this State. Tennessee has been very successful in recruiting the few really good High School players available in this State. There is a good reason for that. I would guess that Coach Stoops will be looking for a new home after Coach Cal gets the Cadillac and he gets a lighter.

stevefrommemphis writes:

"Kentucky football" is the biggest oxymoron in collegiate athletics. Owensboro Vol explains why.

As for Kentucky basketball: if Adolph Corrupt had not started Kentucky's sordid tradition of skirting the NCAA rules, Kentucky basketball history would be no better than Auburn or Ole Miss.

I consider their accomplishments meaningless. The entire Kat basketball history should have a big fat asterick beside it.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to stevefrommemphis:

"Kentucky football" is the biggest oxymoron in collegiate athletics. Owensboro Vol explains why.

As for Kentucky basketball: if Adolph Corrupt had not started Kentucky's sordid tradition of skirting the NCAA rules, Kentucky basketball history would be no better than Auburn or Ole Miss.

I consider their accomplishments meaningless. The entire Kat basketball history should have a big fat asterick beside it.

And their only NCAA championship in fb was from another well documented cheater (called a rule bender in Bama and national media), Bear Bryant. In 1977 UK was undefeated, they defeated LSU in Baton Rouge and UT that year. The only problem was they were on probation and were not able to play in the Sugar Bowl that season. Yes, their only other great fb season was also due to cheating.

TheEffect writes:

in response to stevefrommemphis:

"Kentucky football" is the biggest oxymoron in collegiate athletics. Owensboro Vol explains why.

As for Kentucky basketball: if Adolph Corrupt had not started Kentucky's sordid tradition of skirting the NCAA rules, Kentucky basketball history would be no better than Auburn or Ole Miss.

I consider their accomplishments meaningless. The entire Kat basketball history should have a big fat asterick beside it.

Laugh all you want, but Stoops is doing more for Kentucky Football than has been done in a very long time. All programs live and die by recruiting, and right now, Stoops has the Cats ranked number one....ahead of Tennessee.

http://rivals.yahoo.com/ncaa/football...

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to TheEffect:

Laugh all you want, but Stoops is doing more for Kentucky Football than has been done in a very long time. All programs live and die by recruiting, and right now, Stoops has the Cats ranked number one....ahead of Tennessee.

http://rivals.yahoo.com/ncaa/football...

Stoops has done a good job thus far, but so did his brother at Arizona (look how that turned out). We won't know squat until these teams play fb. The difference would be history is not on your side, and like many things history has a way of repeating itself.

SevenT writes:

in response to OwensboroVol:

I have been a Prisoner of War behind Enemy lines in Owensboro, Kentucky, for near 35 years. There is one thing I have learned during that time and Coach Stoops will learn it before long. The culture in Kentucky is Basketball first, basketball second, basketball third, ...basketball 1,000,001, basketball 50,000,000 and so on. From the time the kids are 4-5 years old they are in organized Basketball Leagues and NO ONE is worried about Football except for a few Catholic High Schools such as Lexington Catholic, Holy Trinity, Owensboro Catholic, Newport Catholic etc. The boys, and their Dads, all think that they are going to be the greatest thing every in Basketball but the truth is very, very, very few kids from Kentucky are actually signed to play for the University of Kentucky. I'm not trying to bust Mr. Barnhart's dream, but the truth is the truth. Football Players will never be anything better than 2nd best at Kentucky. I feel for a Kid who thinks they are going to go up to Lexington and change the way things are. It just isn't going to happen! A really good High School Football Player in Kentucky usually leaves the State because He knows what the reality is or if He stays in State it will be because he is a legacy or some other reason which out weighs the facts concerning the Sports in this State. Tennessee has been very successful in recruiting the few really good High School players available in this State. There is a good reason for that. I would guess that Coach Stoops will be looking for a new home after Coach Cal gets the Cadillac and he gets a lighter.

I have spent a fair amount of time in West Kentucky and Owensboro and the area is very much into basketball and some great talent has come out of that area to play for BBN. Eastern Kentucky is impoverished and burnt out from mining and timber so there ain't much there. However Central Kentucky is urban and much more diverse and there is a good amount of football talent in that part of the State.

Try not to be so ignorant.

chipmurphy461 writes:

"Barnhart's assessment had more to do with the record nearly 51,000 that came out for the Blue-White spring football scrimmage, more than the Wildcats drew for Southeastern Conference home games against No. 6 South Carolina and No. 20 Mississippi State last season".

That's because Kentucky fans knew no matter what happened, Kentucky was going to get a win.

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