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Volume 23 No. 17
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Barnhart’s AD tree has flourished at Kentucky, includes 3 SEC peers

Mitch Barnhart’s staff at Kentucky in the 2000s was perhaps as good as the Southeastern Conference has ever had.

Barnhart’s chief financial officer and deputy athletic director was Rob Mullens, who went on to become Oregon’s athletic director in 2010 and now chairs the selection committee for the College Football Playoff.

“What made us a good team was that Mitch had great gut instincts and I was more analytical,” Mullens said.

Scott Stricklin was Kentucky’s communications chief before moving on to Mississippi State and now Florida, where he’s been AD for nearly three years.

“Mitch always made sure to make decisions based on what is best for the student athletes and your coaches,” Stricklin said. “A lot of people in this profession make decisions to keep their job, but if Mitch believes in something, he sticks to his guns, even if it’s not popular.”

Alabama AD Greg Byrne oversaw development and fundraising for Barnhart at Kentucky, as well as Barnhart’s previous stop at Oregon State. He’s one of a handful of current ADs who have led three athletic departments in the power five — Mississippi State, Arizona and Alabama.

“As an AD, you get pulled in a lot of different directions, from a lot of different constituents,” Byrne said. “Mitch provided us opportunities and gave us the chance to learn, grow, make mistakes and be exposed to the highest levels of decision-making within an athletic department. People want to work for Mitch, and he allows them to grow and prosper.”

Barnhart’s executive tree goes on. Mississippi State AD John Cohen also sits around the SEC’s AD table. He was UK’s baseball coach under Barnhart before moving into administration.

Outside of the conference, Mark Coyle, another former UK deputy who replaced Mullens, is AD at Minnesota, and Murray State hired Kevin Saal to be its AD off Barnhart’s staff three months ago.