Kentucky's Mitch Barnhart Wins Athletic Director Of The Year
One of the nation’s longest-tenured and most well-respected athletic directors produced the best results of the past year, based on voting for SBJ’s AD of the Year award. Kentucky’s Mitch Barnhart, a finalist for the award four years ago, took home the trophy last night against a field of the nation’s elite. The other finalists were Arizona State’s Ray Anderson, Iowa State’s Jamie Pollard, Miami’s Blake James and Washington’s Jennifer Cohen. Under Barnhart’s guidance, UK became a factor in SEC football with a 10-win season, a bowl victory over Penn State and a winning conference record for the first time since '77. Barnhart, in his 16th season at UK, said last season “galvanized the fan base” in ways that it hasn’t in the past.
MORE THAN FOOTBALL: UK’s success was about much more than football, especially on the business side. The Wildcats sold naming rights to Farm Bureau for their brand new $49M ballpark, which came on the heels of selling football stadium naming rights to Kroger. Just as Barnhart has transformed UK’s athletic facilities, he has led a charge in Olympic sports, making the Cats a consistent top 20 program nationally across the board. “The difference is sustainability,” Barnhart said. “We’ve had coaches that have been with us 10, 12, 15 years. That’s helped us maintain a level of consistency across so many sports and build on that.”