TAYLOR: Barnhart balancing the scale

Mitch Barnhart went with his gut feeling when he decided to retain Rich Brooks for a fourth season last fall. As with any athletics director, Barnhart examined the situation and studied both sides of the issue before making a decision on Brooks' future as coach at the school.

Although Brooks' three-year record stands at 9-25, Barnhart knew the program wasn't in tip-top shape when Brooks arrived. He also knew that probation had set the program back.

Although not a popular decision in some circles, Barnhart's decision-making ability hasn't lacked when it comes to the entire athletics program at Kentucky.

Since arriving, Barnhart has made a couple of good hires in other sports which have put the school on the map in both women's basketball and now baseball.

To his credit, one of Barnhart's promises when he took over the entire program was to make the entire athletics department stand out above the crowd.

Barnhart already had a foundation to build upon with men's basketball and cheerleading, which rank among the nation's elite on a consistent basis.

Barnhart's first major hire was bringing in Mickie DeMoss from Tennessee to inject new life into a sagging women's program that had been running on life support both externally and internally.

The arrival of DeMoss, a former assistant coach under legendary coach Pat Summitt, revved up the fan base and gave the program a boost.

The impact wasn't immediate, but in her short tenure, DeMoss now has the program headed in the right direction. This past season, the Wildcats defeated Tennessee and earned a ticket to the NCAA Tournament. Barnhart had a big hand in bringing DeMoss to campus and the results have been impressive.

DeMoss, a recruiting specialist in Knoxville, brought the same qualities to Lexington, which have resulted in stronger recruiting classes at Kentucky.

The same can be said for the baseball team, which is enjoying its best season in decades under third-year manager John Cohen.

The Cats currently are 35-11 and have jumped 10 spaces during the past two weeks in the Baseball America poll. Cohen's squad is currently ranked No. 11 in the nation.

Cohen was known as a hitting guru while an assistant coach at the University of Florida and has transformed Kentucky's baseball team into one of the top hitting teams in the Southeastern Conference.

The emergence of Kentucky in some of the so-called "minor" sports is an indication that Barnhart has been doing his job and has lived up to his promise to build the entire program and not just focus on just the revenue-producing sports.

Barnhart is simply trying to balance the scale.


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