DEMAREE: Barnhart takes the high road

Mitch Barnhart bypassed an opportunity to do some chest thumping when he announced the bowl selection for the University of Kentucky Wildcat football team. He was not seeking vindication for his hiring and sticking with Rich Brooks as his head football coach at UK.

Then again, he doesn't have to engage in any chest thumping because he will experience a checkbook pumping. You see, he has it built into his contract that when any of his sports programs at UK participate in post-season play, he gets a bonus.

Rather, he was happy for the vindication of the coaching staff and the football players. He said the players could now walk around campus with their faces showing out from under those hoods on their sweatshirts or jackets. "They can pull those hoods back from their faces and be proud they are Kentucky football players," Barnhart beamed. It's been tough he said trying to get through this probation thing.

"Everybody says the words nineteen scholarships down," Barnhart said, "but they don't equate what it really means. I've been through it; I seem it in other programs. To think you can just discard it when the probationary period ends, it just doesn‘t work that way. It doesn't! It has long lasting effects on a team. It means drastic differences in depth – it means drastic challenges in recruiting – it means difficult obstacles to overcome – it is meant to hurt – and it damages you for a long time to come. SMU (Southern Methodist University) a program that I was there in 1984 when they got hit and they still have never recovered. It has been twenty-two years and they haven't been to a bowl since.

"They had a different probation but ours wasn't far from that. A program that doesn't have a rich tradition, everybody wants to automatically go, ‘you are passed it, get on with it.' It doesn't work that way. And until you've been through it from an internal perspective, you have no idea how difficult it is to overcome that."

On whether Barnhart exercised a choice in selection of a bowl, a strong bargaining position UK obviously found itself in, Mitch Barnhart again took the high road not wanting to damage any relations with any of the bowl committees. He said there was a lot of waiting until the SEC determined whether they were going to have two teams in the BCS or not and that impacted everybody in terms of the selection process for the bowls. Whether Alabama at 6-6 would be able to come into the bowl affiliations contracted by the league office. He said the three obvious bowls, the Independence Bowl, the Liberty Bowl, and the Music City Bowl and UK were in constant conversation over the last two or three week. The Liberty was around them a lot and he appreciated that a lot.

Barnhart said: "I think it was a combination of trying to find the right fit for everybody involved in terms of the geography, in terms of opponents you want to play and the timing. So, I'm hopeful that everybody got sort of what they wanted. Playing a high quality program is impacting for the program. Playing a high quality program from the ACC was impacting and that weighed in our mind and we were real excited when we got the call that they wanted us. Certainly, there's interest in the number of tickets we will sell. And they are clearly interested in that and I don't think either bowl were concerned about us bringing people. Based upon the early number that just kept getting stronger and stronger, it made it an easy conversation for us." Clemson is the bowl opponent.

Barnhart said there was never any concern, because there weren't any sellouts that there weren't 50 or 55,000 people that were appreciating what these kids were doing. Early returns yielded 20,000-ticket request, the entire UK allotment.

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