Mitch Barnhart never intends for a decision, especially one involving a new coach, not to work. He anticipates every coaching hire being successful.
However, the Kentucky athletics director knows there was a lot of "chatter" about what was best for the UK football program a year ago when he stuck with Coach Rich Brooks. Part of the reason he stayed the course, though, was the confidence the players that are now seniors had in their coach at the time.
"The thing I am most pleased about is the group of seniors that have stayed the course and done all the things you could ask them to do on the field, but more importantly, off the field from leadership to character. They are the ones who said, ‘Hang in there with us and we will get it turned around and make you proud.' They believed in Rich and that was enough for me, and they made it work," Barnhart said.
"I am awfully happy for them. I hope the best for this group of seniors. They deserve the best. They can here in adverse situations with nobody really believing they could do anything special and they have done something special."
Barnhart still marvels at what the Wildcats did last year when he knows many fans were ready for him to make a coaching change.
"I tell them (the seniors) there have only been six victories for Kentucky football in postseason history and they did one of them coming off the worst probation in the history of the NCAA. On top of that, and I am not trying to put goals out there for them, but get to postseason play again and win back-to-back bowl games for the first time in almost 60 years would be unbelievable," Barnhart said. "Think about that. That is almost unbelievable if they can make that work. What a great legacy for these guys.
"Rich is right when he says all these guys have done some remarkable things when you look at the leader board in terms of stats and career things at Kentucky. To have six kids on the preseason (all-Southeastern Conference) team is a credit to them and I am happy for Rich and his staff and those seniors. They all deserve every bit of the success they have had."