Barnhart pondering leave?

It has been reported by The Oregonian that Oregon State athletic director Mitch Barnhart is being strongly considered for the same position at the University of Kentucky.

Larry Ivy was forced out of the position earlier this week. His level of interest is not known, but Barnhart has been under increasing pressure from the Oregon University System board and could be looking for a way out.

Kentucky has had a highly successful basketball program in recent years with Rick Pitino and later Tubby Smith at the helm. Kentucky football has been a different story, finishing just 2-9 under first year Head Coach Guy Morriss. But the biggest story on Kentucky football is that it has been placed under NCAA probation and will not be eligible for postseason play in 2002 and will also have to cut scholarships by 19 over the next three years. While this is not exactly desirable, it is doubtful that the Wildcats would have been in position for a bowl next year.

Barnhart came to OSU with the athletic department buried in heavy debt. His team has systematically reduced the debt over the past few years. Although with the increased success the Beavers have enjoyed in football, the Oregon University System, which oversees the athletic departments at all the State Universities, has been pressuring OSU to reduce the debt even quicker. Barnhart feels that it is unrealistic to cut costs at the rate desired by the board while simultaneously remaining competitive. If the Beavers do not remain competitive, they will soon lose their resources to reduce debt.

It would come as no surprise if Barnhart was looking for a way to escape the unreasonable demands of the board. Barnhart also has ties to the SEC and the south, where he lived for more than 15 years. Kentucky has a far larger group of boosters to draw funds from and could be competitive quickly with the right people. Although in the last two years, Barnhart has turned down offers from numerous universities, including LSU, citing his wish to stay in Corvallis and build on what they had going.

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