UK hires Barnhart

The troubled University of Kentucky athletics department took a major step in the right direction Monday, hiring Mitch Barnhart as athletics director.

Barnhart, who served as associate athletics director at the University of Tennessee from 1986-98, is young, energetic, charismatic and highly intelligent. In short, the Big Blue made an outstanding choice. Had he not taken the UK job, Barnhart would've been a leading contender for the UT athletics director post when Doug Dickey steps aside in the next year or two.

In accepting the UK job, Barnhart said: I think this is one of the top jobs in the country and I will work tirelessly day and night with great energy and enthusiasm to make this program something you can be extremely proud of. There is no reason it cannot be everything you want it to be.

In announcing the appointment, UK president Lee Todd praised Barnhart's success as a fundraiser, his leadership in the success of the Oregon State teams on the field and in the classroom, and his ability to balance the athletic budget.

A program of this nature has to have someone with experience in collegiate athletics and someone who knows the best practices, the industry and its people, Todd said. I selected who I think is the best person.

Barnhart basically worked miracles at Oregon State. He inherited an operating debt of $12.5 million and promptly reduced it to $4.8 million in four years. Now, OSU's debt is on schedule for elimination. He produced a balanced budget in each year of his term and raised $20 million in contributions for new baseball and softball stadiums, an indoor practice center and basketball arena renovation. He also increased football season ticket sales from 6,000 to 23,000, while guiding the athletics department to the highest finish in school history in the Sears Cup standings (48th) despite fielding teams in only 14 sports.

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