UK basketball planning trip to Canada

jtipton@herald-leader.comMay 13, 2010 

Kentucky's basketball team plans to go on a tour of Canada before next season, officials told the UK Athletics Association Board of Directors on Thursday.

Details of the trip have not been finalized, Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart said. The preliminary plan is to fly to Detroit and then bus the team into Canada.

The tour would give a team expected to be dependent on freshmen extra practice time and games.

The NCAA allows teams to go on a foreign tour once every four years. The association plans to consider ways fans can accompany the team to defray costs.

UK will make sure the trip comes after incoming freshmen are eligible to play, Deputy Director of Athletics Rob Mullens said.

The NCAA said that the trip would have to take place after the start of the fall semester in order for freshmen to participate.

Budget approved

The Board of Directors approved a 2010-11 athletic budget of $79.4 million, an increase over the $77.7 million in 2009-10.

The budget is higher, in part, because of a 6 percent increase in tuition costs to pay for scholarships.

The spending plan included $5 million more in expenses than what had been budgeted to cover costs associated with Joker Phillips taking over as head football coach from Rich Brooks. Added expenses also included the buyout of former men's basketball coach Billy Gillispie. Increased football ticket sales and K-fund donations covered about $4 million of the expenses. There also were revenues from one more home game in Rupp than had been budgeted.

For the coming year, the association increased the basketball recruiting budget by $50,000 to a total of $575,000. Men's basketball salaries and benefits increased by $165,000. In women's basketball, the increase in salaries and benefits is $450,000.

Ticket prices to rise?

Board member S.T. Roach asked whether basketball ticket prices would increase for next season.

Barnhart said no decision had yet been made on raising ticket prices.

In speaking to reporters after the meeting, Barnhart said a decision would need to be made before late July when UK distributes renewal applications to season-ticket holders.

UK was checking ticket prices at other Southeastern Conference schools and other high-profile basketball programs in trying to decide whether to raise prices, Barnhart said.

Earlier this year, UK raised ticket prices for the 2010 football season, raised the donation to the K Fund required to buy tickets for selected priority seating and raised parking fees. At that time, Barnhart said that basketball ticket pricing for the 2010-11 season would be examined.

At Thursday's meeting, UK officials noted rising costs and how the school's athletic budget for 2010-11 would rank only sixth or seventh among SEC member schools.

New arena

UK continues to explore the feasibility of building a new arena in downtown Lexington.

When asked when a judgment would be made, Barnhart quipped, "A year ago."

The UK athletics director noted the difficult process of assessing the financial viability of a new arena that pays for itself through the revenue it generates, as the proposed plan has it.

"Sooner rather than later would be helpful," Barnhart said of a decision on the feasibility of a new arena. "I feel we're running a race with no end in sight, and no laps to count. We just keep moving."

Barnhart linked any increase in basketball ticket prices to a decision on a new arena.

Barnhart's future?

With UK Coach John Calipari seemingly heading toward a long-term commitment to stay at Kentucky and assistant Rod Strickland being removed from coaching, what about Barnhart's career thoughts?

"I've got my eyes on a lot of things in my life," he said. "And there's components to my life that at some point in time I'll look to those. I'm not sure that time is now."

Barnhart lamented the changing demands of his job that take him away from the competitive aspects of athletics.

"The next step for me, you know, is probably a ways off yet," said Barnhart, who noted how much he enjoys working for UK President Lee T. Todd Jr.

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