Influence of Todd's people will remain for years

ctruman@herald-leader.comFebruary 10, 2011 

University of Kentucky President Lee T. Todd Jr. might be retiring in June, but UK's next president will feel his influence for years.

Todd has moved to assure that two of UK's most prominent administrators will remain for at least five more years.

"Any president who walks in here will be a lucky person," Todd said during a news conference Tuesday when announcing Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart's contract extension and raise.

Todd extended Barnhart's contract for three years and gave him a raise of $125,000, to $600,000 a year. The higher salary puts Barnhart closer to the market rate for SEC athletics directors, Todd said. Barnhart's new contract ends June 30, 2019.

Todd also said that Dr. Michael Karpf, executive vice president of health affairs, recently extended his employment with UK until the end of 2015, at which time he would assume a faculty appointment.

Karpf has been a key figure in building UK's new hospital complex and leading its drive to become a specialty regional medical center. Karpf earns $706,291 a year, according to UK's July 2010 salary database.

If UK's next president wants to replace Barnhart without cause and bring in his or her own athletics director, Barnhart would have to be paid $475,000 a year for up to five years, or up to $2.4 million.

Karpf's agreement with the university has no similar compensation clause in case of termination.

The moves to retain the two men should not have a negative effect on UK's ongoing search for Todd's replacement, according to several officials.

"The potential new presidents might be very relieved to have someone there long-term who is doing a good job," said Michael Baer, a consultant with the Washington-based search firm of Isaacson, Miller. "... Presidents don't always expect to come in and fully build their own team. It's a large institution, with a lot of key positions in it. There's got to be some continuity."

Britt Brockman, chairman of the UK board of trustees, said that retaining Barnhart and Karpf "is an important part of Dr. Todd's efforts to maintain a sense of quality and continuity in important programs."

Many candidates for a university presidency want to bring in their own team members for key positions such as provost and vice presidents but are less emphatic about an athletics director or chief of health affairs, said Joe Peek, a UK faculty trustee and professor of finance.

Still, he said, it's shortsighted to reward some administrators for outstanding performance while neglecting the university's core faculty and staff, who have not had raises in three years.

"Wouldn't it be good for the next president if we could lock in some of our best faculty so the next president wouldn't have to worry about all the moving vans backing up taking our faculty?" Peek said. "....Because if our more productive faculty start leaving, it could take us decades to rebuild."

Barnhart's salary comes strictly from the athletics budget, while the university's general fund pays faculty salaries.

But one staff member said that's beside the point.

"I do think that it's going to raise the question yet again of whether the athletics department's contributions to the university as a whole are sufficient," said Sheila Brothers, a staff trustee.

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