UK trustees move forward with plan for panel to oversee athletics

University would be 'best served' by plan

lblackford@herald-leader.comOctober 26, 2011 

The University of Kentucky Board of Trustees took another step Tuesday toward moving oversight of the athletics department from the UK Athletics Association to a committee of trustees.

Without any discussion, trustees accepted a first reading of regulations that would put athletics under the supervision of a new committee of the board made up of five trustees and as many as three outside members.

The committee members must be appointed by President Eli Capilouto to adhere to NCAA rules.

"As you look at the current organizational structure, ... it just kind of jumped out that there was not an athletics committee," said Terry Mobley, a trustee who chaired a committee to look at the issue. "Going forward, we thought we would be best served with there being an athletics committee as part of the board of trustees structure."

Mobley's committee presented its recommendation last week with support from committee members and Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart, who said athletics wanted to be "a strong working part of the university community."

The regulations are scheduled for a second reading at the trustees' Dec. 13 meeting. The new rules probably will lead to the overall dissolution of the UKAA, although that could be a lengthy legal process, UK officials said.

The UKAA board would be replaced by an advisory committee of faculty and community members.

Mobley said the issue had been under discussion for nearly a year and had nothing to do with past or present management.

However, some trustees were upset last spring when then-President Lee T. Todd Jr. extended Barnhart's contract and gave him a raise without telling the board of trustees or the UKAA board in advance.

The UKAA was founded in 1945 so coaches and athletics directors could be paid higher salaries. In recent years, however, contracts for coaches and the athletics director have been with UK itself, not the athletics association.

In addition, the athletics department's budget is part of UK's overall budget.

The move also could protect the university from future lawsuits involving athletics. Former UK basketball coach Billy Gillispie sued the UKAA before UK settled his case, paying $3 million.

Many lawsuits filed against UK are dismissed because it generally enjoys sovereign immunity, a common-law concept that predates America's independence from England and protects most government entities from most lawsuits.

The proposed regulations for the new committee say its duties would include advising the president on athletics and reviewing the annual budget, major expenditures, and construction projects of more than $400,000.

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