UK volleyball coach Skinner signs six-year contract

mmaloney@herald-leader.comDecember 19, 2012 

Numbers don't lie.

In eight seasons as Kentucky's volleyball coach, Craig Skinner has led the Wildcats to:

■ Eight NCAA Tournament berths.

■ More than 170 wins, including at least 20 in five of the last six seasons.

■ Back-to-back NCAA Sweet 16 berths, and three in four years.

On Wednesday, UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart gave Skinner some more noteworthy numbers: a six-year contract worth $1.125 million, plus incentives.

In addition to rewarding Skinner for his success, Barnhart said, the contract is a form of "preventive maintenance."

"As we pursue greatness, other people pursue us. And they try, and they come after what they deem to be really, really quality people," Barnhart said.

Barnhart said Skinner's name regularly is mentioned when coaching slots open at high-profile programs.

"We don't want to let that happen," Barnhart said. "So it's our goal to not have Kentucky be a transition place where people transition away from our program to go to something deemed better. We want to make this a place people deem to be great."

Skinner's numbers at UK include 13 All-America selections, 30 All-Southeastern Conference picks, six player of the year honors, three SEC scholar-athlete of the year awards, and 50 All-SEC academic picks.

Skinner's contract, which runs through June 30, 2019, will be for base salaries of $175,000 next season, increasing by $5,000 annually to reach $200,000 in the final year of the deal. He also is guaranteed $5,000 a year for endorsements. Incentive bonuses include amounts equal to: two months' salary for an SEC regular-season championship; one month's salary for reaching the NCAA Tournament; 1½ months' salary for reaching the Sweet 16; two months' salary for a Final Four berth; and one month's salary if the team achieves a grade-point average of 3.0 or better and an academic progress rate of 950 in an academic year.

"We came to build a program and not just a team, not just to win, not just little things here and there, but a complete program of national relevance," Skinner said. "We're on our way. We're doing some special things. ... We want to compete for championships continually each and every year. We want to make deep runs in the NCAA Tournament."

UK went 22-11 this year, falling to top-seeded Penn State in the NCAA tournament's round of 16.

"What Craig has done from the outset to take Kentucky volleyball and put us on the map in terms of, not only in our league but nationally, has been nothing short of amazing for eight years," Barnhart said. "So there's been no drop-off in what he has done. It's been rock solid."

Skinner, who also received a contract extension in 2008, has heard his name dropped before when big-time jobs become available. But ...

"This is where I want to be. This is where I want to coach. This is where I want to raise our family and be with my wife (Megan)," Skinner said. "When people show interest, it's like a recruit. Of course you're like, 'Well, that's kind of exciting.' But at the same time, it's important for me to look at this program as a piece of who we are. If people are interested, that's great, but this is where we are."

Three recruits signed with UK last month: Sharay Barnes, a middle blocker/outside hitter from Swarthmore, Pa.; Emily Franklin, a 6-foot-4 middle blocker from Mesa, Ariz.; and Anni Thomasson, a 6-1 outside hitter from Newark, Ohio.

"A group that we're very excited about, and feel like it continually moves us forward athletically," Skinner said.

His contract extension figures to help with future recruits.

"I've been asked that question for the last couple of months: 'Are you going to be here if my daughter comes to Kentucky?' And some of our current incoming recruits," Skinner said. "This reassures them that this is the place that my wife and I love, and we want to be here, and we want to go to the next level. That's very important to me. I want to make sure who we're recruiting, and all the coaches across the country know that."

Mark Maloney: (859) 231-3229.Twitter: @markmaloneyHL.Blog: markmaloney.bloginky.com

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