When the glad-handing and the back slapping in Frankfort ended on Thursday after the governor and leaders of the state General Assembly indicated they probably would approve of the University of Kentucky taking out a sizable loan to renovate Commonwealth Stadium, Mitch Barnhart began the just-as-sizable task of getting the details in order.
Perhaps this task will be a lot like scaling Mount Kilimanjaro, which the UK athletics director did back in July?
Some reporters wondered about the risk of UK taking on the potential financial burden of a $110 million stadium and football facilities facelift. Is it too big a financial risk?
"People that know me know there are certain risks I would take in my life, that those are personal, not business," Barnhart said. "I'm willing to do the personal stuff, but I'm never going to put the university or athletic department in that risk for something I don't think we can pull off."
UK Athletics went to the powers that be with a "very strong vision of where that revenue will come from," he said. Those sources will include the luxury suites (which already have a waiting list, according to UK officials), new club seating and the revenue sharing within the Southeastern Conference.
There have been more than $100 million in capital projects within the athletics department in the past decade, all paid for in cash, not bonding like the stadium project. The last time UK borrowed money was to pay for previous stadium enhancements in 1999. That will be paid off completely by 2018, Barnhart said.
"In terms of annualized debt in our department, we are very, very low," Barnhart said. "In our $91 million budget, our annualized debt is about $2 million. In our world of Division I athletics, that's extremely low. That doesn't mean we want to go get crazy. ... We forecasted all of this out and it made sense."
The financial logistics are one part of the process and as the final parts gain approval, UK will start the more pleasant task of upgrading facilities, which Barnhart said new coach Mark Stoops will play a "huge part" in.
Look for the bulk of the renovations to take place over the next two off-seasons.
In his first interview since the big announcement, Stoops seemed pleased with the Cats' forward progress. The announcement also conveniently coordinated with a huge recruiting weekend for UK.
"Everything Mitch and I talked about is coming true here," Stoops said on Saturday in Rupp Arena.
"I'm happy for our program, and I think it's a great opportunity for us to really do some special things. I want it to be a special place for our fans, our players and our coaches."
Rounding out the staff
Stoops filled out his first coaching staff on Saturday afternoon when UK formally announced the hirings of assistants Derrick Ansley (cornerbacks) and Tommy Mainord (wide receivers).
They will join the rest of the staff: defensive coordinator/linebackers D.J. Eliot; offensive coordinator/quarterbacks Neal Brown; running backs Chad Scott; offensive line John Schlarman; defensive line Jimmy Brumbaugh; tight ends Vince Marrow and safeties/special teams Bradley Dale Peveto.
The staff is of varying ages, backgrounds and geographic location, but there's one thing that unites all of them, Stoops said Saturday at Rupp Arena: "hungry people."
And he doesn't mean food.
"Those are the guys I want, that believe in what we're doing, that believe in the system and that believe they can help change the culture here and change the players that we already have into winners and to recruit players to help us win championships," Stoops continued.
Of the two newest announcements, Ansley comes to UK from Tennessee, where he served one season. Before that, the former Troy standout was a graduate assistant at Alabama.
Stoops said he interviewed a handful of guys for the position, but was most impressed with Ansley.
"He was exceptional," Stoops said. "I felt like he was a guy that could bring something new to myself and Coach Eliot and bring something new to the defensive package."
Mainord, who joins the staff from Texas Tech where he served under Brown, comes from a football family. His father, Carlos, was a college and NFL coach with the Bears, Saints, Panthers and Rams.
The younger Mainord's stops have included Lamar, Sam Houston State and his alma mater, Division II Tarleton State.
While he was at Texas Tech with Brown, the Red Raiders were ranked in the top 10 nationally in passing offense, top 15 in total offense and top 25 in scoring offense.
Coordinator of performance
Without any fanfare, one of the new positions Stoops created for the program was filled. Kentucky now has a football performance coordinator. The position was filled by Erik Korem, who follows Stoops and Eliot from Florida State.
The Herald-Leader learned about the hiring and contract via an open records request. Korem, who was an assistant strength-and-conditioning coach/speed-and-nutrition specialist for the Seminoles, signed his nearly three-year deal with Kentucky on Dec. 12.
The contract, which ends June 30, 2016, will pay Korem $210,000 annually with built-in incentives. That salary would have put him ahead of two former UK assistants: linebackers coach Chuck Smith ($177,500) and running backs coach Steve Pardue ($158,000).
In the initial job posting on the Kentucky website, Korem's job was described as a person, "responsible for ensuring that football student athletes are receiving proper nutrition advice and that their mental state is being addressed. They will serve as the strength-and-conditioning liaison between other athletic departments."
According to his bio on Florida State's athletics website, the Texas A&M grad has done "extensive work with world-class track and field sprinters," including Lexington native Tyson Gay in 2008 when he broke the American record in the 100-meter dash.
Some updates ...
At his news conference on Saturday, Stoops was asked about the dismissals of cornerbacks Marcus Caffey and Jonathan Reed last week as well as the arrest of redshirt offensive lineman T.J. Jones.
As for the dismissals, Stoops said: "I'll treat those players like I would expect one of my sons to be treated. So we'll be very fair with them, but there will be some guidelines, and if they don't meet them, they won't be here."
As for Jones, who was arrested in December in his hometown on a weapons violation, the UK coach said he plans to let the legal process run its course as he continues to gather information.
Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241. Email: email@example.com. Twitter: @jenheraldleader. Blog: ukfootball.bloginky.com