UK to pour additional $3 million into football program

jtipton@herald-leader.comJune 11, 2013 

To those who question whether the University of Kentucky sufficiently supports its football program, Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart has a new multimillion-dollar response.

UK plans to pour an additional $3 million into its football program during the next school year, the school announced Tuesday when it unveiled a proposed athletic budget for 2013-14. The budget, which was formally approved by UK sports' governing body, the University Athletics Committee, called for expenditures of $12,587,627 for football this coming school year. That's an increase of about 33 percent from the $9,498,752 spent on football this past year.

When asked why now was the time for such a dramatic increase in UK's financial commitment to football, Barnhart said, "To get the coaching staff we wanted."

Of that increase of $3,088,875 for football, about $2.4 million involves higher salaries for new head coach Mark Stoops and his assistants, Barnhart said.

UK now has "an energetic group of young coaches that are bringing absolute excitement to our recruiting process and then on to our fan base," Barnhart said. "It's everyday conversation now."

UK expects the Stoops hire to pay off next season in ticket sales. The athletic department budgeted an additional $2 million in expected ticket sales.

During the next school year, football will nearly match the commitment Kentucky makes to its signature sport: men's basketball. UK budgeted $12,888,205 for John Calipari's program for 2013-14.

"People have said for a while that, 'Oh, they're not committed to football, they won't invest,'" Barnhart said. "It's just untrue. They can blog whatever they want. They can send every email they'd ever want to send. I know the truth. I know what we've done."

The increase in football expenditures comes in the midst of multifaceted upgrades in facilities in recent years. Since 2005, Kentucky has:

■ Built a new locker room and meeting rooms in the E.J. Nutter Training facility. That includes new practice fields next to the building.

■ Installed a new artificial surface and lighting in the Nutter Field House, the indoor practice facility next to Commonwealth Stadium.

■ Built a new locker room and erected new video screens and a sound system for Commonwealth Stadium. The upgrade includes a new natural grass playing surface.

UK also plans to begin construction late this year on a much-discussed recruiting room (or as Barnhart prefers to call it, a "multipurpose room") in Commonwealth Stadium. That planned $110 million upgrade also will include improvements in restrooms, concessions and club seating, plus a new press box.

UK hopes the multipurpose room will be operational by 2015. Besides serving as a place to welcome prospective recruits during seven home games each season, UK officials have not decided on other uses for the room.

The overall idea behind the investments in football is to "look like an SEC school in terms of facilities for recruiting," Barnhart said.

"We're not investing this kind of effort and capital into it and saying, 'We don't want to be competitive."

Barnhart acknowledged that Kentucky faces a steep climb in Southeastern Conference-caliber football.

"You can be really, really good in our league and still finish fifth, sixth, seventh or eighth," he said. "... Do I believe we can win in this league in football? Absolutely, I do. Is it going to be hard? Yeah, it's going to be hard."

Even with a record $104,414,800 budget for 2013-14, Barnhart said Kentucky remained in the "middle of the pack" among Southeastern Conference athletic departments.

Elsewhere in the 2013-14 budget, UK expects:

■ A record $4 million in revenue from licensing deals on memorabilia. The athletic department splits licensing revenue 50-50 with the school.

■ To pay an additional $450,000 in guarantees to opponents in so-called guarantee games.

■ An increase of $1,175,000 in revenue from men's basketball ticket sales. That reflects an additional home game. Plus, as part of its deal to play a game in Brooklyn next season, UK will receive gate receipts from the game in Barclays Center.

Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227. Twitter: @JerryTipton. Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com.

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