Mitch Barnhart was one of the most vocal critics of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament selection committee this year.
Next year, he will have an opportunity to make change from within, as the University of Kentucky athletics director was tasked with a five-year appointment to the committee, the NCAA announced Friday.
“This opportunity to serve is a tremendous honor and I am humbled to receive it,” Barnhart said in a news release. “The NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Committee is tasked with setting the field for one of the greatest events in all of sports and I am eager to contribute to that process. I respect my new fellow committee members a great deal and look forward to working with them, as well as (NCAA vice president of men's basketball championships) Dan Gavitt.”
The committee is responsible for selecting, seeding and bracketing the field for the NCAA Tournament. School and conference administrators are nominated by their conference and represent a cross-section of the Division I membership.
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The day after the NCAA revealed this year’s tournament bracket, Barnhart wrote an open letter calling for more transparency from the selection committee.
Barnhart’s comments followed UK Coach John Calipari expressing his displeasure with the Wildcats’ draw. Hours after winning the Southeastern Conference Tournament championship over Texas A&M, Kentucky was assigned the No. 4 seed in the East Regional and the Aggies were made the No. 3 seed in the West. Days later, Kentucky was eliminated by Indiana in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Barnhart’s letter suggested the selection committee approach the basketball bracket in a way similar to the College Football Playoff, in which regular rankings are released prior to Selection Sunday.
“The criteria used must be specifically outlined and prioritized, consistently applied, and clearly communicated,” Barnhart said in his letter. “This would eliminate all doubt about what coaches must do in scheduling and what teams must do during the season to reach the tournament.
“Cal and I have spoken about this topic and, in fact, he suggested these ideas to the Selection Committee in person a year ago. We agree wholeheartedly: The days of moving targets from year to year in the way teams are evaluated must end. The NCAA Tournament is one of the great events in sports. We have a responsibility to get it right.”
Barnhart was not available for comment on Friday.
The committee will be chaired in 2016-17 by Mark Hollis, the director of athletics at Michigan State. Barnhart is joined on the 10-member committee by eight additional athletics directors: North Carolina-Asheville’s Janet Cone, Brigham Young’s Tom Holmoe, Stanford’s Bernard Muir, Creighton’s Bruce Rasmussen, Northeastern’s Peter Roby, Ohio’s Jim Schaus, Duke’s Kevin White and San Diego State’s Jim Sterk.
Barnhart and Sterk were the new appointees made Friday.
Barnhart is currently a member of the NCAA Division I Management Council and the chairman of the NCAA Competition Oversight Committee in addition to serving on the SEC Network Content Committee. He also previously served on the NCAA Division I Baseball Committee.
Barnhart, in his 14th year at UK, was named NCAA Division I Athletics Director of the Year last June.