Faculty complaints about how well the athletic department supports the University of Kentucky's academic mission and fan concerns about funding for the football team apparently touched a nerve. Those topics got repeated mentions at the UK Athletics Association Board of Directors and Finance Committee meetings on Thursday.
Although the meetings were called to approve an $83.6 million budget for 2011-12, Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart and UK president Lee Todd repeatedly noted how UKAA's donation to the school exceeded the $1.7 million annual allocation for non-athletic scholarships. That included an additional $2.1 million generated from licensing fees in 2010-11 and a $1.8 million payment for the use of UK offices and services.
"For some people, it's never enough," Todd told the board. "We're doing things that just aren't appreciated."
Joe Peek, a finance professor at UK and a faculty representative on the school's Board of Trustees, attended the meetings.
"I think he was talking to me," Peek quipped when asked about Todd's never-satisfied comment. "But I'm not the only one. Quite a few people think they should be doing more."
Barnhart is not one such person. He said that the athletic department's donations to the school were "significant" and totaled from $12 to $15 million over "the last few years."
After a pause, Barnhart added, "That's a brand-new facility for us, if we look at it in those terms."
Todd likened the athletic department to another financially healthy UK entity: the hospital. He cautioned against killing these golden geese.
"If you mess with them and you start pulling too much money out of them to where they're not competitive, then you find people selling off hospitals because they lose a lot of money," he said.
UK charges its students only $38 in activities fees designated for athletics, Todd said. "Ours is one of the lowest," he said.
Lisa Peterson, the Senior Associate Athletics Director for Internal Operations, presented the budgetary revenue and expenses. At the Finance Committee meeting and again before the full Board of Directors, she noted that UKAA was self-supporting. She reminded each group that athletics donated $1.7 million annually for scholarships and sent about 25 percent of its budget back to UK.
Barnhart raised the subject of whether UK supports the football program adequately. He said UK is on a par with other schools in the football-mad Southeastern Conference.
"We're very competitive," he told members of the Finance Committee. "Are we going to be first (in support of football)? Certainly not ... (But) We're not in the position that everybody has made us out to be."
Barnhart added at the full Board of Directors meeting that UK would provide $10 million in support "specifically for student-athletes that fans don't see."
Neither Todd nor Barnhart said consideration was given to increase the donation UKAA makes to the school.
The meetings included:
■ The Board of Directors learning that the revenue from licensing fees of athletic merchandise skyrocketed in the last two years.
The money generated by licensing fees increased by 43 percent this school year, the board was told. That revenue increased from $2.6 million in 2009-10 to $4.2 million. Of that total, the athletic department gave $2.1 million to the school.
To explain the rapid rise, Barnhart noted that UK had moved its athletic merchandise to "more of an exclusive end" of the retail market.
He also cited the success of UK teams, which included the men's basketball team reaching the 2011 Final Four, the football team advancing to a fifth straight bowl and the current enthusiasm generated by the women's softball team advancing to a Super Regional.
■ The $83.6 million operating budget for 2011-12 puts UK squarely in the middle of the pack among SEC schools: behind Alabama, Auburn, Florida, LSU and Tennessee, on par with Georgia and ahead of Arkansas, Mississippi, Mississippi State, South Carolina and Vanderbilt.
■ UK's women's basketball team will play Duke in Rupp Arena on Dec. 8.
■ An additional $50,000 needed for the upgrades to the food provided to football players.
■ The approval of a $1.95 million allocation for improvements to Commonwealth Stadium. That included $1.65 million for new scoreboards. That latter figure makes up the difference in the $4.6 million withdrawal from the UKAA's quasi endowment fund earlier approved toward the $6.2 million project.
Barnhart said UK expected to sign contracts for the installation of the scoreboards by the end of the week. He expressed confidence that the scoreboards would be operational in the 2011 season.
UK hires liaison
UK hired Chris Woolard as Associate Athletics Director of Basketball Operations. He will act as Barnhart's liaison to John Calipari's program.
"UK is unique in that you really need someone like Chris who has experience at the highest level to be a part of our men's basketball program," Calipari tweeted. "He'll be involved (with) all aspects of our program (and) will have an active role as a liaison for me in regards to our campus (and) the Commonwealth."
As a staffer in the Conference USA office, Woolard became acquainted with Calipari. He has worked for Conference USA since 2004. Since 2008, he had been Associate Commissioner for Sports Services, a job in which he administered the men's basketball program and acted as director for the annual men's basketball tournament.
"We have had a strong working relationship in the past and I look forward to our future at UK," Calipari tweeted.
Prior to joining Conference USA, Woolard spent a year in private business after working eight years as a college basketball coach. He was on the Murray State staff from 1997-2003.
Woolard began his collegiate coaching career as a student assistant coach at UCLA. During his two years at UCLA, he was involved in recruiting, summer camps and also assisted with practice drills and scrimmages.