Mitch Barnhart's daughter up for UK athletics job

University of Kentucky Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart
University of Kentucky Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart

The University of Kentucky Board of Trustees will be asked Tuesday to approve a graduate assistant job in the athletics department for Kirby Willoughby, the daughter of UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart.

Willoughby, a former Eastern Kentucky University volleyball player, is a graduate student in exercise physiology at UK. She previously was a graduate assistant in the kinesiology and health promotion department in the College of Education.

UK has an anti-nepotism policy that says no relatives of its administrative leadership team can be employed in a position within the officer's administrative area. However, the director of athletics is not among the positions specifically listed in the policy, which covers the provost, associate provosts, executive vice presidents, vice presidents and associate vice presidents.

President Eli Capilouto is recommending approval of the appointment, but a memo from his office to trustees said he and Barnhart think that asking for approval "is in the best interest of the university."

UK spokesman Jay Blanton said Capilouto thinks Barnhart's job is the equivalent of the positions covered by the nepotism regulation, so he decided to seek board approval in the interest of transparency.

"The university has taken a step here that it normally doesn't for students," Blanton said. "We're taking a step beyond what we would normally take."

Capilouto's recommendation to the trustees said Willoughby "applied for the graduate assistantship in the Department of Athletics" and was tentatively selected following a formal application process open to all interested parties.

Willoughby, who could not be reached for comment Monday, will be overseen by an employee who reports to Marc Hill, director of strength and conditioning, who reports to Barnhart.

Blanton said the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act prevented him from specifically addressing details of Willoughby's appointment.

Blanton said several individuals applied for the job that Willoughby has been tentatively given. He said UK athletics employs 20 graduate assistants, who work with specific teams and specialized programs.

Graduate assistants in athletics generally receive a stipend for room and board, in addition to payments made for their tuition and books.

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