University of Kentucky President Lee T. Todd Jr. concluded his final state of the university speech with a few jokey words about what he expects from the school's athletic department during the last nine months of his administration.
"I'd like to have a bowl championship and a Final Four appearance, but that's all I'm going to say about athletics," he said.
In the hour before that, Todd delivered a litany of his administrative achievements during the past nine years and challenged future UK leaders to free the university from the dominance of a frequently struggling state budget by enrolling more students, particularly in online courses, and raising more money from previously untapped sources, such as foundations.
The speech, normally held outdoors, was moved inside the university's main administrative office building because of rain, limiting the crowd that heard it to about 100 — board members, administrators, UK employees and a handful of scholarship students.
"Some others have implied this would be a good time to wave the white flag on our Top 20 plan," Todd said.
But Todd said he stood firm in his commitment to having a Top 20 research university and had harsh words for the U.S. News & World Report's ranking of colleges and universities, which listed UK at 129th among national universities.
"National rankings are fairly easy to manipulate if you understand the levers," Todd said.
He said the school could recruit larger numbers of students with high ACT scores from states such as California and Texas and refuse to serve Kentucky students who score lower on the ACT, but that is not UK's mission.
"I make no apologies," he said.
Todd credited innovations such as 30 new online courses offered this summer by the College of Arts and Sciences, which he described as "a big hit" with 1,400 students enrolled, as helping improve UK's reach and its financial standing. He said Dean Mark Kornbluh plans to offer 75 online courses next summer, with an enrollment goal of 3,000.
While introducing Todd, UK student body president Ryan Smith credited Todd with leading "an unrelenting charge to improve the lives of Kentuckians."
"President and Mrs. (Patsy) Todd have created a community where students always come first," Smith said.