Kentucky Sports

Man at helm of Kentucky athletics earns national honor

Kentucky’s Mitch Barnhart has been named athletic director of the year by the Sports Business Journal.

“I am honored and thankful to represent the University of Kentucky in receiving this award,” Barnhart said in a statement released Wednesday night after the announcement. “It’s truly a testament to the incredible work our student-athletes, coaches and staff have done to build a program to make the Big Blue Nation and the commonwealth proud.”

Barnhart is in his 17th year as AD of Kentucky, and this marked the second time he has been nominated for this award (2015). He was selected among five finalists who included Ray Anderson (Arizona State University), Jennifer Cohen (University of Washington), Blake James (University of Miami) and Jamie Pollard (Iowa State University).

Barnhart accepted the honor at the 12th annual Sports Business Awards at the New York Marriott Marquis at Times Square. He was judged on a period from March 1, 2018, to Feb. 28, 2019.

In that time UK has celebrated two conference championships, one in men’s soccer and one in volleyball, a run to the NCAA super regionals by softball, an NCAA championships appearance in gymnastics, the best football season in 41 years culminated by a Citrus Bowl win and a national championship in rifle. For its performances across all 22 sports, UK finished 17th in the Learfield IMG College Directors’ Cup in 2017-18, its best placement ever. And, thanks to fall and winter achievements, UK ranks sixth in the current cycle.

Also during the period, UK opened a new $49 million baseball stadium, Kentucky Proud Park, the latest in a series of investments in facilities totaling about $300 million in the last decade. With a 2018-19 budget of $147.7 million, UK promotes itself as one of the few self-sustaining college athletic programs in the country.

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