Much was made of Mitch Barnhart’s contract extension in 2011, just months before the retirement of president Lee Todd.
At the time, the outgoing University of Kentucky president said he was “doing a heck of a favor for the next person to be president of this university” by retaining Barnhart for three more years and giving him a salary bump.
But there was zero fanfare this time, with the university simply posting Barnhart’s latest deal on its contracts website on Friday. It’s his first amended contract since 2013.
In the latest deal, which was signed by President Eli Capilouto and Barnhart on March 18, UK’s top athletics administrator will remain at Kentucky through June 30, 2022, and will see multiple salary increases and retention bonuses along the way.
Guy Ramsey, UK’s director of strategic communications, said he wasn’t sure why the contract amendment wasn’t posted until nearly four months after it was signed.
Under the amended contract, Barnhart, 56, will see his $730,000 annual salary increase to $840,000 beginning in 2019.
For each of the remaining years on the deal, Barnhart gets an annual increase, making $880,000 in 2020 and $925,000 in 2021.
The amendment includes six-figure bonuses that go directly into a deferred-compensation retirement fund for each year he remains at UK on top of yearly retention bonuses starting in 2019.
The deferred-compensation package, essentially a supplemental retirement deal, is paid to Barnhart only if he remains at Kentucky.
As far as longevity bonuses, they start for Barnhart in 2019, when he gets an additional $50,000. That increases to $75,000 in 2020, $100,000 in 2021 and $150,000 in 2022. Barnhart will be 63 when this deal ends.
The amended contract also has a liquidated damages clause that offers Barnhart $925,000 if he is terminated without cause between now and 2019. If he’s fired without cause after June 30, 2019, he gets a $550,000 payout.
Those figures jumped significantly from his previous contract amendment in 2013.
Barnhart seems to only be gaining energy as he goes. He has taken on top leadership roles nationally, including being appointed to the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Selection Committee, a five-year appointment, earlier this year.
He is a member of the Division I Council and chairman of the NCAA’s Competition Oversight Committee in addition to serving on the SEC Network Content Committee. He previously has been on the NCAA’s Baseball Committee.
In June, Barnhart, who has been UK’s athletic director for 14 years, was named the Division I athletics director of the year, one of four top administrators nationally to earn the honor.
When asked in 2012 whether he was thinking about retirement, Barnhart said, “I don’t think the job here is done yet. … I’ll know in my mind when it’s time to turn the keys over to someone else. My goal when I got here was to build this place so that when I left it, the next person didn’t have to start from where we had to start in terms of facilities and support.”
Since being hired in 2002, Barnhart has overseen nearly $300 million in major construction, including the Joe Craft Center, the Wildcat Coal Lodge, a Commonwealth Stadium renovation and the soon-to-open $45 million football practice center.
Other projects have included new stadiums for track and field, softball and soccer, and the UK Golf House. A new baseball stadium and indoor tennis facility probably will be the next major projects.
Since 2008, Kentucky’s teams have won two national championships (rifle and men’s basketball) and 15 conference championships.
In that same 2012 interview, Barnhart said, “I’m 53, and I’d be lying if I said you look down the road and say, where do I want to be at 60 or 70? … I want to get the facilities right and make sure we get a group of coaches to make this place even more special than it is.”