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Kentucky Baseball misses NCAA Tournament; Mitch Barnhart non-committal on Gary Henderson

Is it time for UK to move on from Gary Henderson?

Michael Wade

As expects, the Kentucky Wildcats baseball team missed out on an NCAA Tournament bid.

Despite having major-league talent up and down the roster, not to mention several wins over top-10 teams, UK missed out on the Big Dance in large part because of losses to Wofford, Bryant, Western Kentucky, Northern Kentucky and Eastern Kentucky.

But that shouldn't have happened with this UK team that took 2/3 from Florida, who is the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Baseball Tournament. The Cats also took 2/3 from a top-10 South Carolina squad.

Yet these kinds of shortcomings have been commonplace under Gary Henderson's watch, so it's only fair that he's on the hot seat for the time being. At least, it appears he is judging by what UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart said of the coaching staff and program going forward.

"We are disappointed to miss out on the postseason,"Barnhart told The Courier-Journal. "As we do at the end of every season, we will evaluate all aspects of our program to position ourselves for success, from ongoing stadium plans to staffing."

While Barnhart doesn't address Henderson directly, that statement is far from the vote of confidence that Hondo probably hoped to get. It also is setting up for the kind of offseason that may make it ideal to move on from Henderson, as Jon Hale writes:

Henderson is 258-199 (.565) in eight seasons at UK and has two years remaining on a four-year contract he signed after the Wildcats' last NCAA tournament bid in 2014. The contract will pay him $475,000 per year in the final two years of the deal.

While Alabama unveiled a massive facility renovation to Sewell-Thomas Stadium this season, UK is still in the planning stages of a long-talked-about new baseball stadium.

In March, Barnhart told The Courier-Journal he hopes to have a new stadium ready for UK to use by the 2018 season despite Gov. Matt Bevin cutting the project from the university's budget proposal in January.

The contracts of UK assistant coaches Rick Eckstein and Toby Bicknell are set to expire on June 30.

With several assistants set to have their contracts expire as a new baseball stadium is in the works, not to mention Henderson's buyout being low, this may be a good time for Barnhart to at least look into replacing Henderson with a better option. That new stadium coming could help land a quality candidate to replace Henderson, who clearly is taking this program backwards after John Cohen took it to new heights.

Whether a better option for UK exists is the million-dollar question. I would anticipate Mitch looking into if said option does exist, and if it's not looking good, he may opt to keep Hondo for one more season, then re-evaluate the program next year.