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Mitch Barnhart opens up about NIL deals within UK Athletics

Maintaining balance is still a key priority for the athletic department.

Music City Bowl - Kentucky v Northwestern Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Kentucky AD Mitch Barnhart joined KSR this morning for what was his first speaking appearance in the last several months.

With the changing landscape of college athletics, there was a ton that fans wanted to hear from Barnhart about, including some more specifics regarding NIL deals and opportunities UK student athletes have put in place.

If you go back to the last time Barnhart spoke, it was in June when NIL rules passed. At the time, he did not ooze enthusiasm about the new rules, and he gave a little insight to KSR this morning as to why that was.

“If I wasn’t excited before, it wasn’t — and Matt, you know this about me. I’m conservative by nature. I’ve built our program from a conservative platform of, we’re going to walk slowly and do things gently. So, I’m going to gather information on everything that we do and make sure we’re proceeding through those processes the right way. NIL was brand new in June, and I’m not going to sit here and say I knew everything about it. So to sit there and then go, this is the grandest landscape going forward would have been really not in my DNA to do that, number one. Number two, I don’t think I had enough information or enough runway to understand it.”

Barnhart also had some hesitation about locker-room chemistry surrounding NIL deals throughout the different sports. He had this to say in regard to his thoughts on that:

“I also want to make sure we find a balance in making sure we’re not losing the fact that we’re representing Kentucky, and I’m always trying to make sure we find balance in all of these conversations. What we tend to do is we tend to run to one side of the argument or the other and say it’s all or nothing and if we can find the balance in this stuff, that’s what’s critical because I think you’ve got to make sure locker rooms are sound, you’ve got to make sure everyone is feeling included, you’ve got to make sure that there are opportunities for people to prosper, and you’ve got to make sure at the end of the day that young people aren’t being taken advantage of, and we’re working through all those processes.”

As you can tell by Barnhart’s comments, maintaining this balance is still a key priority for the athletic department, and it will continue to be as they guide these uncharted waters.

He also shared some awesome news in regards to deals Kentucky student athletes have signed since athletes were allowed to put pen to paper. Since June 24th, UK has had around 230-240 deals that have been registered with the compliance office, with approximately 100 student athletes being the ones to put them in place.

The next big step will be to get a permanent law in place for NIL to continue. Governor Beshear’s executive order expires in January, but with the success of the new rules, including seeing student athletes succeed financially, it would be hard to imagine something will not get put in place.