clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Is Kentucky AD Mitch Barnhart partly to blame for basketball program struggles?

Barnhart seems to be hindering the Kentucky Basketball program behind the scenes.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Northern Illinois v Kentucky Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

A lot of fan frustration within the Kentucky fanbase has been directed at John Calipari, and rightfully so. The Wildcats currently have a 10-6 record and are projected to miss the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three seasons.

Take a step back and look at the program as a whole, is there a larger issue?

Since John Calipari went on the radio this summer, asking for new facilities - even saying he is willing to go over AD Mitch Barnhart to make it happen - something has felt off. The two have never had a great relationship, but tension has risen over the last year.

On Thursday, Kyle Tucker of the Athletic wrote an article to give us insight into the relationship, or lack thereof, between the two.

Let’s start with this past summer’s “football school” comments. According to Tucker, Calipari wanted to immediately publicly apologize for his naive comments, but was told by Barnhart not to.

Barnhart responded by joining football coach Mark Stoops for a bizarre press conference, where he seemingly took shots directly at Calipari for a half hour, including the following quote:

“Grown-ups are going to have to figure this out and be a little better. Sometimes when you get a little bit of success, you get a little entitled.” – Mitch Barnhart

Barnhart’s response undoubtedly fueled the basketball vs. football narrative and deepened the divide.

Given Barnhart’s quotes, it should come as no surprise that Barnhart is limiting additional funding for the basketball program.

During a radio show this summer, Calipari talked about his wish for a new practice facility, replacing/upgrading the Joe Craft Center, which was completed in early 2007. Given that this is a 15-year-old facility and has fallen behind other top programs, one could argue that this was a reasonable request.

Calipari even suggested that he was willing to raise money on his own, just as he did in 2012 with the locker rooms. Following through with that, Calipari is reported to have secured pledges of about $30 million in private funding, mostly from his former players in the NBA.

This $30 million tag matches the cost of what it cost to build the Joe Craft Center in 2007, adjusting for inflation that cost would be $43 million today. With that said, that is 70 percent of the money needed if the cost is similar. It is important to note, this source of funding would likely only be available if Calipari is the coach.

Yet, Barnhart has met Calipari with resistance and, “refuses to let him proceed with planning a facility,” said Tucker. If true, this seems to be an ego move by Barnhart, which is bad for everyone involved.

Finally, one of the biggest things actively hurting Kentucky basketball right now is Barnhart’s refusal to allow and add support staff positions. While the current full-time assistant staff has paid dividends on the recruiting trail, this was the focus when they were hired, excluding Bruiser. As a staff, it is clear that X’s & O’s and building player relationships have taken a step back.

Calipari is aware of this and has asked Barnhart to add an additional support staff position for a general manager, and suggested that ‘offensive coordinator’, and ‘defensive coordinator’ are positions that Calipari would be interested in adding as well. Despite UK’s staff being smaller compared to other top programs, Barnhart has denied this request.

What is worrying is that Tucker is told that, assistant video director Andrew Ortelli, and graduate assistant Riley Welch are doing “most” of the actual scouting work for the team. This is unacceptable and shows why Kentucky has looked ill-prepared so often.

With that said, the football staff includes three assistants that are paid over $1 million per year (Liam Coen (OC) $1.7 Million, Vince Marrow (Recruiting Coordinator) $1.2 million, Brad White (DC) $1.4 million). This is not to say that they don’t deserve it, but it is clear that Barnhart is giving preferential treatment to the football program.

As quoted earlier in this article from Barnhart, “Grown-ups are going to have to figure this out and be a little better.”

Maybe it is time for Barnhart to take his own advice, or it may be time for him to hang it up.

You can read the entire story on The Athletic here.