Yesterday on the radio show, I had a 20 minute conversation with Mitch Barnhart about the state of UK athletics. In the interview, Mitch starts by talking a lot about the championship, the success of Calipari and how appreciative he is of the type of kids that have been at Kentucky during the Calipari era. Barnhart also discusses how emotional it was for him to watch Kentucky win the championship, something he dreamed of seeing when he came to Lexington.
— The topic then goes to Rupp Arena renovation, where I asked Barnhart where the process was at this point. He replied:
“Right now it is in neutral. They are trying to figure out a lot of the pieces of where the funding mechanisms are going to come from. Are they going to have enough support from the state? Are they going to have to be totally private?…We have told them that we are not going to sign a new lease agreement until we find out if it makes sense for Kentucky. And they have not been able to bring us a new lease agreement with any projections or construction at this point. They have some plans…they are interesting…but anything they do to the arena, whether renovated or new is probably two years down the road.”
Then I asked Mitch if it was fair to say that the city and UK are not on the same page right now. He replied:
“I think that is fair. There has been a lot of dialogue, but there really has been no consensus.”
— We also discussed the state of the football program. I said to Barnhart that I had not seen the football fanbase this low. I asked him if he was confident about the direction of the football program. He replied:
“I think confidence is a scary term to use. What I would say is that I am comfortable that Joker is working his rear off to get us back to where we want to be. No one is ever confident until you have to go and play games.”
— There was then a long discussion about the problems facing UK football funding. I think this is a must-listen for any UK football fan as Mitch firmly states that he believes the Ky State Legislature is the roadblock to major football renovation. He says the structural barriers put on the program by the state are found nowhere else in the SEC and that no major renovation can be done until they are changed. If you wonder about money spent on football, this section needs to be heard.
The entire interview is fairly telling and worth your time this afternoon.