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Mitch Barnhart defends Kentucky’s checkerboard uniforms

Kentucky’s checkerboard basketball uniforms have been a source of contention since they were introduced back in 2016. Many former players have told KSR they dislike the uniforms, but athletic director Mitch Barnhart continues to defend them. On today’s Morning Tip-Off with Michael Bennett, Shannon the Dude asked Barnhart about the checkerboard uniforms, which led to this feisty exchange.

Shannon: “A lot of people have expressed concerns not liking the checkerboard uniforms. So, are the checkerboards here to stay or are they here for another year? What’s the future?”

Barnhart: “I really find it fascinating that people get fired up about uniforms. We were just talking about this off air. It’s so interesting to me. As we talk to our players — if I asked our football team what uniforms they want to wear, they want to wear the platinum ones and the black ones, and the minute we put those on, I get 84,000 emails about, ‘Don’t wear black and platinum.’ I got one guy that writes me an email — when we go on the road, we wear white uniforms, which is by rule, we have to wear the white uniform. He says, ‘You’ve worn white. You’re already surrendering before you’ve ever taken the field.’ I said, ‘That’s great, buddy. I really appreciate you understanding the rules of college football.’ That’s the mindset of what I deal with.”

Shannon: “Is it a deal with Nike, Mitch?”

Barnhart: “Hey Shannon, are you going to talk over the top of me and keep going or do I get to answer what I want to? How about you be quiet and I’ll talk?”

Shannon: “I’m just asking you a question. All I’m asking –”

Barnhart: “If you stop long enough, I’ll answer it.”

Shannon: “Okay, go. You’ve got 30 seconds.”

Barnhart: “Oh, I’m on the clock?”

Shannon: “Well, the show’s over now.”

Barnhart: “I’m going to run out of time and can’t answer it the way I want to. I like our kids. We have a lot of our kids that like it. Frankly, we do have a deal with Nike and they came to us with some stuff from the silks of Secretariat. When we first started this, it wasn’t a checkerboard thing, it was the silks of Secretariat and that’s how we’ve honored it. A lot of our kids like it and we give each sport the opportunity to design their own uniforms, so that’s where we are. Thanks, Shannon, for the time.”

There you go. Listen to the exchange at the end of the podcast below:


Article written by Mrs. Tyler Thompson

No, I will not make you a sandwich, but you can follow me on Twitter @MrsTylerKSR or email me.

40 Comments for Mitch Barnhart defends Kentucky’s checkerboard uniforms

  1. tusk
    10:59 am May 8, 2018 Permalink

    What a bizarre thing to be so defensive about. Mitch seems like a great guy overall, but this reluctance to admit he’s wrong (and the very rude way in which he’s going about it) is troubling.

  2. meeksfor3
    11:00 am May 8, 2018 Permalink

    Is STD sure he wasn’t interviewing Matt Bevin?

  3. Biglaw Dawgin'
    11:01 am May 8, 2018 Permalink

    LMAO. The transcript makes it look like Mitch was really perturbed with Shannon in this, not joking. I hate when people talk over me, but I get Shannon’s point of view too that they were running out of time. Prob should’ve started the first Q with letting him know there were only 2 min left. Maybe then he wouldn’t have got Mitch-Slapped.

  4. mothandras
    11:08 am May 8, 2018 Permalink

    The checkerboard uniforms suck and need to go. Nike has the best marketing and designers for athletics, and sports etc.. they come up with new designs every year. I am sure if we came to them and said hey come up with a few new designs, they would have some pretty cool, new and upcoming ideas. This whole “We are in KY and everything has to about horses” has to die.

    • kcochran
      11:57 am May 8, 2018 Permalink

      100% agree! The western end of the state does not identify with the horse industry. I get so tired of hearing about horse racing just because I live in Kentucky! Seems to me from my perspective that horse racing is pretty much just a central Kentucky thing.

    • WildcatMarkC
      12:10 pm May 8, 2018 Permalink

      I live in Louisville, home of the actual derby, and aside from about 4-5 days a year, very few people identify with the horse industry even here.

      The checkerboards are trash, they look like an old man’s perception of cool. I equate it to hearing 65yr old white dudes announcing a game and trying to introduce “current” slang. The douche chills are strong when you here them talking about “swagger” or say “off the chain” a decade past their relevancy…

      The checkerboard is Barnhart’s “off the chain”

  5. BluemanGreen
    11:13 am May 8, 2018 Permalink

    Lets put bourbon bottles and tobacco leaves on the next ones

    • Mathlete
      11:19 am May 8, 2018 Permalink

      With little tiny meth crystals around the numbers?

    • 4everUKblue
      11:31 am May 8, 2018 Permalink

      Pain pills are also big in KY.

    • SuperTroy18
      12:00 pm May 8, 2018 Permalink

      Of course the drug references are…awful; and I get that they are in jest; but KY has more than all that nefarious stuff. Maybe a shot of that iconic Muhammad Ali standing over a fallen Liston instead on what was on the back of our jerseys years ago. (I think it was a building on campus and stuff. Cool, but could’ve been more engaging.)

    11:14 am May 8, 2018 Permalink

    I like Mitch – except when he addresses this particular topic.

    Just speak the truth and say ” UK gets WAY too much support and $$$$ from Nike for me to speak against, never mind kill, this golden goose.

  7. UKinIN
    11:14 am May 8, 2018 Permalink

    Mitch has been asked about the checkerboard uniforms more than once and he always, yes, always, gets defensive. The uniforms seem like one issue where Mitch is backed into a corner and he has no choice but to defend them. I’d like to know why that is.

    • Mathlete
      11:18 am May 8, 2018 Permalink

      Maybe Claiborne Farms donated a ton of money to UK Athletics in trade for the checkerboard?

  8. Duff86
    11:15 am May 8, 2018 Permalink

    A little checkerboard goes a long way. It’s nice to honor something that’s unique to KY but you also want something that’s marketable. Tone it down UK and Nike.

  9. Mathlete
    11:17 am May 8, 2018 Permalink

    “I like our kids. We have a lot of our kids that like it.” – Like who? Because we’ve been hearing the opposite for years.

    “Frankly, we do have a deal with Nike and they came to us with some stuff from the silks of Secretariat. When we first started this, it wasn’t a checkerboard thing, it was the silks of Secretariat and that’s how we’ve honored it.” – Why? Secretariat retired here, but he wasn’t from here and didn’t train here. That’s like Florida honoring Rick Pitino.

    • CATandMONKEY
      11:26 am May 8, 2018 Permalink

      Agree 100%
      I would love to claim the greatest horse of all time but he was born and stabled in Virginia.

  10. TreyTingle
    11:18 am May 8, 2018 Permalink

    Wow. Mitch got a little sensitive there. How about acting civilized and answering a question, rather than snap on the interviewer while dancing around the truthful answer. Really makes me lose what respect I had for Barnhart. What a douche.

    • Dubowski
      12:30 pm May 8, 2018 Permalink

      Go listen to the audio. That transcript is not at all reflective of what and how this conversation actually turned out. Gotta say Mrs TT, this post is rubbish.

  11. 4everUKblue
    11:28 am May 8, 2018 Permalink

    Mitch does a good job for the most part, he did hire BCG though and that was an epic fail. Also anyone in a position such as his should be able to handle situations like this in a more professional manner.

  12. ukjaybrat
    11:42 am May 8, 2018 Permalink

    so it sounds like it’s something with nike. he specifically mentions the football players want black and chrome and he gave it to them. but then deflected about the basketball players who have so far all said they don’t like checkerboard.

  13. katmandue2you
    11:43 am May 8, 2018 Permalink

    Frankly I don’t mind the checkerboard. I actually like it alright. That’s not to say there isn’t some design I would like better. Seems much ado over nothing. However, I much preferred the “Til The Battle Is Won” on the ends of Commonwealth er Kroger Field to what is up there now but then Matt Jones did what Matt Jones does which is bitch and moan and made a big stink about it and they took a little poll and forced UK to change it and frankly I think what is up there now is cluttered and garbled and hard to discern what the hell is up there. But ya know the way I look at it, what would this world be if Matt Jones couldn’t bitch and moan.

    • CATandMONKEY
      11:53 am May 8, 2018 Permalink

      Matt and the poll didn’t FORCE UK to do anything.

      UK, large corporations, the state and federal government- they ALL consistently double-down on innumerable policies that have little to zero public support.

      If they can make $$ and get away with it- we (the public, constituents, alumni etc ) have no voice.

  14. SuperTroy18
    12:13 pm May 8, 2018 Permalink

    He got all defensive about the logo too. He’s gonna do this until he’s told by his bosses he can think differently. Nike is basically gonna pay us a ton to look awful, it would seem. Maybe so Oregon can look like the super cool school? I don’t know. It’s surely about money, and it’s Mitch’s job to tell the people that hate it that they have to deal with it. It’s not changing anytime soon, looks like. I can’t stand Mitch when he gets like that. He was like that at the end of Joker’s tenure too. Yelling back at fans. He can be a real punk sometimes.

  15. Dubowski
    12:33 pm May 8, 2018 Permalink

    That transcript is BS. First off the audio shows it was lighthearted banter. Also he was interrupted several times before he even said that, and none of those interuptions are in the transcript. Also how does barnhart know time is short if no one tells him.

  16. katmandue2you
    12:38 pm May 8, 2018 Permalink

    I don’t really get your response to me. My point was he complained and complained and brought pressure to bear on UK to change the banner on the end of the stadium. Whether you want to argue if it was “forced” or not is semantics. Then you go on about large corporations, state government, federal government. I’m pretty sure whether you have the hallmark portion of the last line of your school fight song displayed on your stadium has nothing to do with large corporations or the state government or the federal government doubling down on a policy. Heck I’m not even sure you could say the checkerboards are a result of a “double down” on innumerable policies. One thing I will agree with is if they can find a way to make money regardless of public support on some action it usually gets enacted. Reference Commonwealth Stadium changing to Kroger Field…we couldn’t have Kroger Field at Commonwealth Stadium? I know it’s influenced me to shop a lot more at Kroger! NOT!!! Just sayin.

    • CATandMONKEY
      1:14 pm May 8, 2018 Permalink

      Hey man, i wasn’t really criticizing your comment. The all caps were for emphasis since italics are not an option on this 1999-style message board.

      Just trying to get across that all entities with power and purse strings will ignore facts and public opinion-often to their own detriment, long-term, in order to keep the $$ rolling in or even just to not pi$$ off the sponsors or donors.

      I just don’t think Matt and his bitching (which he does a lot) had much effect in the case you originally stated. If he had that much power the uniforms would already be changed as the preoponderance of evidence indicates the checkerboard is not popular with the fanbase nor the players.

  17. AllBall
    12:39 pm May 8, 2018 Permalink

    What does Secretariat have to do with UK basketball? As the athletic director, I think it’s important to listen to the concerns of players,fans,and coaches. The majority of folks dislike the checkerboard.
    For Mitch to come off so defensive, it seems as if the checkerboards were his idea or he is getting a kick back from wearing them. Somebody design a traditional looking uniform to represent UK with the class it deserves. Leave the checkerboard at the horse track.

  18. bruce122767
    12:53 pm May 8, 2018 Permalink

    Saying it again….a design based on a horse born in Virginia who ran 1 race in the state. He did have alot of sex in Kentucky but I assume he was checkerboard free for those adventures

    • CATandMONKEY
      1:16 pm May 8, 2018 Permalink

      It is a well kept secret that checkerboards are a huge turn-on for the fastest mares.

  19. Rick_S
    1:21 pm May 8, 2018 Permalink


  20. Headhurts
    1:29 pm May 8, 2018 Permalink

    R we the Wildcats or the thoroughbreds? Mitch, let the team decide what they like and get out and raise money for the University, thank god he does’nt pick the shoes they wear.

  21. Headhurts
    1:31 pm May 8, 2018 Permalink


  22. maximumscott
    1:36 pm May 8, 2018 Permalink

    Mitch if you read this, then go ahead and admit it. The big Horse Money likes it. All we have heard is the players hate it.

  23. playmorezeppelin
    3:52 pm May 8, 2018 Permalink

    Well, I didn’t have any suspicion that Mitch had ulterior motives behind the checkerboard before reading that exchange. Now I do lol.

  24. UK8286
    9:14 pm May 8, 2018 Permalink

    I LOVE the CheckerBoards. Just so you know……

  25. kentuckyrld
    10:14 pm May 8, 2018 Permalink

    Obviously, the uniforms are horrid and need to be redesigned. But, like so many other things in the program, Mr. Barnhart is to inept to realize just how bad they are.

  26. Aristocat
    11:22 pm May 8, 2018 Permalink

    It’s okay to don the checkerboard every once in awhile, but we’ve gone way overboard. How about we just bring the checker unis out for a couple games each year? (Like Tennessee…if for no other reason than to throw fuel on the fire of rivalry.)

  27. UKNUTZ
    9:29 am May 9, 2018 Permalink

    So does Tennessee represent the silks of secretariat also? I think that’s a question we need to ask Mitch

  28. (Aixelsyd)0505
    10:31 am May 9, 2018 Permalink

    Chuck the checkers! Can’t stand them! Ugliest uniform in college sports (besides Indiana of course)

  29. kellywjohnson
    11:59 am May 9, 2018 Permalink

    I don’t care if they wear pink tutus. Just win baby!! 🙂