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Mitch Barnhart on how UK Athletics has handled the pandemic

Compared to most schools across the country, UK Athletics has done a relatively good job navigating the pandemic thus far. Kentucky was one of only two schools in the Southeastern Conference to make it through the 11-week football season without a COVID delay. On the basketball side, only one men’s basketball game has been postponed, and that was due to positive cases on the other side. Today, athletics director Mitch Barnhart opened up about the challenges the department has faced, and thanked everyone involved for keeping things rolling to this point.

“Without the medical advice of [UK Executive Associate Athletic Director of Sports] Jim Madaleno and our crew I don’t know how we would have made it through any of this and I don’t think we would have been able to continue without his expertise on that medical task force. I give [SEC Commissioner] Greg Sankey a ton of credit. He helped our athletic directors and our medical task force and our presidents find a pathway for our young people to compete in the sports. And we’ve heard it over and over again, young people want to play. They want to play the game that they love, whether that is football, women’s basketball, swimming and diving. They all want to get and they want to compete. That’s what they want to do.”

Barnhart insisted that all of Kentucky’s teams have adhered to the protocols and guidelines and echoed John Calipari’s remarks from last week in saying that campus is the safest place for student-athletes right now.

“You’re not changing the rules to fit the narrative; we’re not doing that. What we will do is stay with the protocols, live with the protocols, live with the challenges that are in front of us, and address them. Our numbers got thin in football a couple times and we were still able to play.”

“I will tell you, our young people, I feel like are in one of the safest places they can be. There’s no place where they’re getting better care. They’re being tested, in women’s and men’s basketball’s cases right now, three times a week and if there’s challenges in all of that, they have immediate care that we are able to get them. I’m not sure you could get that if you weren’t in our care. Does it require some sacrifice? Absolutely it does. There are some challenges in there but there are also lessons in all of that, that things that you desire, things you want to do, things that you’re trying to achieve, they’ll won’t come just because you want them to; there are some things you have to absolutely work your way through and fight to get to. And that’s the case in this pandemic. We’re having to fight an awful lot of things. The ability for us to be interacting with our teams face-to-face on a regular basis is really difficult. It’s really difficult. It’s difficult to have team meals. It’s difficult to travel. It is a real challenge.”

Barnhart gave special mention to the challenges coaches are facing during the pandemic. As we’ve seen at Rupp Arena and Memorial Coliseum, the bench wraps around the baseline so chairs can be properly spaced to ensure social distance.

“And I’ll tell you this: the staffs are tired,” Barnhart said. “The medical staffs and strength and conditioning staffs that have worked so hard, they’re tired and they have worked operationally, to get this thing up and running. It’s a lot. If you just watch what goes on in a women’s basketball game and the way that they’re on the side of the court and where those chairs are, it’s fascinating. I just think it’s much more difficult to coach the game because where Kyra [Elzy] might be able to say, ‘Sit here and I’m going to talk to you for a couple of minutes,’ that person is 20 feet away in a chair isolated and she can’t talk to her because she can’t talk and coach the game out here and you’re away from your team. It is way different in coaching your team than ever before. I think it makes it incredibly difficult. That’s why coaching in film sessions or coaching in practices or coaching in your film room, it’s really really imperative that you maximize that and get it right because the on the court coaching is so much more difficult than it used to be, in my opinion.”

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.

3 Comments for Mitch Barnhart on how UK Athletics has handled the pandemic

  1. peaches76
    9:30 pm December 14, 2020 Permalink

    I can tell you 1st hand how he’s handled the home football games. Provide next to zero assistance with traffic flow before and after games and offer bare minimum of anything in stadium. Paid same amount for 2 seats as I have been for 4 in past years. You’d think they might be able to supply seat cushions for those of us in the stadium that did decide to pony up. No can do mi amigo. Ribbon boards and huge scoreboards…but seldom do we get scores and regular stats posted. Absolutely horrible game experience in the stadium year after year, and how hard could it be to post scores and stats? How about a replay on a regular basis? But we did get continuously running ribbons telling us to keep our mask on. Knew that when I bought the tickets!! Didn’t need to see it for 4 quarters each week. Mitch doesn’t get it because his concern is those sitting at the bar in the stadium. I’d be willing to bet my loyalty to the program will be for sheet when it comes time to offer bowl tickets. Not one of the high dollar cronies. I love the Cats but these folks have basically let us know we just aren’t that important….until they want some more donation money out of my meager retirement account. Mitch seems to be a good man but he is totally out of touch with the “regular” fans and blind/deaf to anyone/thing that doesn’t agree with him. Checkerboards? Lame arse Windblown Wildcat? Both classic fails. And yes, my dumb arse will be in front of the TV Saturday screaming at it as I try to decipher what in Hades we’re doing! I now feel just a bit better. That’s been boiling up for a bit.

    • UKInsider
      10:27 pm December 14, 2020 Permalink

      I’m not a fan of Barnfart. He sits in his Ivory Tower and talks about religion guiding his decisions, which is all a bunch of malarkey. I have met the dork on multiple occasions and I zero respect for him. He can take his buttoned-to-the-top shirts and sell his talking points to someone else.

  2. Buffalo Cat
    9:30 am December 15, 2020 Permalink

    I find it interesting that in an article where Barnhart is singing the praises of Jim Madaleno and the medical team, which has done a fantastic job dealing with COVID-19, that the first two comments were ripping Barnhart because someone thinks the in stadium experience should be better. I guess the fact that the athletics department, from top to bottom, has had never before seen successes and upgraded facilities since Barnhart showed up means nothing compared to the lame ribbon board.

    I heard Barnhart speak at an event just after he got to UK, years ago, and he was up front that his charge from the University was to increase revenues in order to keep pace with the rest of the SEC. I didn’t like it then, don’t like that now. But it is what it is in today’s sports society.

    Instead of just bitching about the checkerboards, the new logo (I agree they both suck) look at the success of the “Olympic sports) under Barnhart. They are paid for by football and to a lesser extent basketball.