June 11, 2013
I got to talk to Mitch Barnhart briefly this morning after the UK athletics board meeting. We talked about a variety of things, including the $104 million budget for the athletic department this year, but I also asked about the year that archrival Louisville has posted.
The Cardinals won the national championship in men's basketball, were runners up in women's basketball, won the Sugar Bowl, and have their baseball team headed to the College World Series next week. If you missed it yesterday, here's a look at how Kentucky and Louisville did in head-to-head matchups in 2012-13.
Here's what Barnhart said:
What do you make of the year Louisville is having?
"They've had a nice year. At the end of the day, they've done some things in their major sports and they should be congratulated on that. They've had a nice year. What I'm proud of is the depth of our sports program and what we've done. Going into these last three or four sports in the Director's Cup*** where they rank all the sports, our department is 22nd in the country and ranked fourth in the league. I don't know if we can hold that through track and field -- we have some really strong track programs in our league and we might not hold that -- but we'll be good. We'll be solid again.
"At the end of the day, the depth of our program is pretty good. They've had a really nice year in their major sports. The depth of our program though, I think, it outstanding. We've just got to get back. It's not like we didn't win a national championship two years ago. I know everybody remembers it, we won that. Don't forget that our women's basketball team has been to the Elite Eight in three of the last five years. Matthew had a nice year this year, second in our league and second in the tournament, went to the Elite Eight. It wasn't a horrible year for us (laughs).
"We're not going to get into this back-and-forth stuff. Give them credit for what they've done. They had a nice year, and that's good for them. But I'm proud of what we've done. Our kids competed hard and we made significant improvements in a lot of sports and the consistency with which we've done on the field, on the court, those type of things, I'm really pleased with what our coaches are doing. It's across the board. It hasn't wavered much. There have been a couple hiccups, but we'll get back to where we want to be. For the most part, our coaches have been rock solid."
Do you watch them as they advance?
"Yeah, I watch all of it. I watch all those teams. I have friends at most every school. You've been in this thing for 31 years, you've got friends everywhere. I watch everybody. I always watch our league, watch the SEC. I pull for our league. I want our league to do well. We take great pride in that. I think commissioner Slive said going into the spring, we had 85 national championships since 2000 in our league. If you do the math on that, it's roughly six or seven every year. Since then they've added A&M, which won a track and field championship. Alabama won men's golf. Then you have a couple still competing for baseball, so you'll probably get that number up to 86 or 87 national championships in the last 12 or 13 years. That's a heckuva number.
"That's the beauty of going down to Destin for those meetings. The one thing I always walk out of it with is the beauty of being in the SEC. It's hard and it makes it difficult because to come out of our league and be able to host, you have to be really, really good. You could host coming out of other leagues in these things. Because you're fifth or sixth in the league (in the SEC), you'll get in but you won't get to host. You're good enough in your league to host sometimes, but you won't get the national look that you want. The beauty of being in this league is you get to talk about being in the SEC family and I think there's great pride in that. We just announced the new network launching next year and that's a great source of pride for our league. I think it'll be a lot of fun for what we do.
"At the end of the day, I watch college sports. We want to be in that conversation. I watch college sports because I have friends in it and I love what our league does. There isn't a day that goes by that I won't cheer for other teams in this league. I always pull for other teams in the SEC."
***As of May 30, Kentucky ranks 22nd in the NACDA Director's Cup standings. Louisville ranks 33rd. In the Capital One Cup, Louisville is tied for 7th for the men's cup and is 25th for the women's cup. Kentucky is 62nd in the men's standings and 35th in the women's standings.