Business is good at the University of Kentucky. So good, in fact, the Wildcats are being recognized for their strong work on and off the field.
Sports Business Journal is one of the industry’s leading publications on the aptly titled subject and handed out some of their end of the year honors on Wednesday. One of the big winners was UK’s Mitch Barnhart, who took home the prestigious athletic director of the year for his work in collegiate athletics in 2018.
“I am honored and thankful to represent the University of Kentucky in receiving this award,” Barnhart said in a release. “It’s truly a testament to the incredible work our student-athletes, coaches and staff have done to build a program to make the Big Blue Nation and the Commonwealth proud. I also want to say a special thank you to my wife, Connie, and my entire family for taking this journey with me. We have much work ahead of us though, and we can’t wait to do it.”
Barnhart was hired back in 2002 from Oregon State and is the SEC’s longest-serving AD. Perhaps even more notable than the length of his tenure in Lexington is who he’s groomed to move on into other athletics director chairs, including three of his peers in the conference in Greg Byrne of Alabama, Scott Stricklin at Florida and John Cohen at Mississippi State. Minnesota’s Mark Coyle and College Football Playoff Selection Committee Chairman and Oregon AD Rob Mullens have also worked under Barnhart at UK.
While the award from SBJ is an all-encompassing one, it goes without saying that the Wildcats’ success on the football field had to be a big factor in him winning the award. Kentucky went 10-3 in 2018 under Mark Stoops, reaching double-digit wins for the first time in nearly four decades.