The heart of the feud between John Calipari and Mark Stoops was over upgrades to the Wildcats’ basketball practice facility. Coach Cal’s pleas are falling on deaf ears.
“Where we are right now, it’s not a project that we’ve put on our strategic plan,” was the short summary of a long answer from Mitch Barnhart.
While Calipari insists the need must be fulfilled, Kentucky’s athletic director believes the Craft Center is still a state of the art facility.
“The Craft Center is 15 years old. We’ve continued to make enhancements during that time. We’ve enhanced that facility over and over again. It continues to be a state of the art facility. We take really good care of it,” said Mitch Barnhart.
“We’ll continue to make improvements as we see fit, as we’re working through that. But we always do that. We always have. We’ve never stopped looking at ways we can continue to enhance our program. It’s what we’ve done.”
Kentucky Basketball is Behind in the Pecking Order
Why must John Calipari wait for practice facility upgrades? In Barnhart’s eyes, Cal’s Cats must fall in line behind what’s needed at Memorial Coliseum and other spots around UK’s campus.
“As I mentioned, there’s a process for this and we work through the processes and I’m very thoughtful about what we do and we have to take those things to our university administration. We work through the board of trustees. We have campus strategic planning. All of this is part of the process. We’ve been thoughtful about doing it that way for 20 years. We’ll continue to do that,” said Barnhart.
“We’ll continue to look at our needs, but right now what’s in the queue for us is really, really important. It’s the renovations to Memorial Coliseum, which is due to begin probably sometime next year. We’ve got the plans for that already done. We’re working on some other thoughts around that which could help all of our programs. We got obviously the indoor track, which is being built. We got the plans for a new tennis facility… and then renovating the indoor (football) facility.
“Where we are right now, (the Craft Center) it’s not a project that we’ve put on our strategic plan, but we’ll continue to look and see how we work through the things that help our basketball programs and make sure we’re doing all we can.”
Mitch Barnhart Issues Ultimatum of Sorts
I cannot transcribe all of the long-winded athletic director’s comments. I can tell you he said, “We will be a grateful (athletic) department. We will not be entitled.” If I had a word counter, there’d be at least a half dozen ticks for the word “entitled.” It felt like a not-so-veiled shot at his basketball coach.
Instead of reading between the lines, allow me to share a complete quote from his press conference. It sums up Barnhart’s feelings best. Mark Story asked if the comparing today to Bear Bryant and Adolph Rupp’s rocky relationship was fair. Barnhart said this:
“I have two coaches, one for 13 and one for 10 years. I can’t speak to that. That’s their call. But I will tell you I’ll be there with them. I’ll walk with them, both of them. I’ve walked with them all this way. I hired them both. I gave them the opportunities to coach here, their families to come here, to win championships here, to go to bowl games here. I’ve walked with both of them, through both good and bad. They both know it. They don’t have to fear the administration. The administration’s been right here the whole time and we got a president that’s been right here the whole time. It ain’t changing.
“They’ve been provided every opportunity to do the things they want to do to be successful. That isn’t changing as long as I’m in the chair. We will have that support. If that’s not good enough, coaches change a lot in today’s world. They do.
“For us to have 23 years of expertise in those two chairs, I don’t think there’s another school in the league that has that. It’s pretty close; I don’t know if anybody does. We got 44 years of experience between athletic director, men’s basketball coach and football coach in Kentucky. Walk around the league and tell me anybody else who’s got that and then they can start tweeting that stuff out. A couple of them have gone through some coaches pretty quickly, so yeah, I’m a little fired up about that.”
Barnhart believes he’s acted in good faith to support his coaches. It’s why they have sustained success for more than a decade. However, all good things must come to an end. Forty-four years of experience is a positive, but it might be too long for all three to continue to successfully work together.
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