By LARRY VAUGHT
Two years ago when Kentucky got off to a blistering start, Kentucky athletics director Mitch Barnhart gave coach Mark Stoops a midseason contract extension. Yet he’s still waiting for Stoops to get Kentucky to a bowl game.
“Clearly we want to continue to recruit and be at a level of bringing people into our program that give us a chance to succeed. Mark has done that. He and the staff have recruited at a high level for us, some of the highest recruiting classes that we’ve ever had in the history of the program,” Barnhart said.
“You look at the energy that they’ve poured into it. You have to have people in your program that you can win with. We’ve got some young people in our program that we think have a chance to make a difference for us, showing long-term stability. A commitment to that was important for us.”
Barnhart said unlike many in today’s society, he doesn’t expect immediate results.
“I’ve been around this thing long enough, I can remember back when a coach got four to seven years to turn something around. It was mostly five, six, seven years. You had some time. Now you essentially have two to three years or somebody is going to hit the switch, they want to go on and get to the next person,” Barnhart said.
“We get into a cycle we’re having a hard time getting out of in all sports. It’s not just college athletics, it’s pro sports and everything else. We’ve gotten into a cycle. It’s the cycle of if we don’t get what we want, we quickly get out of that. That change costs something to get out of on both sides. All of a sudden it changes the pressure on the tickets and on everything else you do. So the person coming in has a new set of pressures. If they don’t get it done, it gets to the top of that cycle and you’re back in it again. It’s a hard cycle to get out of.
“You have to find a way to break the chain. You break the chain by finding success or having patience. Both of those are hard. I don’t know a lot of people that are patient, least of which me. I’m not a patient guy. You don’t get to spots of competitiveness without being patient. I think I’m better at it than I used to be. The idea of having to respond to all the things that we respond to in our enterprise, it requires patience.”
Yet Barnhart knows patience can be frustrating.
“Are we exactly where we want to be? We never are. I don’t want to get comfortable with where we are in our total program,” Barnhart said. “I want to find a way to continue to grow our program, and we’ve had an eye to what we’re doing off the field, all the facets of what we’re doing. If you do the little things, the big things will take care of themselves.”