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By LARRY VAUGHT

Give Kentucky athletics director Mitch Barnhart credit for doing what he said he would do — spending money to put together a quality football staff.

Sure, not all of us believed he would do it, but he has to show the school’s financial commitment to football in more ways than just giving new head coach Mark Stoops $2.2 mil­lion annually over five years — about $500,000 more per year than previous coach Joker Phillips made.

But what is most impressive is that Barnhart and UK spared no expense for coordinators Neal Brown and D.J. Eliot.

Brown, a Boyle County High School graduate, had been offensive coordinator at Texas Tech the last three years and had built an impressive resume with his own version of the Air Raid offense. He was a quick target to hire for Stoops, but other schools also had some interest in Brown. That’s why he was interested in having a three-year contract, something not many schools give coordinators, as well as a raise over his previous salary which was already higher than what previous UK offensive coordinator Randy Sanders made ($338,000).

Eliot, the former defensive line coach at Florida State where Stoops was the defensive coordinator, will also make $500,000 — or $162,000 more than Rick Minter made last year. Like Brown, he gets a three-year deal that will expire on June 30, 2016. That’s the same time Brown’s deal will expire.

Both coaches will get one month’s salary for an SEC East title and/or invitation to a non-BCS bowl game with a payout less than $2.5 million. They will get one and a half months’ salary for a non-BCS bowl game with a payout of $2.5 million or more. If UK wins a SEC and/or gets a BCS bowl invitation, they get two months’ salary. Those bonuses likely will be included for each UK assistant coach.

Brown and Eliot now have salaries on par with what top coordinators in the SEC is paid — and that signals a big step forward for UK. Barnhart wasn’t afraid to give both coaches attractive salaries or guarantee three years. He has to believe if he’s paying Stoops $2.2 million per year for five years, he has to have confidence that the coordinators Stoops wanted will be vital to turning the program around and that giving them a three-year deal instead of two years is smart business rather than a gamble.

Kentucky fans continue to be impressed with the new staff, especially Brown.

Long-time UK fan Dale Polley of Nashville likes what he’s seeing and hearing about UK football.

“I am so excited that Neal Brown is coming to UK. It sure seems that we have a great pairing in Stoops and his experience on defense and now with Brown we have a pro running the offense,” Polley said. “(Quarterbacks) Max Smith and Patrick Towles have to be beyond excited. Tell Neal that there is this guy in Nashville that has been spreading his name across the internet for about six weeks hoping that UK would hire him — and that was before I even knew the complete UK connection with him. It is nice to have something on the football front to be excited about.”

And that’s why the money Barnhart is giving Stoops, Brown and Eliot is money well spent if they do the job on the field that he thinks they will and UK fans believe they will.

23 Responses to Give Barnhart credit for commitment to football with contracts given to new coordinators

  • P90XDude says:

    Thanks Larry for a great article on MB. He deserves a lot of credit for not hiring Petrino and bringing in a coach who really wanted to be here. Let’s hope now that the legislature will back a new proposal from Athletics that will not be part of the overall package that UK usually gives the legislature.

  • bryan mceuen says:

    UK football program has been long overdue for a facelift that”s in progress hopefully this will turn this around.

  • Juan4UK says:

    I think the salary structure is great. While I grumbled a bit about what I initially thought as a low SEC HC salary, I now think Stoops’ salary fits. He can make well over $3m/yr if he competes for the SEC East and makes a bowl. And with a $2.2m salary, it gives Mitch plenty of room for raises for a coach that takes over a 2-10 team.
    How long until we see the SEC updated salary rankings for more tangible facts in this do you think?

  • Dover Cat says:

    With the SEC Football future it’s a great investment. This staff will not be outworked and they will not settle for less talent on the players they go after.

  • Jim W. says:

    Larry, I’m on here to eat some crow. I have given Mr. Barnhart as hard a time as anybody for ignoring football. But his hand was forced this time and he stepped up. Got a big name coach, opened the checkbook for assistants, proposed upgrades to facilities that is now in the legislature’s hands, adding FOOTBALL staff positions. Finally starting to look like a SEC school is supposed to look. Thank you, Mitch Barnhart.

    • Love SEC FBall says:

      I am having to eat my words as well! I did not think that Mitch would get this done.
      Thank you Mitch Barnhart for your new committment to U.K. Football!

      • Ira says:

        You guys are forgetting one important factor in all of this, upgrades improvements. Mitch Barnhart and the President neither one said anything positive when they introduced Mark Stoops as head coach. Go back and look and listen again.

        Yes there is nothing wrong about the coaching side of things. Gladly admit that, but everyone needs to think about it. What is cheaper, paying a staff a few million or the upgrades he has been working on for 10+ years now.

        Don’t lose site of the goal we all worked on. We are getting caught up in the hiring of Stoops. I am too, but Commonwealth Stadium is still the same. Nothing is getting done.

        • Love SEC FBall says:

          I agree with you 100% & you will see my response on another article that I just posted. I was just trying to thank Mitch for what he has done so far – Opening the Checkbook & Hiring a Great Staff.

          You are right. I noticed his comments as well at the press Concerence.
          I agree that we need to keep the pressure on to support this staff with the improvements that are needed. Actually some improvements are just comment sense & will not cost much.

          • Love SEC FBall says:

            Can’t spell Common sense – What does that say about my sense?
            Maybe I have none – Would that be nonsense?

        • larryvaught says:

          You are right Ira. Still no official word on facility upgrades. hope they are coming

  • AndyP says:

    To me spending money on the football staff is far and away a better utilization of dollars than anything spent on facilities. I seriously doubt we will ever get a commitment from a kid based on the size of our weight room, but no one can say that about the right assistant coach who can recruit. Good assistants pay big dividends.

    • Love SEC FBall says:

      I agree that the staff is the most important and the best place for Mitch to start.
      However you can’t ignore the facilities – You have to re-build the total program.

  • Wes says:

    Is Ritchie gonna start coach? It’s a great time to be a Cat!!

  • shinny says:

    Amen Andy P to the coaching staff. The rest will follow, the recruits will come because of the coaches and the WINS not because they have to sit on folding chairs in the recruiting room! We had indoor facilities WAY BEFORE Georgia did and yet we haven’t passed them in the pecking order. The players will come because of the system and the reputation of the coaches. Give it time don’t get the “beauty” before the “beast”. Just remember the last time the stadium was enlarged and a street was named after a coach.This time the “mo will grow” and all will be gained. Question when was the last time we had a football staff of this making? They will recruit and win!!! Then you can fuss in 4 years or less about all the construction going on and it’s hard to get around on “Gameday”!!!!

    • Larry Pup says:

      Right on shinny. If UK can start winning some football games, everything else will start to take care of itself. Winning is the cure all, the elixir.

  • grant says:

    Wah Lah! People quit coming to games! New coach ! New assistants ! New outlook! Old recruiting ground revisited! All the sudden more money in to football program! Larry, let me tell you. I am going to give credit to the FANS that stopped showing up. They are the ones who have propelled this movement. Lets be straight – if the fans would have kept going to games – Joker would still be here and it would be business as usual.

    The hand of Mitch was forced , his bluff was called . So my thank you goes out to all the fans who put their foot of progress down. Without them , this does not happen !

    Thank You

    • JD says:

      ^^^This. Mitch ponied up purely for self preservation. If CWS still had 60k in it Joker would still be here and Mitch would still be trying to milk every dime possible out of football while being as cheap as possible regardless of outcome.

      • Larry Pup says:

        You guys just can’t let it lie can you? You would complain if Mitch shit a $100 dollar bill in each of your hands.

    • larryvaught says:

      fair point grant

  • Mike Flannery says:

    We are all pleased, but, patience is a virtue, we will not be able to get higher on the recruiting pecking order until we become more competetive on the field. It is just like the rest of the SEC Basketball teams trying to recruit against UK and Florida. I am looking for a team that is coached well, do not run on 4th down and less than a foot twice away from an all-american guard ( Warford). If you don’t make the first down, you gave it your best shot, even my wife got upset with those play calls in the UT game and she openly admits she does not know anything about play calling. I really don’t think we could have gotten two better coaches (who have not been head coaches) with better resumes! Good Job Mitch!

  • Ed says:

    The administration has included CWS renovations in their budget request. All of the blame for no $ has to be on the legislature, one man who is now a judge. I think UK has done all it can at this point. However, they need to be ahead of the curve in the future and be the innovators in the future as far a football spending. Not to say throw money to the program unwisely, but with innovative forethought.

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