Come on, give Mitch (Barnhart) on the mount a break

Sometimes, you just can’t win.

There has never been a more visible athletics director at Kentucky than Mitch Barnhart. I’m not talking about on the floor of Rupp Arena or the field at Commonwealth Stadium for all the fans to see. I’m talking about visible to the athletes and various sports at UK. Barnhart seems to be at every function, no matter the sport, no matter the date, no matter the time.

So now that the UK AD has taken some vacation days to climb Mt. Kilmanjaro, there are those out there complaining that Barnhart’s time would have been better spent back in Kentucky, supporting his football coach.



Barnhart missed a UK-U of L golf outing and the annual Kickoff Luncheon. He will miss UK Media Day on Friday and Fan Day on Saturday. That’s it. He’s scheduled to return to Lexington next week. He’ll be around, if needed, for practice and, of course, the football opener at Louisville and, presumably, the rest of the season when, you know, the stuff that matters starts.

What was he supposed to do, anyway, stand up and at the Cardinal Club and declare that the embattled Joker Phillips is his guy? Joker Phillips is his guy. Barnhart has not only spoken of that many times, he has a signed contract to that effect. On July 31, what more does the AD need to add?

Besides, no matter what Barnhart might or might not say, it’s going to come down to the number in the win column and the fans in the seats. The former will have a major affect on the latter. Joker knows that. Mitch knows that. The football-loving segment of the Big Blue Nation — the ones with the we-don’t-get-enough-support chip on their shoulders — knows that, too.

C.M. Newton supported Bill Curry in every way you could imagine back in the 1990s. He supported him right up until Curry went 26-52. Then Newton went out and hired a new football coach.

And can’t a guy take a vacation? It’s like the president — Democrat or Republican — being slammed for going on vacation when there is the people’s business that needs to get done. There’s always business to get done. Most of it can wait. And athletics directors are human, too. They deserve some time off every once in awhile, or some time to do something else for a couple of weeks, just like the rest of us mere mortals.

I’d be more sympathetic to the carping about Barnhart’s absence if he was some sort of slacker. Mitch Barnhart may be many things, but he’s certainly not that.

I say give the guy a break — and congratulate him on his climb.

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