Football Wildcats Hold Their Annual Media Day Festivities
UK held its annual Media Day festivities Friday morning, August 3 at Kroger Field. Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart, football coach Mark Stoops, assistant coaches and players met with the media folks. Below are the transcripts of Barnhart's and Stoops' press conference.
MITCH BARNHART: Good to be with everybody today and coming out on Friday morning. It's an exciting time of year as we begin to crank up, again, with all the students coming back and specifically our student athletes coming in as we begin '18 and '19.
I think it's going to be a great season on a lot of fronts for a lot of our teams. Excited about our football program and where we are and looking forward to UK Athletics as a whole as I always do. We closed our year -- before we open up the conversation, I want to look back a little bit, what we did last year and some of the things we've got going on.
We closed our year with the Big Blue Caravan, a special experience for a lot of us, honoring the deep ties we have in the people of the commonwealth in our state. It was important for us to smart in Marshall County to show our support for the community (that) went through the tragic shooting of January. It was an emotional time but a really cool time, and we really enjoyed our time with those people and sharing time. A bunch of our athletes were out with a bunch of our staff, and it was a great way to start the caravan, and we enjoyed the time with those folks that were deeply impacted by those events.
Closed it out in Pikeville the Friday at the end of the week. Had an opportunity to spend some time over there. My family and I, we were going to go on a little bit, take a couple days off, and my daughter met me there with my grandchildren.
We decided we were going to let them play in the park a little bit at the end of the night before we threw them in car and hope they fell asleep for part of the journey, and we ended up in a park and ended up helping celebrate a UK fan's 60th birthday party in the park.
We were there all together having birthday cake, but it did -- it reminded me of the tie we have to our people and how much fun it was.
So we were taking pictures and laughing and they gave us cake. We had dessert, which was wonderful, but it was pretty neat. Their tie to our program was immense and strong and really fun, so that was cool.
We'll continue to do that. We'll change directions and go different parts of the state next year as we continue to branch out and reach out to our folks and be a part of that. It was good for our staff and good for our student athletes and our coaches. We had a good time.
We're also blessed to have a great story to share. It's been a story of champions for this year. The past year we won a national championship. Harry Mullins and his rifle team won a national championship again, and really proud of the things they continue to do just to represent our program.
Harry is a humble man and a guy who has been here an awfully long time. He loves this place and (I’m) so proud of this place and the way he conducts himself and his team, so we are happy for their national championship and looking forward to what they do this year.
We had an SEC regular-season championship with Craig Skinner, a guy who has been knocking on the door for a long time and with some of his teams and had a lot of moments and he broke through to the Elite Eight this year and won an SEC championship. Really proud of him.
And know that was a big moment for some really, really great seniors we had in our program, notably Ashley Dusek, who was a Libero of the Year for a couple years in our league. And with some young people that are now going to go on to play professional volleyball in different spots; we wish them well.
But happy for Craig and his staff as they continue to grow our program. He has been remarkable in his tenure here. He's never been out of the NCAAs in his time at Kentucky, and so, really proud of what he's done.
We had an SEC Tournament men's basketball championship again. Four in a row. Continues to be a special time of year for our program as we work our way through March, and so we'll see if we can keep that run going as we go back to the tournament in March; I think it's in Nashville.
Had individual champions crowned in rifle, national championship in rifle and individually, and then track and field as well. We had an opportunity to go to Eugene and watch several of our young people win national championships and that was fun.
Some incredible athletic performances and if we are not paying attention we miss those. Remarkable, remarkable athletes doing incredible things, and that was fun to be out there with them over a period of three or four days and to watch them compete.
So many of them going on to do some things internationally, and then that also -- we saw the transition in our track coaching staff and brought in Lonnie Green, which you met Lonnie about three or four weeks ago. A great guy and we're looking forward to what he will do in our track and continue to grow our track and field program.
Academically, our student athletes continue to achieve at a high level. We've achieved our 11th and 12th semesters in a row with 3.0 GPA or better. Nearly 100 Wildcats graduated this year, including Oliver White, who came back to earn his degree after three decades of playing football at the University of Kentucky.
That was a great story and happy for Oliver, but it continues to tell the story of bringing people back to get their degrees and we've had that happen every year. Folks are coming back and work being their way through their academics to get degrees, and we've got that lifelong scholarship. We want people to come back, after they have journeyed out, come back, and make sure they get that done.
In that transition, in Bob Bradley, we have a person on our staff who had been here for over 40 years. Want to thank him for his contributions to the University of Kentucky. One of the first people to ever get out and create an academic center.
So he was the first and created that and has been an absolute foundational piece of our academic program for an awfully long time. So he is retired, and I think on Monday he told me he's getting in the RV and headed to Montana for a while and I think it's a heck of a trip and a pretty cool deal. I hope he has a great journey and great time and he enjoys retirement.
As we change it up just a little bit, we want to take where we were and grow it a little bit. We've hired Jason Cummins on our staff. He's been consulting with our staff and our leadership development of our young people. He will now head up our student-athlete experience and we are changing the way we frame it up just a little bit. You won't notice a whole lot externally. Internally it's a little bit of a change for us in how we are doing our work.
And the goal is to do a couple things. One, academically, stay strong where we've been, but also to grow that into making sure when they walk out of there with that degree, that there's a career that waits for them on the other side when they do that.
It's not just a piece of paper they walk out. They walk out with a plan and how they can get to the right spot in their lives, and we set them up for careers and what that means in terms of connecting them up to people in the Big Blue community.
So hopefully we'll work our way through that, and I think I'm looking forward to what Jason does in our program and what that does for Kentucky student athletes.
We also have the pleasure of supporting some young men and women as they did some extraordinary things beyond the bounds of the term "student-athlete." I'm thinking specifically of Courtney Love and the winning of the Wuerffel Trophy, the Heisman Trophy for community service; and Courtney just was so generous with his time and the things he did and an incredible representative of what it does and what it means to go out and do work in the community.
We've had a lot of folks do that. We just brought back another. Probably 12 or 14 young people that went to Ethiopia again. We had two different trips to Ethiopia this year and those folks went internationally to do some work and we have folks to do work all over the commonwealth.
We are going to focus on that specifically and continue to work extremely hard to do some things with our communities. We know there's needs here at home and there's needs internationally, and sometimes it's those moments that teach you what it means to be a servant.
And so we want to make sure that we are sacrificial in that