File this under “No Surprise.” Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart wants no part of an expanded, nine-game conference schedule:
“Nine games is not something we favor. I do not think a nine-game schedule would serve Kentucky well…
History says it’s very difficult for us to have the level of depth, the second, third, fourth lines of players, that some of the other schools in our league have just as a means of their in-state recruiting situations. When we have to play a long line of league games, it’s a grind, our teams can get beaten up physically. It’s better for us, for our players, when the schedule allows us to have some so-called breathers, so that our kids can sort of restore themselves physically in-season.”
Translation: “We’re weak. We know we’re weak. We don’t foresee a day when we’ll be strong. So we need cupcakes on the schedule.”
Barnhart isn’t the only AD in the league to make comments like this. Mississippi State’s Scott Stricklin has said that his school needs pastries, too (though we send kudos to MSU for taking on Oklahoma State this year). Vanderbilt coach James Franklin has said he’s against a nine-game schedule, too.
Simply put, you can be sure that most of the traditional non-powers in the SEC hope to avoid a nine-game schedule. OK. They have their reasons. Everyone wants to win games and everyone wants to go to a bowl game.
But do any fans really want to hear their school’s athletic director say that their program has to have “breathers” in order to win and reach those bowl games? Where’s the ambition in that? Where’s the confidence?
Laugh if you like, but any school can win. If Kentucky had beaten Alabama to the punch and hired Nick Saban in 2007 is there anyone out there who doesn’t believe UK would be competing for SEC titles today? In addition, it should be left to the fans to make the “we’ve got no in-state talent” argument. Barnhart’s job is to find someone who can recruit kids from inside and outside the Bluegrass State. That’s the lay of the land. It can be done. Some of UK’s SEC neighbors have proven it can be done.
In terms of NFL draft picks produced by SEC states, Tennessee and Arkansas rank at the bottom of the SEC along with Kentucky. Tossing out Ivy League schools, Tennessee is one of the 10 winningest programs in the country all-time. Arkansas is in the all-time top 20 for victories. No in-state talent? Recruit out of state.
Hey, we get that Kentucky doesn’t have the tradition or the recruiting base of some of its rivals. But an athletic director admitting that his school can’t succeed without “breathers” and patsies? Sorry. That’s just not what an SEC athletic director should be saying.