Mitch Barnhart and Gary Henderson announce a contract extension. (KyForward photo by Jon Hale)
After leading the UK baseball team to a record 45-win season and being named Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year, UK head coach Gary Henderson has a new contract.
Henderson’s new five-year contract is worth $2.145 in total salary and endorsement payments. His annual salary for the deal increases from $325,000 this year to $375,000 in the fifth and final year of the contract. UK will also pay Henderson $75,000 annually for media rights and endorsements.
“The thing that struck me the entire year about our kids was how much they liked each other, how much they liked to play, how much them and their families bought into me and our staff,” Henderson said. “If you don’t have that it’s a really tough battle, and we’ve got it. We’re going to do everything we can to make sure we maintain the same type of a kid and same type of relationship we have with those families.
“It’s going to my responsibility to make sure they understand — both of them, families, kids, our staff — that Kentucky baseball will not be sneaking up on anybody in 2013. It will be a new landscape for us, and we’re excited about that.”
Gary Henderson (Photo by Jon Hale)
In four seasons as UK’s head coach, Henderson has compiled a 129-99 record and a 51-69 record in Southeastern Conference play.
Henderson came to UK in 2003 as the associate head coach and pitching coach for John Cohen. He spent five years in that position before being promoted to head coach when Cohen left UK for his alma mater, Mississippi State.
UK reached the postseason twice while Henderson was an assistant, including a run to a SEC regular-season championship in 2006, but the Wildcats finished just outside of an SEC Tournament berth in each of his first two years as head coach. A 25-30 record in 2011 had some fans questioning whether Henderson’s job was in jeopardy, but Barnhart gave him a vote of confidence before the record-setting 2012 season.
“Gary Henderson is a good example of the type of coach we want to lead our athletics programs at Kentucky and he and his staff are very deserving of new contracts,” UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart said. “He has helped build the program from the moment he arrived in Lexington and it was thrilling watching his team complete a historic campaign in 2012. We are convinced that the success our baseball program achieved last spring is just the beginning and it is an exciting time to be a UK baseball fan.”
While Barnhart and Henderson both expressed excitement with the direction of the program Tuesday, they also noted the importance of continuing to invest in the program in the form of a facility upgrade in the coming years.
Cliff Hagan Stadium currently includes 2,000 char-back seats and a total capacity of 3,000. Temporary bleachers were added when UK hosted a NCAA Tournament regional in 2006 and for late-season games during the 2012 season. The last major renovation of the facility came in 2002. The home locker room is currently housed in the Shively Training facility.
Henderson said he did not feel a need to put any language about a facility upgrade in his new contract because he is confident Barnhart is working toward that goal.
“I just didn’t think it was necessary. I think Mitch is going to do everything he can, as quick as he can,” Henderson said. “There’s limitations in all areas of life. My feeling is that Mitch is committed to a new facility — whatever that may be — as much as you can be committed to it. I’ve got a lot of confidence that he’s going to do what he can do to make that happen.”
Barnhart reinforced that support Tuesday
“Our plan going forward is to make sure we fit into the master plan of the university and then make sure we’re positioned properly to take the resources we have financially, either we’ve grown or we’re financing for — one way or another or a combination of both — to do something as quick as possible for Gary and his team,” Barnhart said.
Barnhart said UK’s current options are to renovate the existing Cliff Hagan Stadium or build a new facility on Alumni Drive.
“More than anything else, I want to help Gary and give him what he wants for this baseball program,” Barnhart said. “We don’t want to just do it and put a band-aid on it. That’s not the purpose. The purpose is to get something that lasts the test of time. We’ve done band-aids before, probably not our best plan. So we have to figure out how to create a facility that stands for a while and gives us a chance to be out there for a while.”
Henderson isn’t waiting on a new facility to improve the program.
“We’re eager about the momentum that a new ballpark is going to create when it gets here, but we’re going to play with what we have right now and we’re appreciative of it,” Henderson said.
Henderson and his staff have worked within those limitations to post impressive recruiting results in recent years. Since Henderson was named UK’s head coach in 2008, he has brought four top-25 recruiting classes to campus.
Henderson has also helped UK establish a foothold in professional baseball. Since Henderson joined the staff in 2003, 25 UK players have been drafted by MLB organizations. Of those 25 players, 17 were not drafted out of high school. In 2011, Oakland Athletics outfielder Collin Cowgill and Cleveland Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis became the first two former Wildcats from the Cohen/Henderson era to reach the big leagues. Currently, 27 former Wildcats from Henderson’s time on the staff are playing in affiliated professional baseball. The Wildcats’ nine 2012 draftees were second most among all NCAA teams.
UK baseball assistant coaches Brad Bohannon and Brian Green also signed new contracts, with annual salaries of $145,000 and $155,000 respectively. Bohannon serves as UK’s recruiting coordinator and Green functions as the offensive coordinator and hitting coach.
“The continuity that we have in the program is an absolute strength of our program, and I think everybody throughout our league recognizes that,” Henderson said. “To that end, I want to thank Mitch for his help in maintaining that continuity.”
A native of Eugene, Ore., Henderson played collegiately at San Diego State, where he earned a master’s degree in sports psychology in 1990. Henderson’s coaching career began in 1985 at Crawford High School, and his first college coaching job came in 1988 as the San Diego State junior varsity head coach. Before being named UK’s head coach in 2009, Henderson’s only collegiate head coaching experience came at Chapman University in 1993.
Henderson’s wife, Vicki, and son, Ty, were present Tuesday as Barnhart announced the contact extension.
“I’m really glad that I know where Ty Henderson is going to go to school for the next five years,” Henderson said of his son. “That’s probably number one. I’m glad that we did it again here for a year and I’m really eager to put two back-to-back.”
You can read the contract here.