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Sports Notes: Barnhart says not every Cat fan thrilled about big Thursday night home game

UK athletics director Mitch Barnhart said Mark Stoops is less focused on bowl games and more on competing for championships (UK Athletics Photo/Chet White)

UK athletics director Mitch Barnhart said Mark Stoops is less focused on bowl games and more on competing for championships (UK Athletics Photo/Chet White)


Kentucky athletics director Mitch Barnhart took a turn at the podium at the beginning of last week’s Football Media Day and although his remarks were overshadowed somewhat by those of head coach Mark Stoops and the players, he made a number of interesting observations.

An example: Although most fans are excited about the the program’s first Thursday night nationally televised home game against Auburn on Oct. 15, not everyone is thrilled.

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“I would say 95 percent of the people are thrilled and there is about five percent that say this is a great inconvenience,” Barnhart said. “It is a wonderful opportunity to showcase your university. You don’t want to get in a habit of doing it because Saturday is traditionally where you play college football but every once in a while that Thursday night game is a huge deal.

“This is the first time we have had that opportunity at Kentucky to do that. To have that Thursday night opportunity to showcase our campus and have the opportunity to move around and see different things and to have the nation’s eyes on us on a Thursday night is special.”

Barnhart also declined to set a specific number in terms of how many wins would make the coming year a success. The Wildcats, of course, started out 5-1 a year ago but finished 5-7 to miss out on a bowl opportunity. Most fans — and media representatives — think a minimum of six wins and a post-season berth is the goal and anything less would slow the momentum Stoops is trying to build.

“Obviously you want to reach a bowl game and that’s the goal every year to get to postseason play,” he said. “That’s the goal in everything we do, so bowl games are important but I think that’s a step. Where we want to get to is competing for championships but that’s a logical step to get (to bowl games). Is that imperative? No. But, we build programs and building is a process. It’s a step-by-step deal. We are going to do that.”

Having hedged on a bowl prediction, Barnhart left little doubt that he thinks Stoops is moving the program in the right direction.

Mitch Barnhart is in his 14th season as UK's athletics director (UK Athletics Photo)

Mitch Barnhart is in his 14th season as UK’s athletics director (UK Athletics Photo)

“I don’t think there is anyone in this enterprise or industry that doesn’t feel pressure,” Barnhard said. “I respect all of our head coaches. Some of them don’t get all the accolades like the football or men and women’s basketball coaches get, but they feel an incredible pressure to perform for Kentucky and for the fans, athletes and university that you represent. I don’t think if you are in this thing with a heartbeat and you don’t feel pressure.

“Mark is a competitive guy and there isn’t a moment where he doesn’t think about what the next thing is to do to be a champion. I think we have a great set of head coaches, but this football staff is building a program and that’s what we want so we are excited about the progress that we have made.”

On other matters, Barnhart said the newly refurbished Commonwealth Stadium will seat about 61,000 when the remodeling is completed and that season ticket sales have topped 40,000, which is an improvement over last season. He added that there are 350-400 workers on the site daily and that while not every detail will be in place, he doesn’t expect fans to be disappointed when they get a first look at the facility on Sept. 5.

“I haven’t been a part of a building project that didn’t run down to the wire and every one of us in this enterprise in college athletics has been at those places where you are trying to get a facility ready for a certain moment and you are literally dusting floors and polishing things up at the last minute,” he said. “It’s all hands on deck and that’s what it’ll be. Everybody is working hard towards September 5. We certainly know the timeline, the construction folks know the timeline, our staff knows the timeline, but that’s exciting.”

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Western Kentucky quarterback Brandon Doughty has been named to the watch list for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award.

The award is named for former University of Louisville and Baltimore Colt quarterback Johnny Unitas, one of the greatest signal-callers of all time. Established in 1987, the award is presented annually at the end of each season to the nation’s top college quarterback based on character, citizenship, scholastic achievement, leadership qualities and athletic accomplishments.

Candidates must be a college senior or fourth-year junior on schedule to graduate with their class.

Doughty led the nation with 4,830 passing yards and 49 touchdowns in 2014 while leading the Hilltoppers to an 8-5 record and their first FBS bowl win in program history. He eclipsed the 300-yard passing mark on 10 occasions on his way to being tabbed the 2014 Conference USA MVP and Sammy Baugh Award winner.

Doughty is one of four quarterbacks represented on the Manning Award, Walter Camp, Davey O’Brien, Maxwell Award and now Golden Arm Award Watch Lists, joining Cincinnati’s Gunner Kiel, Memphis’s Paxton Lynch and Navy’s Kennan Reynolds.

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Hit King Pete Rose will be the subject of a roast on Sept. 3 at UC Health Stadium, home of the the Frontier League Florence Freedom. “The Roast of Pete Rose,” presented by Jack Lillie Insurance, will conclude a summer of marquee promotional events for the Freedom’s regular season.

A complete complete lineup of Rose’s roasters will be announced next week. The event marks the final game of the regular season for the Freedom as they take on the Windy City Thunderbolts at 7:05 p.m. The roast will occur pre-game and take place on the infield near the pitcher’s mound.

Fans can have a more special Pete Rose experience and sit on the field for an upfront view of the roast, and meet Rose before the game by purchasing a VIP meet ‘n greet package. For more information, visit the Freedom website here.

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