Todd explains why trustees weren't consulted on Barnhart contract extension

04/06/2011 04:13 PM

University of Kentucky’s soon-to-be-retired president, Lee T. Todd Jr., said he probably could have had more discussion with the Board of Trustees about a contract extension for the athletics director but was trying to avoid having “20 people’s input” on it.

As president, Todd had the latitude to offer the extension to Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart. With just four months left before retiring in June, Todd added three more years to Barnhart’s remaining five year contract without discussing it with the board, which caused some consternation, according to a Feb. 16 article in the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Speaking at length about the decision for the first time, Todd he did speak to the trustees’ chairman, Louisville ophthalmologist Britt Brockman, who made a suggestion about the structure of Barnhart’s extension.

“I informed the Chairman, Britt Brockman he knew I was doing that,” Todd said. “Under the present structure it’s my responsibility to hire and fire athletic directors. I should have done more discussion with the board. I did not want to have to have 20 people’s inputs on contract extension. That gets to be pretty laborious.”

With the extension, Barnhart gets a $125,000 raise, to $600,000 per year.

He said he got the deal done partially to provide stability in athletics for the next president.

“I think I’ve done a real service for the next president,” Todd said in an interview. “I think we stabilized all that (UK Athletics). And if anybody has any complaints about these coaches and the staff we have, they need to look around and figure out that we have some of the best in the country.”

Todd also discussed his most high-profile athletics hire.

UK Basketball Coach John Calipari has made three Final Four appearances, but only one remains on the record books. The other two, one with UMass and one at the University of Memphis, were vacated after NCAA investigations ruled players on those teams ineligible. Calipari wasn’t implicated in the investigations.

Todd talked about the job interview with Calipari in 2009.

“We had already talked to the NCAA and one thing that gave me a lot of help when I went to meet with him (Calipari) was that Sandy Bell and Mitch Barnhart were okay with him,” Todd said. “And those two people are as protective of this reputation of this university.”

Todd said he had concerns that the type of player Calipari recruited at Memphis would not be able to make it academically at UK.

“I was concerned that some of the students he had on the Memphis team were recruited out of those high schools that weren’t really high schools,” Todd said.

But Todd said Calipari cleared that up by saying he wanted players that could succeed at Duke and Kansas and Kentucky, including players like Brandon Knight, who is on track to graduate early.

Instead, Todd said the NBA should look at changing its rules on allowing college basketball players to be eligible for the NBA draft after one year in college.

- Produced by Lanny Brannock, interview by Ryan Alessi

_(Programming note: The piece aired on Tuesday night’s edition of Pure Politics. To be first to see the latest political and policy news, watch Pure Politics on Insight’s cn|2 and Channel 77 in Frankfort at 7 p.m.EST/6 Central or at 11:30 p.m. EST/10:30 Central). _

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Pure Politics airs Monday through Friday at 7 p.m. ET and again at 11:30 p.m. ET in all of cn|2's Kentucky markets. The program features political analysis and news, as well as interviews with officials, candidates, policy makers and political observers.

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