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Winning in Life and on the Field

The University of Kentucky athletic department continues to advance toward its goal of building a comprehensive program that excels in all areas.

Last summer, word arrived that UK has attained its best finish ever in one of the most recognizable measures of athletic department success: the Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup.

UK is 25th in the final 2012-13 Directors’ Cup standings, the first top-25 finish in school history. The previous record finish of 26th came in 1996-97. UK also tied a school record by placing sixth among Southeastern Conference schools even though the conference featured 14 teams for the first time this season. The SEC led all conferences with three institutions in the top 10: Florida (second), Texas A&M (fifth) and Georgia (10th).

Under the leadership of Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart, UK has now finished in the top 30 of final Directors’ Cup standings in three of the last four years after a 50th-place finish in 2002-03, the first year after Mr. Barnhart’s arrival. With that steady upward trend, Mr. Barnhart’s ambitious aim of finishing in the top 15 by 2015 as part of the 15 by 15 by 15 Plan introduced in 2008 seems attainable.

Under his leadership, coaches, assistants and academic support staff are helping our student-athletes compete and succeed on the field, in the classroom and across the community. Fifty-nine University of Kentucky Wildcats earned a place on the 2013 Fall Sports Southeastern Conference Academic Honor Roll announced by SEC Commissioner Mike Slive.

UK's total of 59 honorees was the second-most among the 14 league teams. UK has 23 representatives from the football team, nine from men's soccer, 19 from women's soccer and eight from volleyball.

Last year, Chelsea Oswald was named the 2012-13 SEC H. Boyd McWhorter Scholar-Athlete of the Year, which made her the first-ever women’s recipient from the University of Kentucky.

UK’s Track and Field shoe drive collected a grand total of 6,000 pairs in spring 2013, easily outdistancing the total of 2,100 pairs in 2011, and the 2,900 pairs collected one year ago.

Last year, Megan Moir was named the 2012-13 Brad Davis SEC Female Community Service Leader of the Year; the second Wildcat to win the award.

Last summer, 11 UK student-athletes traveled to Ethiopia to serve villages in need. What they discovered during their many hours of manual labor, was life-changing.  While they were helping others, they learned the trip was about much more than service, it was about creating relationships. UK Athletics has been organizing service missions to Ethiopia since 2011.

There is a great deal of excitement across UK Athletics. Director Barnhart is now challenging those teams to turn excitement into results during the next season and beyond and asking those that had success in 2012-13 to pursue even more.

This spring, he had t-shirts made and distributed to student-athletes, coaches and staff emblazoned with the phrase “Almost Isn’t Good Enough.” To put it another way, Mitch Barnhart is telling everyone involved in UK Athletics that pursuit of anything less than being the best is unacceptable.

"We've done a lot of great things in the last year and over the last decade," Barnhart said at the CATSPY Awards in April. "That's now just the foundation. We're on a new journey and much more is expected."