Barnhart reels in Brooks and a fat contract
Finally, after six months on the job, Mitch Barnhart has signed a contract to serve as athletic director at Kentucky.
It took that long because the Kentucky administration was gun-shy after NCAA violations dogged Barnhart's predecessors, Larry Ivy and C.M. Newton.
Barnhart's contract carries 21 pages, more than five times as many as those of Ivy and Newton. The deal specifies that Barnhart may be fired for major violations he knew about or 'reasonably should have known about' under his direction.
The former Oregon State AD signed the contract two weeks after he apologized to school President Lee Todd for failing to tell him that new football coach Rich Brooks was implicated in NCAA violations at Oregon in the 1980s.
Completion of the contract was worth the wait. Barnhart has a seven-year deal with $275,000 in base salary and $100,000 for TV and radio annually, plus incentives of up to $150,000 a year. He is making more than Todd, whose base salary is $265,000.
Barnhart has been busy since arriving in Lexington in July. His biggest decision came in December, when he hired Brooks, with whom he worked at Oregon in 1983.
'I called Rich to get feedback on what candidates he would recommend, and he said, 'I'd be interested,' ' Barnhart says. 'We had a couple of other folks on our radar screen, but as time went on, I was more comfortable with him than anybody else.'
The athletic scenes at Kentucky and OSU are strikingly different. Commonwealth Stadium holds 70,000, and the Wildcats averaged more than 66,000 at home games last fall. The eighth-ranked basketball team plays before sellouts every game at 23,500-seat Rupp Arena.
'There are no pro sports in our state, so the whole focus is on Kentucky athletics,' Barnhart says. 'That's good, but it brings a different set of problems. At Oregon State, there is an appreciation for the growth of the program. At Kentucky, there is an appreciation for success Ñ but no patience.'
Barnhart keeps close tabs on his former associates at OSU. He watched every Beaver football game that was televised nationally and has followed the progress of his last hire there, basketball coach Jay John.
'I miss the friendships and the camaraderie we had,' Barnhart says. 'The people up there were wonderfully nice. I will always look back on my years there with great fondness.'
• Now it sounds as if the Montreal Expos' relocation might not occur until after the 2004 season. After a recent meeting of the Major League Baseball relocation committee, Commissioner Bud Selig was asked if the Expos would move in time for the 2004 season.
'Ask me that later this year,' Selig replied. 'We hope to move very quickly on this, but nothing is for certain. We haven't even set up all the procedures on how we're doing this.'
David Kahn, chairman of the Oregon Stadium Campaign and Portland Mayor Vera Katz will meet Tuesday in New York with members of the MLB relocation committee. The office of Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski has also expressed interest in being represented at the meeting.
'They will educate us on the timetable and the process so that formal presentations from each of the cities (bidding for a franchise) are on equal footing,' Kahn says. 'And I'm sure they will be eager to hear where we are in terms of our campaign.'
• Everyone is being so negative about the Trail Blazers' No. 110 ranking among 118 major pro sports franchises in the Feb. 3 issue of ESPN The Magazine (the Columbus Blue Jackets, Houston Texans and Minnesota Wild weren't included because each hasn't been in existence for the minimum three years).
It must be pointed out that Portland ranked ahead of the likes of the Atlanta Hawks, Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Thrashers, Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Detroit Lions, Detroit Tigers, New York Knicks and Cincinnati Bengals. As Cedric the Entertainer would say, that's not so bad.
As for the 'fan relations' ranking of dead last, well, you can't please everybody.
• The only player representing the state in Sunday's Super Bowl is ex-Beaver DeLawrence Grant, a starting defensive end for the Oakland Raiders.
Grant, a second-year pro who starred for OSU's Fiesta Bowl champions of 2001, has started 16 of Oakland's 18 games, including the last 13 in a row.
The 6-3, 280-pound Grant doesn't make a lot of tackles (20, plus three sacks), but he has been dependable at a position where the Raiders have been ravaged by injuries.
• The Minnesota Timberwolves' broadcasting network is keeping Mychal Thompson busy. The former Blazer is working 70 regular-season games as the team's TV analyst, his second season on the job there. Loves the job, hates the time away from his wife, Julie, and their three sons in Lake Oswego.
'I get back for four- or five-day visits on occasion, but I really miss them,' Thompson says. 'It's a hole in my heart. I'm having a great time, but without your family, you feel like you're nothing.'
If he had his druthers, Thompson would be working for the Blazers.
'There is no place like Portland,' he says. 'I have traveled all over this country, and this is the best place in American to live. I miss it every day I'm away.'
• Dick Harter continues to serve as one of the most well-paid, highly respected assistant coaches in the NBA.
The former Oregon coach and Blazer assistant helped Boston reach the Eastern Conference finals last season, and the Celtics are one of the four teams considered to have a chance to get there again this spring.
'New Jersey, Indiana and Detroit are the best teams in the East, but we could win any series if we're playing well,' Harter says.
Harter champions the hardworking underdog, and he has a favorite on this year's Celts: 6-2 point guard J.R. Bremer, a rookie free agent from St. Bonaventure who has won the starting job.
'He's left-handed, tough as spit, a good shooter who moves the ball and can defend anyone in the world,' Harter brags.
At 72, Harter is in his 49th season of coaching, including 20 at the NBA level. Will he go for 50?
'I'm not going to stop at that,' Harter says, chuckling.
• James Allen could wind up as the starting outside linebacker for the New Orleans Saints next season. The rookie from Jefferson High and Oregon State started the final game for the Saints because of an injury to the regular starter.
'He played the whole game, did a nice job and set himself up for a good look next year,' says Mike Riley, who coached Allen at OSU and now serves as New Orleans' assistant head coach. 'There are good feelings about James here. If we started the season tomorrow, I think he'd be in the starting lineup.'
• Kevin Wulff soon will be back in Portland. Last November, the former Nike executive, who has served as chief executive officer of the Women's Tennis Association for the past year, moved his family from Lake Oswego to St. Petersburg, Fla., where the WTA has its headquarters. In March, Wulff returns as director of sports marketing for Portland-based Adidas America.
• Heavyweight Jeremy Williams, who will be the feature pugilist of 'Fight Night at the Rose Garden III' on Thursday, boasts not only a 39-4 record (with 35 knockouts) but also a pretty darn good nickname Ñ 'Half Man, Half Amazing.' Where does the sobriquet come from?
'I'm trying to track that down,' says Rose Garden marketing manager Stan Sittser. 'Guess we'll find out on the 30th.'
• Best sports TV commercials so far in 2003: the new Michael, old Michael Jordan Gatorade spot ('You reach, I teach. Lesson just started.') and Nike's soccer streaker ad (no, it's not real).