Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart was asked at length about Kentucky’s demands to move the IU-Kentucky series on campus and Indiana’s decision to not play this season. Kyle Tucker of the Louisville Courier-Journal put together the following transcript.
ON INDIANA ANNOUNCING TODAY THE UK-IU SERIES IS OVER BECAUSE OF UK’S DEMANDS: “(Surprised look) I think that we wanted to keep it at a neutral site. It gave us a chance to sort of return to some of the games roots, played in Louisville, in Freedom Hall or Yum Center or something like that. There was not interest on their part to do something like that. I guess they’re putting that out there as a final conversation, so we’ll go on from there, do what we have to do. We’ve been playing the games since the early 1950s, somewhere in that range. It’s been awhile.
“It’s disappointing for that not to continue. I hate it for the fans, especially with two top-five teams coming back next year. That’s disappointing. It wasn’t an unwillingness to play on our part. We wanted to play. We just felt like there were a couple of things that gave us a chance to play that game back in Jefferson County, put it in Louisville and then return it up to Indianapolis or whatever the other neutral site they wanted to. I guess they did not want to do that.”
ON IT SEEMING LIKE THIS IS NEWS TO HIM: “About three weeks ago, that’s not where the conversation was. It’s a little bit of a change.”
ON WHETHER HE WAS CONTACTED BY INDIANA BEFORE THEY MADE THE SERIES ENDING PUBLIC: “Not until today. Just about half an hour ago we got something from them, sort of saying that’s what their thoughts were.”
ON WHETHER HE’S CONFIDENT THE UK-NORTH CAROLINA SERIES WILL CONTINUE: “I wouldn’t say that for sure. Like I said, we’re working our way through it.”
ON ONE NATIONAL WRITER SAYING UK-UNC WAS OVER: “I’d say that right now that’s probably closer to being true than not, but we’ll see. We’re picking up, like I said, we’re working our way through the schedule stuff right now.”
ON WHETHER UK HAD ASSURANCES IT WOULD BE ALLOWED TO PLAY UK-IU AT THE KFC YUM! CENTER: “No. That was not secure at all. The Freedom Hall, I think, we had obviously as much availability in there as we wanted. They were, I know their athletic director Fred Glass, they were wanting to play on campus. That was one of Tom’s wishes; they wanted to play the game on campus. At some point in time, we had a conversation that we were fine with neutral-neutral, and that was going to work out. Then all of a sudden today, there was a little change of heart.”
ON WHY ON-CAMPUS WAS NOT ACCEPTIBLE TO UK: “John (Calipari) wanted to go back to, I don’t think he was really thrilled about going back to Bloomington, to be honest with you. I think he wanted to go back to the neutral-neutral scene, and that’s OK.”
ON WHETHER SOME OF LAST SEASON’S FAN BEHAVIOR AT INDIANA WAS PART OF THAT: “No, I’m not going to go into that. I think just going back to the neutral. The other piece for us—when I came here in 2002, we split that game right down the middle in Freedom Hall. I’m telling you, it was a special scene in college basketball. I don’t know who all was there at that point in time, but I’m telling you it was a special scene. And to be honest with you from a revenue piece, it was as equal if not better doing it that way than if it were on campus. But it’s not a revenue issue for us.
“We can probably be more advantageous going to a neutral site if we played it in the new Lucas Oil field or if we went to Canseco up in Indianapolis. We could probably make it work just fine. But it’s not going to happen, so we’ll just have to regroup and figure out where we go from there. There’s plenty of folks that would love to play Kentucky, and we’ll figure that out. We won’t be without a schedule, I can assure you that.”
ON WHETHER UK-IU MIGHT START UP NEGOTIATIONS AGAIN NEXT YEAR: “We’ll have to take a look at that. We don’t know. We’ll see.”
ON HOW THEY’LL FILL THAT SLOT: “We’ve had good talks about the schedule and where we are. We had 20 home games this year. We’d like to be in that same zone every year. The home schedule is very, very important. Our fans pay a lot of their discretionary money to come to Rupp Arena and to be a part of that. I want to make sure they’ve got a good schedule to be able to walk into Rupp Arena and see.
“At the same time we’re creating some very good neutral-site games. Obviously, we’ve got Duke next year in the Champion’s Classic. I think that’s in Atlanta, so we’re going down there. We’ll be a part of some kind of an exempt deal as we always are. We’re always a part of one of those. So we’ll fill those holes and figure out what we want to do. We’ve got some time. We’re not in a hurry mode. Usually by the end of June or early July, we get this thing finished up. So we should be OK.”
ON WHAT HE’D SAY TO FANS WHO’D RATHER CAVE TO IU AND PLAY THE SERIES THAN NOT HAVE IT: “That’s their thoughts, and I appreciate that. It wasn’t that we didn’t want to play the game. We wanted to play the game, but we wanted to play at a neutral site and just go that route. I’d say the fans that have participated in that game at Freedom Hall for years saw how much fun it was. I can remember … the first time I went in there and that thing was divided down the middle, it was one of the more electric scenes I’ve ever been around.
“Now we went on-campus, and it was nice, but having said that, IU every other year only 100 of our fans get in there. We get 100 tickets – 50 behind the bench and 50 up top. So a lot of our fans are getting left out. In the alternate years, our fans are getting locked out of that game. I would’ve at least liked to have the opportunity to have half our fans every year be in that venue and have a chance to go to the game.”