Mitch Barnhart believes in leadership from Greg Sankey and Tony Petitti

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More change is coming to college athletics whether we like it or not. The NCAA has failed to give proper leadership as NIL and the transfer portal have caused major changes in how athletic departments operate. Conference expansion has also created some major movement in the college athletics space.

The Pac-12 is no longer a thing. In the 2024-25 academic year, the SEC and Big Ten will have 34 total member institutions. A 12-team College Football Playoff format will expand to 14 teams in 2026. NCAA Tournament expansion could also come down the chimney soon. Seismic changes are on their way. Instead of waiting on the NCAA, SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey and Big Ten Commissioner Tony Petitti are taking leadership roles.

In February, the Big Ten and SEC formed a joint advisory group to “address the significant challenges facing college athletics”. Kentucky Director of Athletics Mitch Barnhart has full faith in the leadership of the Big Two.

“We’ve got great leadership in Greg Sankey and Tony Petitti up in the Big Ten. They’re good people who have bright minds. I think what has been said is we don’t want to separate ourselves, but we want to lead. I think really there’s a difference there. We’re not interested in separation — that hasn’t college athletics. What we are interested in is leading us. I think what happened is no one takes a leadership position. Everybody just runs around waiting for it to fall right. Greg and Tony said ‘we’re not doing that anymore’. We’re going to try and find a way to lead. And I respect the heck out of that. Someone had to. We were drifting in the abyss.

“Commissioner Sankey and Tony are out there in the middle of this thing, and every time they turn around, they say something big.”

With some more big changes likely on the horizon, Mitch Barnhart has full faith in the leadership of the two commissioners while NCAA President Charlie Baker works to make the overall governing body of college athletics remain relevant despite the amateurism model officially dying with NIL. Over the last few years, we’ve seen the SEC and Big Ten benefit in a huge way financially due to growth in college football media rights . That has helped Kentucky upgrade athletics facilities all throughout campus. That money played a big role in the hire of Kenny Brooks away from Virginia Tech to run Kentucky women’s basketball. The monetary gap between the Big Two and the rest of college athletics will likely continue to grow moving forward.

Barnhart believes in the current leadership model spearheaded by Sankey and Petitti.

“No one else would. So they did,” Barnhart said.

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