Now that 2010 is in the record books, I've got a wish list for my beloved University of Kentucky Wildcats and their athletic program. It's simple and I believe to be, very achievable. And while I'm 99% certain Mitch Barnhart isn't reading louisville.com, maybe just the thoughts will make it his way (I've also got weight loss and financial responsibility on my own wish list for 2011, so I'm prepared to be disappointed.)
1. Win Banner # 8 in Basketball. Yes, we were dealt a huge blow with the final permanent ineligibility of Enes Kanter. Yes, our team only goes 6-7 players deep. But, who would've thought Duke would win last year at this point in the season? Or, who would've guessed it was Butler they beat to win the championship. This year's team is very similar to last year's... and they are better shooters.
2. Get to a better bowl game in football. This weekend's crap fest in Birmingham certainly wasn't a first step to anything amazing, but there's plenty of time to right the ship. Optimism and hope is what UK football fans are made of and it's time to give us both.
3. Sign the # 1 recruiting class in basketball... for the 4th year in a row.
4. Make "secondary sports" a priority. UofL has done it with great success. Everyone recognizes basketball is the bread and butter of the athletics program at UK. But, seeing UofL soccer get to the national championship game last season and UofL women's basketball get to the finals 2 years ago was a great thing for the school. It doesn't have to happen every season, but getting to a title match every now and then would do wonders for the department.
5. New football or basketball facility. You've seen what Louisville brought to the table, now beat it. If you want others to take our efforts seriously on the field/court, show everyone you're willing to do what it takes to support it.
6. Eliminate one of the "streaks" in football next season. Beating Steve Spurrier last year was a great one to finalize. Now, beat UT or Florida. It's been 20+ years for both... it's time to stop the embarassment.
7. Coaches need to be a priority. You hit a home run with John Calipari. Joker was the right guy... at the right time...for now. Matthew Mitchell is a great fit with KY ties for the women's basketball team. Get the best coaches, period. If salaries are a problem- raise some funds. Get your boosters out and helping. The best players in every sport want to play for the best coaches. Find them. And, if they aren't the right fit- fire them.
8. Build your brand. Living in Louisville, I see the UK advertisements and it's great. I've seen them in Western Kentucky and all across the state. It does wonders. Now, extend that reach to the rest of the country and to the world. The best athletes in every sport aren't always in the USA and aren't always basketball players.
Cheers to 2011 and to having all of my dreams come true. Mitch Barnhart, are you listening?