Mitch, Stoops

Mitch Barnhart and Mark Stoops. (UK Athletics Photo)

LEXINGTON, Ky. (KT) — Mitch Barnhart is carefully treading new territory as the University of Kentucky adapts to the ever-changing landscape as name, likeness and image polices begin taking shape in the near future.

“It’s foreign territory for me,” said UK's athletics director. “It’s not something that I enjoy and it’s not something that I take advantage of. But, at the end of the day, I know that our young people may want that opportunity. If they do, then we have to figure out a way to help them understand what it means to assign their name and their likeness to (an endorsement), what that will look like and the expectations that go with that.”

Barnhart and other college administrators across the nation are navigating through recent name, image and likeness polices that will begin taking shape on July 1. Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear issued an executive order Thursday that allows Kentucky college athletes to receive compensation from the NIL ahead of expected legislation when the General Assembly convenes in January.

Barnhart expects federal legislation to be enacted in the near future that “ties all 50 states together” in order to provide a level playing field within the NIL. He added that having all of the answers at the starting point of NIL isn’t “a great place to start.”

“I think we jointly begin to walk the journey,” he said. “I think that’s what we’re trying to do here. … We will take gentle steps in this and try to find a way to note rush into mistakes.”

The NCAA has yet to enact legislation regarding the NIL but Barnhart expects the college governing body to take action possibly next week.

“They will probably come through with some new language is some way, shape or form,” Barnhart said.

Barnhart said the order by Beshear was the “first step in a new journey” and hopes the emphasis for student-athletes will continue to be on education.

In terms of compliance, Barnhart said a lot of questions remain, but added Executive Associate Athletics Director of Compliance, Rachel Baker, likely will oversee the NIL component of the department in the future. The university has already unveiled “Kentucky Road” as a starting point toward NIL enactment.

“We’re in the early stages of putting all of those pieces together,” Barnhart said. “I think it’s really important as we was through this … that yesterday was the first day and gave us the ability to step forward with our policies and procedures and I hope the journey is a long one.”

Barnhart is hopeful a step-by-step approach will give his department time to do things the right way on the first attempt when it comes to enacting NIL policies within his department. He added the goal is to protect the student-athletes and the institution when it comes to endorsements and money-making ventures.

“There is opportunities out there for some folks that will probably be greater than others,” Barnhart said. “The challenge will be multiple. The focus, I hope or our young people, begins with their educational experience and they continue to want to be educated at an institution of higher learning. The second thing I hope, is that would want to maintain relationships and the reason they cam to an institution of higher learning especially at the Division I level to play college athletics and the Southeastern Conference.They have an opportunity to do a third thing, which is to monetize some of the things that come with their name, image and likeness.”

He added that he is confident the university can provide the reasoning to understanding to student-athletes how those three components come together in a “package.” He said the main priority is for student-athletes to be “life-long learners and to educate.”

“This is a new age for us to be educated and for them to be educated,” Barnhart said. “This is new ground for everyone.”

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