‘Our kids want to play,’ Barnhart says of Cats

Published 8:42 am Friday, August 14, 2020

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The Southeastern Conference isn’t ready to call it a season just yet and is planning on playing football this fall.

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Although the Pac-12 and the Big Ten have postponed their season and planning to resume next spring, Kentucky Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart is hopeful the league will remain on schedule and play a conference-only schedule this fall. The Big 12 Conference announced plans to move forward this fall earlier this week.

Speaking during a Zoom event with the Lexington Forum, Barnhart said the league is “trying really hard to try and find a path forward.”

“Do we want to play? Absolutely,” he said. “Our kids want to play. I was with our football team Tuesday. We sat down on the field, they were on the field and just before they went through their walk-through … I think they want to play.”

Because ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Barnhart said some players ‘have questions” and are skeptical because of possible short- and long-term health risks associated with the coronvirus.

“There’s probably gonna be an opportunity for them to opt-out,” he said. “There is. I’ve told them that. If you don’t want to play, you can opt-out. You can say hey, I want to hold out, and wait until this pandemic passes and play next year and keep my eligibility. We’ve said we’ve got that covered at Kentucky. We will take care of that.”

Earlier this week, the Big 12 announced plans to play fall sports, including a “9-1” scheduling model, with the season kicking off on Sept. 26. The SEC also plans to start a 10-game season in late September and starting dates and times have yet to be announced.

Kentucky’s league-only schedule was updated last week. The league added a road game at Alabama and a home date against Ole Miss to the Wildcats’ conference schedule.

In addition to football, Barnhart also added the men’s basketball season will be altered and everyone is “just going to have to accept that there’s going to be some heartburn or some pain.”

“We’re going to have to work through that to get the successes that we hope are on the other side (of the pandemic),” he said.

The Pac-12 postponed its sporting events through Jan. 1 and that includes Kentucky’s scheduled game against UCLA in the CBS Sports Classic.

Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at keith.taylor@kentuckytoday.com