Lee T. Todd Jr., the businessman-turned-university-president, has just done something strangely unbusinesslike.
He has given University of Kentucky Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart, who still had five years left on his contract, a three-year extension at a $125,000-a-year raise to $600,000. Only months before Todd is to leave office.
This comes a few months after Todd offered a five-year extension to Michael Karpf, executive vice president of health affairs. Karpf, like Barnhart, was hired by Todd, and is in the midst of a gigantic hospital expansion program.
And, to be fair, even with the raise, Barnhart still will be making considerably less than his counterpart at the University of Louisville, Tom Jurich.
But if Todd thought Barnhart was underpaid, why didn’t he do something about it long before now, when all it looks like is a sweet going-away present between friends?
Todd says he is doing his successor a big favor. However, it seems to us that the big favor being done is for Barnhart.
It’s certainly not being done out of respect for the sensitivities of faculty and staff, who have undergone years of low or no pay increases. Nor for the students who have seen hefty tuition increases during his tenure.
And it’s debatable whether it’s a favor to a successor, whom Todd is presuming will be as high on Barnhart as he is. Todd should know from his own experience replacing Larry Ivy how crucial it is for any university president to have a free hand when dealing with athletics.
This decision is as puzzling as Todd’s strident posturing — before and after the fact — over the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s recent refusal to rule former Turkish professional player Enes Kanter eligible to play at UK.
And let’s not even talk about the Wildcat Coal Lodge, the new dorm and monument to coal planned for the Wildcats.
There is so much about the UK athletics program that can be intoxicating. But it’s clear that Todd — for whose tenure we have high regard in many ways — will be leaving having sipped too much of that Big Blue nectar.
— The Lexington Herald-Leader