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UK signs Mitchell to extension

Kentucky women’s basketball coach Matthew Mitchell agreed to a seven-year contract extension with the school Thursday, locking up the most successful women’s hoops coach in school history through the 2018-19 season.

Mitchell, coming off three NCAA Tournament berths in a row and Elite Eights in two of the last three years, is guaranteed $7.7 million throughout the agreement. He’ll make $900,000 in guaranteed salary next season, and the base escalates each year of the deal. The contract also features several incentives based on athletic and academic performances.

Mitchell said he would donate $100,000 to the university for academics, the use of which Mitchell will leave at the discretion of UK president Eli Capilouto. It is believed the deal will make Mitchell, 41, the highest-paid women’s basketball coach in the Southeastern Conference. Vanderbilt, a private school, does not disclose its coaches’ salaries.

“This is an incredible thing that’s happening,” Mitchell said. “As you look around, there’s not a whole lot better places than this. For me, I’m just saying, at a young age I got an incredible opportunity to come to a place where we knew we could have a chance to get it to this spot. So now Jenna and I don’t have any desire to bounce around the country.”

Athletic director Mitch Barnhart said he was eager to invest in Mitchell and the women’s basketball program because of his success – he’s 114-56 at Kentucky, and he’s 48-2 at home in the last three year – and the positive, family-like attitude he brings to his work.

Barnhart said Mitchell has established UK as a national power in the sport, both in competition and in recruiting, and it was important to reward Mitchell with a contract that reflects that and Barnhart’s
commitment to maintain that.

“When I came here 10 years ago, I answered a lot of questions like what Matthew was asked,” Barnhart said. “Every time we got a coach that had any success it was always, how quick are they going to leave? Where will they go that’s better than Kentucky? Our goal from day one, and you guys that have been around for a while, our goal—I used the term, we wanted to change this from a transition school to a destination school. A place that people wanted to stay. That’s been our goal all along. If we truly want to do that, and we truly start having success, then we truly better start taking care of our people.”

When Mitchell was named head coach prior to the 2007-08 season, the school had never signed a McDonald’s All-American. The Cats’ roster for the 2012-13 season is currently expected to have five.

“You can say, ‘Ah, this is a big contract.’ Yeah, it is,” Barnhart said. “But it’s a good contract.”

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