Fruitful partnership benefitting Center for Academic and Tutorial Services continues
The Center for Academic Tutorial Services (CATS) is the first center of its kind in America. Now in its fifth and final year, the partnership that has helped CATS ensure University of Kentucky student-athletes have the resources necessary for success in the classroom continues to make an impact.
“Education is at the heart of everything we do as an athletics department,” Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart said. “In order to continue and build on the work CATS does to serve student-athletes and position them for academic success, we must innovate. This partnership helps provide the resources to allow us to do exactly that.”
The goal of UK Athletics’ partnership with Maker’s Mark and Keeneland is to raise $2 million for the CATS through the companies’ own contributions and from a portion of the proceeds of sales of special commemorative bottles of the distillery's handmade bourbon.
The fifth and final commemorative Maker’s Mark® bourbon bottle in the series features the 2011-12 men’s basketball national championship team led by John Calipari, which brought the title home to the Bluegrass for the first time in 14 seasons. Bottles will go on sale at retail outlets in Kentucky on April 5, 2019.
“It’s hard to believe seven years have passed since our 2011-12 championship team cut down the nets in New Orleans,” Barnhart said. “That team was truly one of the best in college basketball history and their run is one that will live on forever in the hearts of the Big Blue Nation.”
The first four commemorative bottles in the series honored the program’s first seven national championships, with this year’s bottle completing the set.
“This series of bottles has been among the most successful we’ve ever created to benefit such a worthy cause as CATS,” said Rob Samuels, Global General Manager and Chief Distillery Officer for Maker’s Mark. “One of our core values instilled by my grandparents is to give back to the community in ways that truly make an impact, and there’s no question that this partnership has done just that.”
Another element to the fundraising effort is a challenge for other companies to raise a matching $2 million. Keeneland President and CEO Bill Thomason announced in spring of 2015 that Keeneland would be the first take up the cause.
“In support of our mission, Keeneland is committed to the advancement of excellence in education,” Thomason said. “The CATS program embodies the high standards we seek to support with our partnership initiatives. We are proud to have teamed with Maker’s Mark and UK to positively impact such a valuable community asset.”
Any companies or groups wanting to participate in the challenge should contact the UK Athletics office.
A bottle signing for this year’s commemorative Maker’s Mark® bourbon bottle will take place at Keeneland Race Course’s Keene Barn on the morning of Friday, April 12. Anyone wanting to attend MUST first get a ticket online at www.keeneland.com/makers-mark-bottle-signing after FIRST creating an account. The free tickets will become available online at 8:30 a.m. Monday, April 8.
CATS provides primary academic support for UK's nearly 500 student-athletes. UK has posted a department-wide cumulative grade-point average of better than 3.0 in 13 consecutive semesters and set or tried school records for graduation rates in every year since the NCAA's Graduation Success Rate was introduced in 2005. In the 2019 calendar year alone, 89 current and former student-athletes completed their UK degrees.
CATS is an essential part of UK’s Student-Athlete Experience Division, launched last summer. Through the Student-Athlete Experience Division, UK has renewed its commitment to prepare student-athletes to enter life after college by equipping them with the requisite professional skills and helping them identify and pursue internship and work opportunities.
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Photos of the 2019 Maker’s Mark Bottle and Set of Bottles available on request.
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