Chris Barker named new athletic director
Morgan Douglas – Sports Editor
Southern Connecticut has hired Chris Barker to be the sixth athletic director in the school’s history.
The Kenosha, Wisc. native was welcomed to New Haven during an introductory press conference held over the summer in the Adanti Student Center Ballroom with much of the athletic department on hand, as well as University President Joe Bertolino.
“We’re thrilled,” Bertolino said. “I think Chris is the right person at the right time, he’s going to bring a whole new level of enthusiasm. He comes to us with no preconceived notions of what athletics is or should be at Southern, and so I think the fresh perspective in a post-COVID world is needed, and it will be great.”
The importance of family to both Barker and Bertolino was part of what made Barker a good fit in the hiring process, with Bertolino calling the decision a “no brainer.” Barker’s wife Emily and son Henry were sitting in the front row to share in the moment.
“Family and respect are things that mean a lot to me,” Barker said. “My parents taught me that. I’m a person of color raising an interracial family, so the population that Southern serves, I was that student.”
Barker is a competitive person, and he has come to Southern to compete athletically, academically, and socially. Barker and his family are making a big leap, moving from Wisconsin to Connecticut and taking it as an opportunity.
“I had a mentor who always said, ‘think big, be bigger, become biggest,’ and I believe that, and that’s what I saw at Southern Connecticut,” Barker said. “We have an opportunity to really create an efficient and sustainable athletic department.”
Coming off a pandemic plagued 2020 that saw no fall sports at SCSU, those interested in athletics are excited to get games back up and running. Coaches and players of football, soccer, volleyball, field hockey, and other fall sports are eager to compete after being unable to last year.
“The top priority is to get our student athletes back on the field, back on the court,” Bertolino said, “I worry less about the win column and more about whether or not our students are getting a good holistic experience. I just want all our students to have a good time.”
The positive experiences of Southern’s students were part of the school’s appeal to Barker, who remarked that people don’t leave Southern, they stick around.
“That’s culture,” Barker said. “That says a lot to me, and I want to be in a place that values people; whether it’s the coaches, our admins, and most importantly our students.”
Barker previously worked at the University of Wisconsin Parkside, holding several distinct positions over the years, most recently the Deputy Director of Athletics.
“The message coming from Wisconsin is that we’ve got a good one,” Associate Director of Athletics/Athletic Communications Ken Sweeten said. “After COVID, now is the time we need a little energy around here, a little boost, and Chris is a high energy guy. He has a big plan moving forward. I’m excited to start working with him.”
Barker and his family are now getting acclimated to what he referred to as ‘big-city traffic’ in New Haven that he was unaccustomed to in Kenosha. Being from Wisconsin, they are familiar with cheese and have been pleasantly surprised with the pizza New Haven has to offer, citing BAR and Sally’s as places they’ve enjoyed.
“I look forward to everything.” Barker closed the press conference with, “I can’t thank you enough for the opportunity and go Owls!”