Today: May 29, 2024

Chris Barker resigns as Athletic Director on campus

Avery Martin – Contributor

Former Athletic Director Chris Barker completed his last day on the job on Sept. 7. After nearly two years at the university, he has resigned in order to pursue a professional opportunity within college athletics. 

Barker said, “This was a difficult decision to make for me professionally and personally as I have enjoyed my time at Southern immensely. The SCSU community embraced my professional vision and we were able to see impactful growth in the student-athlete experience”. 

Barker’s time at the university has fostered a number of improvements for the department. The Owls have earned an average GPA of over 3.0 in the last two years. Barker said, “Our students did a great job in the classroom and my focus was called “The Owl Way” which was being competitive academically, athletically, and socially, and the student-athletes embodied that, and every semester we were over a 3.0 department GPA.” 

In their respective sports, the Owls have succeeded in the NCAA Division 2 NE10 conference and beyond during Barker’s time in the director position. The university has won 10 NE10 Conference Championships, accomplished 11 NCAA postseason appearances, and featured 29 NCAA Division II All-Americans. Track and field athlete Jordan Davis also won the NCAA Division II Javelin Championship, which was SCSU’s 81st Individual National Championship.  

On the financial side, Barker has also drastically improved the university’s financial intake and sponsorships. Athletics revenue has increased 250% and there was a 30% increase in donations during the annual homecoming weekend. A record number of donations were also reached, which totaled  $247,418 raised. Under Barker’s leadership, corporate partnerships have increased 80% and the Owls signed its first-ever apparel agreement with Nike/BSN. 

Barker also facilitated the recent $1.8 million renovation of the Jess Dow Field Turf & Track. Barker was similarly a coordinator for improvements at the Pelz softball field, the  ballpark, and the field house. Barker was instrumental in launching a new brand enhancement initiative, and the athletics department will soon finish a student lounge and conference room that he planned.  

The university will conduct a search nationwide for a new director, but in the meantime, senior associate director Matt Letkowski has been appointed the interim director. He was previously the interim director before Barker came to Southern in 2021. Ken Sweeten, Associate Director of Athletic Communications, said, “Barker left a pretty good foundation for us. Matt is going to keep building on that. I’m excited for Matt”. 

Letkowski intends to continue Barker’s success in promoting good academics amongst student-athletes. “We will continue pushing these pillars as part of our identity. Academic success is especially important to me. Working in NCAA compliance, it is my responsibility to track the academic progress of our students. I take personal pride when our department has over a 3.0 cumulative GPA, and when our graduation rates continue to rise. We will continue to raise the ceiling when it comes to academic success,” he said. 

Sweeten says, “Chris was always a dream-big type of guy. He was always looking to improve things for staff, coaches, and student-athletes. He was great to work with.”

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