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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Erika Barnes life as a Wildcat helped groom her for UA interim AD position

Courtesy Arizona Athletics

Erika Barnes says a few words at an engagement on April 16, 2016. On Feb. 1, Barnes will take over as interim Athletic Director due to the departure of former AD Greg Byrne.

With the news of former Athletic Director Greg Byrne leaving toward Alabama, Erika Barnes has stepped up in the interim.

Barnes was the senior associate athletics director for Arizona Athletics and is stepping into to the interim position on Feb. 1.

“[Greg Byrne] did some incredible things during his career,” Barnes said. “I want to thank him for the opportunity, as a leader, as a mentor, and he is going to be greatly missed by a lot of people in this community.”

Alabama athletic director Bill Battle stepped down due to health reasons, so now Byrne will become Alabama’s new athletic director and rejoin the Southeastern Conference. Just a season ago Byrne’s name was in the mix for the Florida Gators open athletic director position, but he decided to stay with Arizona.

“I think everyone can agree that Greg Byrne is one of the highly touted athletic directors in the country,” Barnes said. “We knew anytime there was a Power Five position open his name was going to be on there for good reason.”

RELATED: Greg Byrne hired as next Alabama AD

Barnes has worked in UA’s athletic program since her college days when she interned at the athletics department’s public relations office. Barnes was hired by Arizona in 2005 and became the senior associate athletics director and the NCAA designated senior woman administrator. 

From 2011 to 2013, Barnes served as the senior associate athletics director for administration and Major Gifts. Barnes is also a member of the Pac-12 Council and has been a color commentator for the IMG radio broadcast for Arizona softball. Barnes played a key role in fundraising five major campaigns that grossed over $145 million.

“We have a great athletics department here; we have a wonderful staff that is very talented, starting with our coaches,” Barnes said. “Our priority is our student athletes, and we have a lot of work to do.”

A former Arizona athlete, Barnes played on Arizona’s 2001 National Championship softball team. She committed to the team in 1996 when Arizona was coming off of another National Championship and in the midst of repeating. As an outfielder/first basemen, she batted a career-high .286 for the year.

That season Arizona started on a 31-game winning streak en route to a 65-4 record. They ended the season on a 26-game winning streak, leading them to finish with a perfect 37-0 at home.  

On the regular season, she started 15 games with a batting average of .271, 13 hits and an on-base percentage of .352.

In high school, Barnes earned an academic letter all four years for having a 3.6 GPA or higher and received the Army Reserve National Scholar Athlete Award.

As a senior at Thousand Oaks, Barnes earned 1997 West Region Louisville Slugger/NFCA High School All-Region Team, first team at first base spot. She batted .457 her senior year and earned L.A. Times Ventura County Player of the Year and Ventura County Coaches Defensive Player of the Year. Barnes was also a three-time team M.V.P. and lettered in soccer for three years.

Her husband, Andy Barnes is also a former Arizona athlete, having played golf for the Wildcats.

Barnes graduated from Arizona in 2001 with a bachelor’s in Communication and earned a spot on the NFCA Scholar-Athlete All-American. She then earned Pac-10 All-Academic honors honorable mention in 2001 for maintaining a 4.0 GPA that semester. In 2010, Barnes earned her M.B.A. at Arizona in the Eller College of Management.

Her marketing savvy and ability to fund raise is high on a checklist of must-haves for an AD. Couple that with her resume, which includes replacing former Interim Athletic Director Rocky LaRose’s position in 2013, and you can see why she is primed to take over an athletic department soon, if not now.

“I just want to focus on this semester,” Barnes said. “As a former athlete here, I have incredible passion for this place.”

Needless to say, Barnes is a Wildcat. She embodies everything that the athletics program tries to instill in their athletes: Work hard on and off the court, represent the program at all times and give back. She has done all three and now sits in a position to display her abilities for not only the athletic director position at Arizona, but to any other school nationwide.

While Byrne will be stepping away from Arizona, he is still committed to making sure the transition goes over as smoothly as possible.

“I look forward to continuing to work with him for the greater good of college athletics,” Barnes said. “I see very much still as a great peer and a great friend to move forward with that.”

For Arizona Athletics, you can do much worse than hiring a former athlete who maintained a GPA above 3.5 and won a title. Although Barnes is currently only a short-term option, it would be wise of the UA to take her seriously as a candidate.

Follow Ivan Leonard on Twitter.

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