Honoree led department, which earned a conference-high 82 All-Academic honors, to fifth CCAA Commissioners’ Cup crown in nine years

Chico State’s Department of Athletics has enjoyed a rich tradition of success. Its student-athletes excel both in the classroom and in competition. Director of Athletics Anita Barker has been the one constant over the past 17 years, keeping the department moving toward increasingly impressive heights.

Today, the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) named Barker an Under Armour AD of the Year Award (ADOY) winner for the second time in her illustrious tenure as the department’s leader.

Barker will receive the honor during the James J. Corbett Awards Luncheon on Tuesday, June 11, in front of hundreds of friends and colleagues at NACDA’s 54th Annual Convention in Orlando, Florida. She is one of 28 winners across all levels of collegiate athletics and one of three California ADs to earn the honor, joining Kanoe Bandy of Taft Community College and Jim Donovan of California State University, Fullerton.

The ADOY award highlights the efforts of athletics directors at all levels for their commitment and positive contributions to student-athletes, campuses and their surrounding communities.

“The athletics directors who have been recognized as part of the Athletics Director of the Year Program continue to raise the bar as thought leaders and decision makers in college athletics,” said Bob Vecchione, NACDA Chief Executive Officer. “In 2019, we are proud to honor the highest number of female athletics directors with this award in a given year—nine — since the ADOY program was initiated 21 years ago! This is a true testament to the positive changes happening across the landscape of college athletics.”

Barker was also recognized by NACDA as an ADOY in 2010.

Anita wraps her arms around her daughter, who is wearing a Wildcats basketball jersey after a game.
Both of Barker’s children, including McKena Barker, have competed for the Wildcats.

Well into her 17th year as CSU, Chico’s Director of Athletics, Barker has every reason to look back on the last as perhaps her most successful yet.

Barker guided the department through the fee referendum process that preserved the intercollegiate athletics department, began a new visioning process under the direction of a new vice president for Student Affairs, saw her efforts to help bring a Wildcat statue onto campus come to fruition and, most recently, helped guide the department through the three-week campus shutdown due to the Camp Fire, all despite the departure of longtime Associate Director of Athletics Mitch Cox, who became become the interim conference commissioner.

In the meantime, Barker directed a program that earned the California Collegiate Athletic Association’s Robert J. Hiegert Commissioners’ Cup—presented to the most successful department in the CCAA—for the fifth time in nine years. And for the first time ever, all 13 of the department’s programs reached the postseason, leading to a 27th-place finish in the NCAA Division II Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup standings. A few weeks later, the CCAA presented 82 Chico State student-athletes with All-Academic awards for boasting a GPA of 3.40 or higher—the most of any program in the CCAA. Barker also guided the program’s most successful fundraising year to date, in terms of dollars and donors.

“We are proud that NACDA has chosen to honor Anita Barker with this well-deserved award,” said University President Gayle Hutchinson. “I’ve worked with Anita for 29 years. From the moment I met her, I knew she was a woman of integrity committed to building an inclusive athletic environment where all student-athletes thrive.

“Anita sets the tone for the coaches and staff to work together to produce outstanding student-athletes, championship teams and ultimately successful graduates,” Hutchinson continued.

Barker smiles at others sitting with her at a conference table.
Anita Barker (center) listens to visitors from the Chancellor’s Office as they meet with the Student Affairs Leadership Team in March 2018.

Prior to her current position, Barker served as the University’s assistant and then associate athletics director for seven years alongside director of athletics Don Batie.

Barker leads a small support staff and the Wildcats’ coaching staff with a strong vision, clear priorities and a sensational coaching staff that she is responsible for hiring. There is little turnover in the department due to her leadership style. People who work for Anita rarely leave.

“When you talk about Wildcat Family, which is very real and what makes this place go, you’re talking about a tone that Anita sets. She is at the center of the family,” Chico State women’s soccer head coach Kim Sutton said. “She’s the one who created this environment of inclusion. All of the coaches feel valued. Every program matters. And she proves that with her actions, not just her words. She works harder than anyone here, and that unwavering passion makes you feel more committed and engaged and strengthens the family bond we have.”

Barker’s vast knowledge of Division II and the CCAA is a boon not only for her staff, but also her colleagues, who often call upon her for advice.

“Anita serves NCAA Division II, the D2 Athletics Director Association, the CCAA and, most importantly, Chico State, with the perfect balance of character, professionalism, and competitive spirit,” Cal State Monterey Bay Director of Athletics Kirby Garry said. “No one is more deserving of this honor. Her dedication, care and concern for the AD profession is unmatched. I feel lucky to call her a mentor, friend, and colleague in the CCAA. She is an example of what we all should strive to be as leaders in our campus communities.”

Barker’s example of hard work, determination and success is inspiring to her staff. She provides the resources and space needed for each person to do their very best work, and it challenges everyone who works for her to produce at the highest level.

Anita cuts down a basketball net from its frame.
Barker cuts down a net after the men’s basketball team won the 2015–16 CCAA Championships—one of 77 CCAA titles the Wildcats have won.

Her impact does not stop at the staff and coaching level. According to student-athlete Devon Morones, she also sets an important tone for the student-athletes.

“I will always remember the way Anita addresses every team before the season and lays down clear expectations about what it means to be a part of the Wildcat Family,” said the four-year letter-winner and senior captain on this year’s soccer team. “She made it clear that we are students first, and at the same time, her competitive nature really fired us up to go out and represent the University on the pitch.”
 
Barker graduated from Ohio Northern University in 1985 and received her master’s degree from the University of Arizona in Tucson in 1987. She came to Chico State in 1990 as an athletic trainer and has worked at all three divisions in the NCAA.
 
Barker and her husband, Scott, the Wildcats’ head athletic trainer, have two children, Luke (a former Chico State student-athlete currently pitching in the Milwaukee Brewers farm system) and McKena, who recently finished a five-year run as a member of Chico State women’s basketball program.