NEW BRITAIN - When Brian Barrio was asked by New Britain native and Central Connecticut State University alum Paul Gianaris why he’s interested in the vacant athletic director job opening at CCSU, Barrio made it real simple: He was right at home.
“If this was Sacramento State, if this was Cal State Northridge, I’m not interviewing here right now,” Barrio said in response. “And those are the kinds of jobs people will call me about. I’m not going to those places. I’m from Connecticut, I’m a Connecticut guy, I call sandwiches grinders, and I wear a [Hartford] Whalers hat to Lake Tahoe. I’ve wanted to come back here for a long time. I don’t want to be here for two years or three years, I want to come here and really do something special. I believe in this school.”
Central Connecticut was the school that believed in the Old Lyme native back in 2003, when he was seeking his first job in the athletics administration field. That summer he served as an athletics compliance intern for the school.
He wants everyone in the state to not only know of Central Connecticut, but also spend time on the campus.
“I think it’s important that athletics is reaching out into Connecticut and bringing people to this campus,” Barrio said. “There should be no middle school student or high school student in the state of Connecticut who hasn’t spent time here. Athletics can be a place where that happens.”
That love for the state and the area resonated with the crowd.
“I think [Barrio] probably has a better ability to understand and relate to the CCSU community,” CCSU Associate Professor in Athletic Training Peter Morano said. “[Michael Waddell] seemed to have a broader experience fundraising, but I don’t know if the personality meshed as well as the candidate today.”
Barrio has held numerous jobs in the field, most recently as senior associate athletics director for intercollegiate services at the University of Nevada-Reno.
One thing Barrio emphasized is that the budget issue facing Central Connecticut is an extensive one.
“You’ve got obvious resource challenges here,” Barrio said. “And that’s not a Central Connecticut issue. That is an NCAA issue and a higher education issue. That’s not going to go away.”
However, there are steps to be taken that Barrio believes will overshadow the negatives of the budget issues.
“There are areas where we can be the best in the Northeast Conference without spending a ton of money,” he said. “One of those areas is social media. And when you talk to student athletes and prospects today, it is critically important that we are on the leading edge in social media. And that’s something you can do at very low cost.”
To shine a light on the budgeting challenges Central Connecticut is faced with, Barrio pointed to the school where he currently works.
“Nevada is 11th out of the 12 Mountain West schools in budget,” Barrio said. “So I know that you can be relatively low resourced and succeed. I think that’s an important thing to know when I’m here.”
Asked what he would want people to say about him at his 10 year anniversary on the job if he gets it, Barrio’s focus wasn’t solely on success on the field.
“When I look at athletics and I think as myself as an administrator, I’m an educator first,” Barrio said. “I know that’s not a popular view in athletics. I put a lot of time and money into my own education. I know how much that means to students who are athletes for us now. At Nevada and Central Connecticut, the vast majority of our students are going to go have to get a job with the degree that they get. So I want to make that a priority for them and I want to make it a priority for our coaches that we’re developing athletes as people that are academics first.”
His focus on academics stood out to some in the crowd.
“I think he has some good ideas that will help the athletic department and the coaches do a better job,” Gianaris said. “I like the fact that his priority is to educate these kids and have them leave the school with a good education and the sports come secondary to it.”
Steve Villanti will be the third and final candidate for the job to be at the school and he will be at Torp Theater for his public forum today at 2 p.m.
Dan Orencole can be reached at 860-973-1811, or firstname.lastname@example.org