NEW BRITAIN - For Brian Barrio, Central Connecticut State University is home.
The Old Lyme native was officially announced as the Blue Devils’ new director of athletics Thursday, ending a 10-month vacancy after the departure of Paul Schlickmann, who held the job for seven years, to Fairfield University in September. Barrio’s tenure will start Aug. 10.
“I’m thrilled,” Barrio told the Herald. “I’m honored to have the opportunity to be a Division I athletic director. There are only 347 of them in the country, and to be that at a place where I grew up and came and watched games means 10 times more.”
It also means Barrio will be returning to the place where he got his start in the athletics administration field.
Currently the senior associate director of athletics for intercollegiate service at the University of Nevada-Reno, Barrio was a compliance intern with CCSU back in the summer of 2003. He also spent time at Ohio State University, Pepperdine University, the University of Southern California, and both the America East Conference and the Ivy League, where he had a variety of roles ranging from compliance to budget expenditure.
In his role with the Blue Devils, Barrio will oversee the athletics department’s 16 varsity sports and nearly 400 student-athletes.
“Brian’s objectives and priorities for CCSU and our athletics department stood out to the committee and myself during the search process,” University president Zulma Toro said in a statement. “We are excited to welcome him back to Connecticut, and we are confident that he will build upon the successful foundation of our Blue Devils athletics tradition.”
Barrio’s familiarity with budgets comes at a crucial time for CCSU. The school recently dropped it men’s and women’s golf teams and will phase in the elimination of 35.5 scholarships, which, according to the school, will save about $2 million annually.
The new athletic director, though, said he is up for the challenge. At Nevada, a school that ranks 11th out of 12 schools in the Mountain West Conference in budgets, Barrio was a key part of the University’s senior management team that opened a $3 million, state-of-the-art men’s basketball facility. He also worked closely with donors and been involved in fundraising for various capital improvement and operational campaigns.
“I view [CCSU’s budget] as an issue that affects every institution in some degree or another,” Barrio said. “Other than the power 5 schools, which has the TV money, every school is dealing with this. We’re going to be responsible stewards of the funds we do have and make good choices and do a great job of fundraising. I’m very optimistic about the direction of this university.”
At the same time, Barrio said he wouldn’t have taken the job if he was not impressed with the administrative and coaching staff already in place. The Blue Devils have won 30 NEC titles since 2007-08.
“I’m really impressed with the coaches and the student-athletes,” Barrio said. “They were winning championships with a lot of turmoil going on in the department. I think they’re in a great position within their conference. There’s not a dominant school. You have a bunch of schools on a level playing field and coaches that are the right fit for collegiate athletics. I know we’re going to do great.”
Barrio has already started reaching out to the people in the CCSU community regarding the future, both short and long term. He wants the athletics department to be accessible and engaged in the New Britain community as a whole. He wants others to view it as he does.
“In the immediate term, I just want to listen to student-athletes and donors, faculty and administrators and see how everyone views Central athletics, what we want to change,” Barrio said. “You can’t make long-term plans or goal until you have that information. But it’s a lot easier to interact with the community when you’re one of them and not an outside. I want to immediately foster a sense of pride in the school. I want people to be excited about Central.”
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org