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CU legend Ceal Barry announces her retirement

Barry retired in April 2005 as CU’s winningest coach in all sports, recording a 427-242 record over 22 seasons that included 12 NCAA tournament appearances.
Credit: CU Boulder

BOULDER, Colo. — It's the end of an era in Boulder. 

CU legend Ceal Barry announced her retirement on Tuesday afternoon in a release from the school. 

It reads as follows: 

Legendary University of Colorado coach and administrator Ceal Barry announced her retirement Tuesday, effective July 1, after 43 years in college athletics, including the last 37 on CU’s Boulder campus.

Barry took the reins of the women’s basketball team on April 12, 1983 and built the program into a national power.  After retiring from coaching following the 2004-05 season, she was named CU’s associate athletic director for student services and then a year later also senior woman’s administrator (SWA). She has been the department’s deputy athletic director since August 1, 2018. She retires as the fifth-longest employee in CU athletic department history.

“It’s the right time. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time in intercollegiate athletics, and I couldn’t have picked a better place than the University of Colorado to spend the vast majority of my career,” Barry said in the release. “It was a perfect fit – CU, Boulder, Colorado.  Not everybody gets to stay at the same place for 37 years.

“I couldn’t be more grateful to all the chancellors, athletic directors, so many support staff, the fans, and of course, the student-athletes.”

She worked for six athletics directors, hired by the late Eddie Crowder as head coach at the age of just 27, and went on to work under Bill Marolt, Dick Tharp, Jack Lengyel, Mike Bohn and Rick George (and in fact served as the interim AD between Bohn and George).  She credited all of them in looking back over her career.

“I grew as a professional from the guidance of all the directors, so I have been very fortunate,” she said.  “I spent over half my life in a beautiful place, a great community and in a department that mentored me from a young coach to a senior level administrator.  It was a privilege to remain at CU for 15 years after retiring from coaching and be involved in so many aspects of athletics and working to make a variety of things better for the student-athlete.”

“I can’t express what Ceal has meant to this University, department and to me personally,” George said. “Ceal has represented all of us in such a dignified way throughout her career. She has accomplished more than most as both a coach and then as an administrator and has had a career that will leave its mark on CU for years to come.

“She and I worked together in the late 80’s and she was the first person I saw when I came back as the AD in 2013,” he continued.  “Ceal is a dear friend and an incredible confidant.  She will be greatly missed but she will always have a home in our athletic department.”

Barry retired in April 2005 as CU’s winningest coach in all sports, recording a 427-242 record over 22 seasons that included 12 NCAA tournament appearances, including advancing to the Sweet 16 on six occasions and to the Elite 8 three times.  

Her teams posted 13 20-win seasons, won four conference championships and became a regular in the nation’s top 25, including a run of 140 straight games from the end of the 1991-92 season into the ’96-97 season.  She was the Big Eight coach of the year on four occasions, also earning the district nod twice.

Including four years as head coach at Cincinnati, her career record was 510-284; she was the 24th coach at the time to win 500 games.  After a four-year career as a player at the University of Kentucky, Cincinnati hired Barry as an assistant coach for her first foray into coaching, and two years later at the age of 24, made her the youngest Division I head coach in the nation.

She remained heavily involved in basketball after her coaching days, working five years for Fox Sports Net/ROOT Sports as a color analyst for men’s and women’s basketball games, mostly CU contests, but including a handful of regional games, and also for CBS College Sports for the WNIT semifinals and championship games.  She has been a member of the NCAA’s Division I Women’s Championship Committee the last three years.

Her first season at Colorado was officially the first year the Big Eight Conference sponsored women’s basketball; she remained at the helm when the league merged with four Southwestern Conference schools to form the Big 12 in 1996 and then helped transition CU’s move into the Pac-12 Conference in 2011.

CU Boulder chancellor Phil DiStefano was at the university in some capacity during her entire time at the school.

“Ceal Barry’s positive impact on our student-athletes and this university have proven immeasurable, both as a coach and an administrator,” DiStefano said.  “Her legacy is one of an innovator, mentor and pioneer whose work elevated the opportunities for female athletes and inspired countless student-athletes to reach their full potential both on and off the court.”

Barry was inducted into the Sportswomen of Colorado Hall of Fame in 1994, the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame in 2006, CU’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2010 and into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2018. 

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