The numbers were starting to add up for Ceal Barry.
This past year, she turned 65. The 2019-20 academic year also marked Barry’s 15th as an administrator at the University of Colorado following a Hall of Fame coaching career as the leader of the Buffaloes’ women’s basketball program.
Barry admits she has been kicking around the whole retirement thing since last fall. Still, those numbers didn’t quite equate to a solution for Barry until the CU athletic department, along with everything else associated with NCAA athletics, was shut down two months ago amid the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Eventually, Barry decided the time was right. And on Tuesday, 37 years and one month after she arrived in Boulder, Barry announced her retirement effective July 1.
“It was a combination of things. A nice round number of 15 years in administration. Turning 65,” Barry said. “Still having a body that moves so I can hike and bike and play golf and do the things I love. And I’d have to say this whole scenario with the virus and adjusting to being at home this much, it felt like the right time to transition. It’s a good time to transition a new person.”
Barry was hired on April 12, 1983 by former athletic director Eddie Crowder when she was just 27. She promptly embarked on a career that made her the winningest coach in any sport in CU history.
In 22 seasons leading the women’s basketball squad, Barry compiled a record of 427-242 with 12 NCAA Tournament appearances. Barry’s teams advanced to the Sweet 16 six times and reached the Elite 8 three times. Barry’s CU squads recorded 13 20-win seasons while building a powerhouse program that was ranked in the top 25 for 140 consecutive games from the end of the 1991-92 season into the 1996-97 season.
Barry won the Big Eight Conference Coach of the Year honor four times. Including four seasons as a head coach at Cincinnati prior to her arrival at CU, Barry’s career coaching record stands at 510-284. When Barry won her 500th game — a 75-56 victory against Kansas on Feb. 24, 2004 — she became the 24th women’s basketball coach to reach that plateau.
“I can’t express what Ceal has meant to this university, department and to me personally,” athletic director Rick George said in a statement. “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 80s and she was the first person I saw when I came back as the AD in 2013. 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.”
After hanging up her coaching whistle following the 2004-05 season, Barry moved seamlessly into a career in administration, taking a position as CU’s associate athletic director. A year later she added the role of senior women’s administrator to her responsibilities, and in 2018 she was promoted to deputy athletic director. Barry also served as CU’s interim athletic director in between the tenures of Mike Bohn and George.
Barry’s decorated career landed her in the CU athletics Hall of Fame (2010), the Sportswomen of Colorado Hall of Fame (1994), the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame (2006), and the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame (2018).
“I worked for six ADs in 37 years, and every single one of them were good mentors,” Barry said. “Especially when I was younger and not from this part of the country. Those ADs that I had were patient, and let me get away with a few things while they were patient with me in the 80s and the 90s. And then I would say the same thing about Mike Bohn and Rick. I was not a career administrator. Going from coaching, where you’re used to a different pace, I was just fortunate to be around a lot of people who gave me room to make mistakes.”