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Ceal Barry didn’t just raise the bar for CU Buffs. She shattered glass ceilings along the way.

She took over the Buff’s women’s hoops program in 1983 and spent the next 22 years raising the bar

Ceal Barry retired in 2020 as University of Colorado’s athletics administrator and women’s basketball coach. Barry was photographed in the backyard of her home in Boulder on May 28, 2020.
Ceal Barry retired in 2020 as University of Colorado’s athletics administrator and women’s basketball coach. Barry was photographed in the backyard of her home in Boulder on May 28, 2020.
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Ceal Barry wears her scars proudly. You don’t shatter that many glass ceilings without a few cuts along the way.

“To be able to stay in one place a long time, you have to navigate a lot of landmines,” the iconic former CU Buffs women’s basketball coach said recently. “And when you’re fighting for equity as I have, you have a few bruises, let me tell you. I have a few scars. It hasn’t always been easy.”

But it’s been fulfilling. Few coaches in Buffs history left a legacy as profound as Barry, who took over the women’s hoops program in 1983 and spent the next 22 years raising the bar.

Barry won a school-record 422 games, four regular-season Big Eight titles and five Big Eight/Big 12 tourney crowns. CU reached the NCAA Tournament 12 times, reaching the Sweet 16 on six occasions and the Elite Eight three times.

“It was trendy, it was popular. People were into the sports because of the product that was on the floor,” said the 67-year-old Barry, who retired in 2020 after more than four decades at CU, the last 15 as an administrator.

“Our kids played hard, they played smart and they were having fun, usually. People wanted to watch us play and then when we got into the momentum of late February, early March, when tournament time came around, they know they played a role.

“I think, for me, (I’m proud of) the fact that we were relevant and we were entertainment — not just for Boulder, but the entire state of Colorado.”

Barry left a mark on other CU sports as well, serving as the senior women’s administrator from spring 2005 until her retirement in July 2020. She served the athletic department in various roles over that span, including a stint as interim athletic director in 2013.

Which is one reason fans in Boulder still reach out to say thanks. Not just for the bruises. For the joy.

“I hear from people all the time,” Barry recalled. “I was walking the dog the other day and two women came by and said, ‘I used to watch you all the time.’ Yeah, it’s fulfilling to know that you made a difference.

“I think, as an administrator, I tried to emphasize, so many times, in senior-level meetings, that (box-office success) has already happened everywhere. There’s already been sellouts for women’s sports. That if it can happen one time, it can, and will, happen again.

“It was just a great time.”

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