Anita Barker takes a victory lap


Anita Barker is one of nine women ever selected for the Division II West Region Athletic Director of the Year Award. She has worked for Chico State for 17 years alongside her husband, Scott Barker, the head athletic trainer. Photo credit: Olyvia Simpson

The job of an athletic director is often thankless. There’s a lot of work behind the scenes that go unnoticed.

However, this is not the case for Chico State’s Athletic Director, Anita Barker. Due to Barker’s constant hard work and the rejection of mediocrity, she has been honored as the Division II West Region Athletic Director of The Year for the second time in her prestigious career.

Barker has been the athletic director for the Chico State Wildcats for 17 years. Under her stewardship, the athletics department has flourished and has constantly been in the upper echelon of Division II programs in the country.

“At the end of the day, my job is to make sure that we run a program here that is competitive and provides opportunities for our student-athletes,” Barker said. “But is also run with integrity, fiscal responsibility and within the values and priorities that the university holds.”

Barker last received the Athletic Director of the Year award in 2009-10. When asked to reflect on which year’s award meant more to her, she couldn’t quite decide.

“I don’t think I can pick between the two, I think last year, for a variety of reasons, was a very hard year for our campus and department,” Barker said. “There were a lot of challenges that we had to work our way through, so to be recognized after a year like that and then also to know last year was our most successful on record with all thirteen of our programs making it to the postseason, it’s special.”

Anita Barker head shot-1.JPG
Anita Barker
Athletic Director
Photographed on Wednesday, September 7, 2016, in Chico, Calif.
(Jason Halley/University Photographer) Photo credit: Jason Halley – University Photographer

“The one thing that has changed dramatically in the space of time between awards is that not a lot of people knew in 2010, cause we didn’t have social media as we do now. To say it’s been a little overwhelming this second time around is an understatement. So I couldn’t pick but in different ways, they’re both very special.”

Being the leader of such a successful athletics program comes with more than its fair share of difficulties.

“The hardest part of being in a position of executive leadership is that it’s a 24/7, 365-day job,” she said. “It’s not special in that sense, we live in a world that’s 24/7, 365 and my business isn’t any different. So you’re always on, and at Chico especially, you’re always on.”

Those difficulties, however, only make the victories and thrills sweeter. When she sees the athletes she has helped nurture walk across the stage in May, it all becomes worth it.

“To be able to engage with the student-athletes, watch them fight through challenges, stand on the podium at the end of their seasons and then walk across that stage in May is the most rewarding part of the job,” Barker said. “I’m a firm believer in the Division II mindset. We are students and we are athletes and yes, I like to win just like everybody else likes to win, but for me, a win is when those students recognize that they’re here for a degree that’s going to carry them a long way - farther than whatever they get out of their athletic accolades.”

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Milton Lang (VPSA), Anita Barker, and President Gayle Hutchinson (right) stand behind the 2017-18 Robert J. Hiegert Commissioner’s Cup trophy on Monday, September 24, 2018, in Chico, Calif.
(Jason Halley/University Photographer/CSU Chico) Photo credit: Jason Halley – University Photographer

Being one of only nine women selected for this award and one of three recipients in California, Barker acknowledges and accepts the pressure and expectations that accompany it.

“There are not a lot of women in college athletics. That’s one of the fields whether you talk about administration or coaching, where it’s very difficult for women to sustain involvement.” Barker said. “I do firmly believe that it’s my responsibility as a female athletic director to talk about the fact that I’m one of the few. I think we as women have to own that, we have to recognize that when we’re in this chair we have to understand that maybe folks are paying a little more attention because of the fact there’s not very many of us.”

Clearly, the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics got this year’s award-winner right. And Chico State athletics can be proud of where they’re headed while Barker is leading the way.


Noah Andrews can be reached at [email protected] or @SPORTSFROMNOAH on Twitter.