Arizona Athletics

Affable Barnes gets call to replace Byrne in interim role at UA

Erika Hanson Barnes talks to media about her role at UA as interim AD.

Erika Hanson Barnes got the call from University of Arizona president Ann Weaver Hart to say she was up to the plate next.

Ready or not, you’re the one who will step in and pinch hit for the now-departed Greg Byrne.

It’s not like she isn’t used to being up at the plate or put into get-a-hit positions, given Hanson Barnes was a standout softball player at UA a couple of decades ago eventually winning a national title in 2001 during her senior year. She too played a few years in the professional softball world.

Not that she needs to hit a home run in her current role, but just maintain what she has long brought to the plate: an affable, unflappable and people-person style. And, well, of course get-it-done approach.

For how long she’ll be in the role is anyone’s guess given it’s just a day removed from the announcement that Byrne is headed to Alabama. He officially was announced in the job there today.

On Monday afternoon, she spoke about her ladder of life to get to where she’s gotten in the athletics world where UA is her centerpiece. It seems to be a meteoric rise (she started in 2005), having started in the UA’s marketing office before moving to the development office and later major gifts. She became a specific sports supervisor (soccer/softball) in addition to her other role. She eventually became a Senior Associate Athletics Director and has overseen many of the sports at UA.

Perhaps most importantly, she is a people person.

She first delayed about talking about herself, deciding to talk about Byrne, the man she worked for since his arrival in 2010. She called him her mentor and “a great peer and a great friend.”

“His time here he did some incredible things during his time here,” she said. “He’s going to be greatly missed by a lot of people in this community.”

Indeed … and that’s for the good, the bad or the indifferent to borrow one of Byrne’s sayings.

She also said, “We have a lot to do” given UA is in the middle of the academic year.

I guess now is the time to say: “Bear Down.” She officially begins Feb. 1.

“I see this as a big group effort from our staff and beyond,” she said.

Her challenges are plenty, whether she’ll have to deal with them or not. Many, of course, may be behind the scenes and with things we are not privy to.

She mentioned academics have never been better at UA, given the overall GPA among athletes. There are always the capital projects that have been ongoing and those that are still planned.

Her interest on removing the interim tag is unclear she said, hoping to main her focus on the here and now and the rest of the semester.

All this has happened so quickly, she said, that it’s still hard to wonder what will happen next. So, this will be a day-to-day experience on that ladder of life.

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