ASHEVILLE, N.C. – Longtime Carson-Newman athletic director David Barger was inducted into the South Atlantic Conference Hall of Fame in a ceremony Thursday night at the conference's annual banquet at the Hilton Asheville Biltmore Park.
Barger enters the hall of fame with Catawba women's soccer player Catey Conner and former Mars Hill cross country runner Brock Bailey.
For more than three decades, David Barger was the driving force of Carson-Newman athletics. A 1970 C-N graduate, Barger returned to his alma mater in 1980 as Director of Athletic Promotions then Director of Athletic Development before being named AD in 1990.
"When I look at the hall of fame from the conference standpoint and think of what C-N has achieved in the SAC," Barger said. "Your peer institutions bring out the best in you and it's been fun to watch us go at it with others on the field of competition against competition in one of the premiere Division II leagues in America."
Under Barger's guidance, Carson-Newman built one of the SAC's most well-rounded athletic departments, led by a national power football program that won NAIA national titles in 1983, 1984, 1986, 1988 and 1989, and reached the NCAA Division II championship game three times from 1996 through 1999. He was instrumental in transitioning Eagles athletics from NAIA to Division II in 1993.
"It's not about me," Barger said. "It's about Carson-Newman. Carson-Newman as an institution puts you in a position with her good name to be successful."
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He helped lead Carson-Newman to several "firsts" as an athletic department within the SAC. Barger saw C-N become the first SAC school to qualify for postseason play in the NCAA when football went to the playoffs in 2003. He named the league's first Senior Women's Administrator when he appointed current softball coach Vickee Kazee-Hollfield to the post in which she still serves.
Barger was also on board when Carson-Newman became the first SAC institution to have a sport other than football advance to an NCAA Final Four when women's soccer made the trip in 2004 and 2005.
For as much on-the-field success that occurred during Barger's tenure, he also made certain the Eagles were doing things the right way off it. He made Carson-Newman the first to request the NCAA Compliance Blueprint Audit to review the institution's internal operation to make certain that it complied with all rules of the NCAA.
"He's a man of integrity and Christian principles," Kazee-Hollifield said. "He never wavers, that was always first and foremost with him. In tough economic times he was able to take our athletic department to new heights and beyond. His loyalty to the Eagles was as strong on his first day as AD as his last."
Barger's Carson-Newman tenure included SAC Echols Athletic Excellence Awards in 2003, 2004, 2006 and 2010. C-N student-athletes earned SAC Presidents Awards and SAC Athlete of the Year Awards – the league's most prestigious individual honors – eight times under his watch. His career saw participation in intercollegiate athletics at the school increase 20 percent.
"He has the love and passion for winning," Kazee-Hollifield said. "But he also cared more about winning in the game of life for all our student athletes."
Barger also had an ear for the media coverage that Carson-Newman received in the Knoxville, Tenn.-area as Director of Athletic Promotions. Five of his hires as Voice of the Eagles went on to announce at the Division I level (Stan Cotton – Wake Forest; Steve Cotton – Marshall; Bobby Rader – The Vol Network; Jim Freeman – Miami, Ohio and Tulane; and Zeke Beam – Charleston Southern).
"It was my privilege to sit in the AD's seat and help direct coaches day in and day out in a peak league like the South Atlantic Conference," Barger said.
Since his retirement in 2012, Barger has continued to serve in an advisory role at Carson-Newman as Athletics Director Emeritus.
"David's influence for both Carson-Newman and the South Atlantic Conference is long lasting and he leaves a legacy that will be around for years to come," Morgan said. "I'm proud to be one of the literally thousands of people who call David Barger a friend."
Barger also was enshrined in Carson-Newman's Hall of Fame earlier this year.
He is the 11th Eagle to enter into the SAC's hall of fame.
Carson-Newman SAC Hall of Fame Inductees
Class of 1999-200
Albert R. Sloan – College Administrator
Cordell Maddox – President
Class of 2002-03
Todd Collins – Football
Class of 2003-04
Heather Randolph – Softball
Class of 2005-06
Boyce Green – Football
Class of 2006-07
Ken Sparks – Football coach
Carol Zachary Mitchell – Softball
Class of 2007-08
Danny Sanders – Football
Class of 2008-09
Leah Jackson Smith – Women's Basketball
Class of 2011-12
Sammi Hatcher Chafin – Softball
Class of 2012-13
David Barger – Athletic Director