CHARLESTON – Called “a coach's AD,” Barbara Burke is leaving the Eastern Illinois athletic director's job to become the deputy director of athletics/chief operating officer at Tulane.
“She's the best I've ever been around,” EIU men's basketball coach Jay Spoonhour said. “Obviously when you lose someone like that it's going to be a change. But I have confidence in our administration they will find some good candidates.
“In terms of a coach, she was an AD who let you do your job. She tried to give you what you needed and then let you work. I think she is very good. I'm obviously appreciative of the opportunity.”
First-year softball coach Angie Nicholson said, “I think it is a big loss. When I got here at Eastern Illinois I thought she was a great lady. I'm going to miss her. I understand the opportunity. I think she understood our game.”
A former softball and basketball player at Western Michigan and then a coach, Burke is in her sixth year as EIU's athletic director after a long tenure as a senior administrator at Wyoming.
“I am so appreciative of the opportunity to lead the Eastern Illinois athletic program for the past six years,” Burke said in an EIU release. “I want to thank President (William) Perry and Dr. (Dan) Nadler for this chance to lead an NCAA Division I program," Burke said. "It has been an incredible and exciting run. I'm proud of the progress that has been made but realize none of the success would have been made possible without the support of the coaches, staff and community volunteers who give unselfishly with their time and talents."
Burke two years ago went through the hectic time hiring a new football coach to replace retiring Bob Spoo, a men's basketball coach to replace the fired Mike Miller and a new women's basketball coach to replace Brady Sallee who left for Ball State.
Dino Babers, hired as football coach in December of 2011, coached the Panthers to two Ohio Valley Conference championships and playoff berths before landing a job at Bowling Green.
Sallee's replacement Lee Buchanan resigned after one season and former WNBA All-Star Debbie Black just completed her first year as the head women's basketball coach.
Now EIU is to start looking to replace Burke as the athletic director.
"The one good thing about it is and I've only been here for a couple of the years she's been here but I think she has our athletic department to the point where there will be some good candidates who want it," Spoonhour said. "I think she's made it an attractive position."
In addition to her role as athletic director at EIU, Burke also serves as the Chair of the NCAA Women's Basketball Rules committee and on the NCAA Championships cabinet.
During her tenure as athletic director Eastern Illinois has won three of the last four Ohio Valley Conference Commissioners' Cups while finishing second in the standings the two other years. The Panthers currently lead the OVC standings following completion of the winter championship sports season.
"Barbara Burke has provided great leadership, raising the bar in Panther Athletics in all areas, athletically, academically and in student-athlete relationships," EIU President William Perry said. "I will miss her leadership, but wish her the best in this next step in her career."
Dan Nadler, EIU's vice president for student affairs, said
"I am grateful for having worked closely with Barbara for the past six years and am so proud and impressed with the academic and athletic success that was the result of her leadership. As a former administrator at Tulane myself, Barbara is a perfect fit for this leadership opportunity. I will miss her at Eastern."
At Tulane, Burke is to oversee the day-to-day operations of the Green Wave athletic program in its transition into becoming a new member of the American Athletic Conference next academic year.
"I am excited about this new opportunity at Tulane," Burke said. "I know that I was afforded this opportunity because of the work that we have done at Eastern Illinois during my tenure. I will miss the coaches, staff and community friendships that I have developed over the last six years. I want to personally thank everyone for their support and wish EIU nothing but the best,"