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Arizona interim AD Erika Hanson Barnes unsure if she will pursue long-term position

The former Wildcat softball player is going to be learning on the fly, while also deciding whether or not she wants to be in the running for the job.

The University of Arizona has announced that there will be a national search for the school’s next athletic director, but could that person actually come from right in their own backyard?

Former Wildcat softball player Erika Hanson Barnes will officially take over as the interim athletic director on February 1st, but does she have her sights set on making this more than an interim gig?

Well, it’s too early to know.

“I don’t know yet at this point,” she said when asked what her interest level is. “I really just want to focus on this semester and for however long this position might be.”

She has a couple things working in her favor if she tries to garner support from the Arizona fanbase. The biggest thing is obviously being a former student-athlete at Arizona, and being on the 2001 National Championship softball team.

This gives her a passion for the university that many people are hoping to see from the person that does wind up permanently replacing Greg Byrne.

“As an athlete here, I have an incredible passion for this place, and I get emotional when I think about it,” she explained. “I was recruited by Coach (Mike) Candrea from Southern California, and this is a wonderful place to work. I had such a positive experience here as a student-athlete, I had left for some other opportunities in between, and when the opportunity came in 2005 to come back, I wanted to have a role in giving student-athletes a positive experience just like I had here.”

Barnes graduated from Arizona in 2001, and went on to work for Fox Sports and the National Pro Fastpitch League among other opportunities before returning to Tucson in 2005.

Arizona feels like a place that should only be seriously considering people that have proven themselves as an athletic director at another major university, which would preclude her from consideration. But she has spent a considerable amount of time learning from Byrne, who is one of the most highly-regarded people in the business, as evidenced by Alabama swooping in to grab him.

“One of the biggest attributes Greg has is that he truly cares about people,” Barnes said of what stood out from working with Byrne. “I think we got along great because of that, because he cares about these coaches, he cares about these student-athletes. He got teary-eyed in a presentation to some of our student-athletes last week because he truly does care.”

“I think from the top-down, if you love what you’re doing, it’s easy to go to work in the morning.”

It will be interesting to see what Barnes is able to do in her time as interim A.D., and if she decides to seriously pursue the opportunity beyond just having that interim tag attached to her name.