Each Friday during the 2017-18 academic year, the conference office will release a SCAC Spotlight feature story. For the first 15 weeks, the focus of these feature stories will be former student-athletes who played at an SCAC institution and went on to become head coaches in the conference.
In this, the fifth SCAC Spotlight feature, we sit down with head men's and women's cross country and track & field coach Matt Barber of the University of Dallas. Barber, a native of Fort Worth, Texas, obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Theology from UD in May 2013, and was a two-year letterwinner for the men's track & field program.
Matt Barber is no stranger to the University of Dallas Athletics. Barber, once a cross country runner for the Crusaders now turned into the head coach for the same program he was once part of.
Feeling “really lucky” in his role, Barber got a few of his coaching techniques from the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference, which he competed in for his last two years of college.
Barber didn’t truly get into track until the end of his junior year in high school, when he realized he wasn’t going to college to play basketball. Into his senior year of high school, Barber knew he was good at track and started to look at universities with track programs. At that time, Division III schools were the only real options to allow him to compete since he blossomed so late into the sport.
Already interested in the University of Dallas for academic reasons, UD was also interested in his athletic abilities. Attracted to everything UD had to offer, Barber was hooked to the Crusaders.
Fast forward four years to 2013 and picture Barber walking across the graduation stage with a degree in Theology.
His path to coaching started at the high school level immediately after graduation. Barber was a theology teacher and high school track and field assistant coach for one year before a head coaching gig at his alma mater became available.
Barber said UD likes hiring alums, which gave him a leg up in his competition for the job. They also like when their alums take time away from campus to explore other options first before coming back, another “completed” checkmark for Barber.
Barber joked he must’ve sold UD on this because they offered him a job.
As a Division III athlete and now a Division III coach, Barber loves everything the division offers.
Into his fourth season as a head coach, Barber relates to some of his students on academic levels as well as athletic.
“Each coach has their own unique talents,” Barber said. “In this environment, I have a unique appeal because I have taken many of the classes that they have taken.”
Also unique to Coach Barber, is competing in the same conference as his current student athletes. The SCAC gave Barber some of his best memories in the sport such as a moment in the SCAC Track and Field Championship.
The fondest memory was when Barber and Andrew Archer from Birmingham Southern were neck and neck in the 200 meter finals race at the 2012 SCAC Championship. Barber and Archer’s finish was looked at over and over in the replay booth and the officials determined Archer beat Barber by “a hair of a tenth of a second.”
“It was heartbreaking,” Barber laughed. “But it was really cool, they had to go to the replay booth to see who crossed just a hair before the other one.”
Barber’s credits his journey into coaching to the experiences he took while being a student-athlete and advises others to do the same.
“Find a school you can really believe in,” Barber said. “So that when you’re out recruiting, your student athletes can then follow in that coaches footsteps.”
Previous SCAC Spotlights: