Before They Worked Here, They Played Here: Employees Share Their Student-Athlete Memories
Before they took over offices across campus, plenty of UA employees could be found on campus fields, courts and tracks, representing the University as members of its athletics teams. In honor of Homecoming 2013, LQP caught up with some employees who have deep roots in the UA's athletic traditions from their days as student-athletes.
Erika Hanson Barnes, Senior Associate Athletics Director for Administration and Major Gifts
While playing softball for the UA, Hanson Barnes met her husband, Andy Barnes, who also was a student-athlete and now works as assistant men's golf coach for the UA. Their wedding party included three UA golfers, five softball players, one female swimmer and three male swimmers; head softball coach Mike Candrea and head golf coach Rick LaRose spoke at the reception.
Sport: Softball, 1997-2001
Position: First base
What you were studying at the time: Communication
Fondest memory from being a UA athlete: It has to be winning the National Championship in 2001, my senior year.
How you transitioned from student to employee: I had such a positive experience as a student-athlete that I wanted to return to college athletics – specifically, Arizona Athletics – as I hope to make a positive impact on the lives of our student-athletes, as well as fans, supporters and colleagues.
Favorite thing about working at the UA: The opportunity to work with wonderful people as well as support student-athletes to compete at the highest level.
Dawn Boxley, Director of Operations for UA Track and Field
Boxley, a former UA sprinter, has been with the UA track and field program for 17 years as an employee, starting as an assistant coach before moving into her current position. She says she appreciates being part of the Wildcat family. Her former coach, Fred Harvey, is now her boss.
Sport: Track and Field, 1991-1996
Event you ran: 100- and 200-meter relays
What you were studying at the time: Exercise Science
Fondest memory from being a UA athlete: The people and friendships, and competing in the red and blue.
How you transitioned from student to employee: I asked my coach what I should major in if I wanted to be a coach; he told me exercise science and that is why I went that route. My first year out of college, he asked me to be a volunteer assistant coach so that I could gain experience. The following year I was hired as an assistant. In the beginning I was coaching a lot of athletes I competed with, but the transition was smooth because there was a lot of mutual respect. I coached for 14 years, then transitioned into another position, director of operations for track and field. The first year was tough, but I really have learned to love my new position.
Favorite thing about working at the UA: Working with all of the amazing people in the department, and still being involved with the athletes.
James Francis, Senior Associate Director of Athletics
The UA grew on Francis, a California native, so much during his time as a student-athlete that he ended up making Tucson his permanent home. He played football during coach Dick Tomey's era and was part of the "Desert Swarm" defense known for its tough, aggressive plays.
Sport played: Football, 1990-1993
Position: Position on defense was free safety, but I played mostly on special teams.
What you were studying at the time: Political Science and Business
Fondest memory from being a UA athlete: Wow, that's tough. It has to be the entire experience. I know that's somewhat of a copout, but thinking back, I was really fortunate. Beginning with making the team as a walk-on, earning a scholarship, being around Desert Swarm, finding some playing time on a team that was the Pac-10 co-champions, and playing in the Fiesta Bowl …. I'm lucky and have a lot of great memories. But if I have to pick just one moment to share, it would be traveling to Ohio State in 1991. It was my first road trip, they were ranked No. 2 in the country, and there were 97,000 fans packing the stadium. About halfway through pre-game warm ups, the moment hits me, and I'll never forget looking around and thinking to myself, "How did I get here?" It was awesome, and I'll never forget it.
Do you still follow any UA sports? Of course! All of them!
How you transitioned from student to employee: I decided to walk-on to the football team at the University of Arizona. Being a walk-on is tough, but I wouldn't trade the experience. I was fortunate to eventually earn a scholarship. Being a part of the Arizona football team gave me a great appreciation for what the student-athlete experience can and should be – an incredible opportunity. After graduation and a short time away from the University, I realized I wanted to work on a college campus. It's such a dynamic environment, and naturally I was drawn to athletics. I volunteered in the department to get started, went to graduate school, and was fortunate to get a job at Arizona when I graduated. It's hard to believe I’m now in my 17th year with Intercollegiate Athletics. I'm more fired up than ever about my job.
Favorite thing about working at the UA: Supporting the student-athlete experience, and being a small part of the process that maintains this incredible opportunity for future generations of student-athletes. There's a large team of people who work very hard, every day, to keep our department going. They provide an exceptional experience for the student-athletes, helping to fulfill their academic, athletic, personal and professional ambitions. I'm privileged to have the opportunity and responsibility to help.
Scott Koenig, Director of Development, UA Alumni Association
Before he was a 40 Under 40 honoree, Koenig was captain of the UA swimming and diving team and was a four-year letter winner.
Sport: Diving, 1999-2003
What you were studying at the time: Psychology and Family Studies
Fondest memory from being a UA athlete: My freshman year, I failed to reach my goal and make the NCAA championships. My teammates and coaches still supported me and valued me as a person – not based on the points I scored or place I finished.
Do you still follow any UA sports? I love them all, but football is my favorite. I love riding my bike to Hi Corbett Field and having a cold beverage while cheering on the baseball team in the spring. I'm looking forward to seeing what (coach) Steve Walker does with sand volleyball. And of course I keep swimming and diving and hope that the UA receives the bid it put in to host the 2016 U.S. Olympic team trials for diving.
How you transitioned from student to employee: The time management skills, work ethic, dedication and commitment I had to use while a student-athlete with days going from 5:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. made transitioning to 8-5 a breeze. I wanted to work at the UA because it changed my life and I want to ensure it keeps changing the lives of future students.
Favorite thing about working at the UA: I love connecting alumni back to their area of passion on campus and seeing how their lives change by this new involvement.
Chris Nallen, Assistant Coach for UA Men's Golf
Earlier this year, four-time All-American Nallen was welcomed back to the UA's men's golf team as assistant coach. During his time as a student-athlete, Nallen led the Wildcats to three top-10 finishes at the NCAA championships.
Sport: Men’s Golf, 2000-2004
What you were studying at the time: Economics
Fondest memory from being a UA athlete: I don't think there is just one. I loved having the opportunity to be a part of the Wildcat tradition and call myself a student-athlete. Traveling with teammates and getting the chance to play some great golf courses along with some high-level competition is something that I will always cherish.
How you transitioned from student to employee: I was playing professionally and have been dealing with some injuries, so the opportunity presented itself and I thought it would be great to be a part of the athletics department again. I am still trying to get back to being healthy and play but, like I said, it is nice to be able to still be around the game and coaching at the University where I played my college golf.
Favorite thing about working at the UA: I still get to be around the game of golf and keep that competitive edge about me. It's fun trying to help our current golfers improve their games and get to the next level.
Leslie Porter, Director of Human Resources Consulting and Talent Management
When Porter was a student at the UA, she roomed with the daughter of Oscar Robertson, former NBA player and Basketball Hall of Fame member. Nowadays, Porter is married to the UA head team physician for athletics, Donald E. Porter, and has been officiating basketball and volleyball games at the middle school, high school and junior college levels for the past 22 years.
Sport played: Basketball
Years played with the UA: 1980-1984 (played one year at the University of California, Riverside, before transferring to the UA)
What you were studying at the time: Personnel Management
Fondest memory from being a UA athlete: Road trips. Lifelong friendships made.
Do you still follow any UA sports? Football, basketball (men and women's), volleyball and softball.
How you transitioned from student to employee: I didn't start out planning to work at the UA. I had worked at the YMCA during the summers while I was in college and they later hired me as a program director. I originally thought I might continue down the recreation administration career path and then eventually into sports administration. I also contemplated a career in law enforcement. I was working a part-time position with Parks and Recreation when I applied for and was hired for a second part-time position with the UA personnel department in 1990. This eventually led to a full-time regular position in October 1990. I've been with Human Resources ever since.
Favorite thing about working at the UA: The variety of the work and the opportunity to serve the campus community in so many different capacities: as an adviser, coach, trainer, leader, project manager, etc.
Charita Stubbs, Assistant Coach for Volleyball
In 1993, Stubbs became the first Arizona volleyball player to record 300 kills, 300 digs and 100 blocks in one season. Prior to joining the coaching staff at the UA, Stubbs played professional volleyball in France in 1995.
Sport: Volleyball, 1990-1994
Position: Middle blocker
What you were studying at the time: Political Science and French
Fondest memory from being a UA athlete: My fondest memory is beating the UCLA, when they were No. 1 in the nation. This happened in (head volleyball coach) Dave Rubio's second year.
Do you still follow any UA sports? I have always followed our men's basketball team – my favorite sport to watch – and track and field.
How you transitioned from student to employee: My transition has been easy because I wasn't far removed when I first joined the staff. Arizona is such a friendly environment.
Favorite thing about working at the UA: The best part about working here is seeing how athletics have changed. I love watching the new athletes and seeing all they are accomplishing.