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IWU Coach Says Division 1 Opportunity 'A Perfect Storm'

Illinois Wesleyan University Athletics
The 2017 Illinois Wesleyan soccer team.

When Illinois Wesleyan head women's soccer coach Dave Barrett accepted the same job at Division 1 Fairfield University in Connecticut last week, he said the opportunity was a perfect storm.

“It checked all the boxes in regards to the personal and the professional,” said Barrett. “My wife and I are both native New Englanders. I grew up in Massachusetts and went to college in Connecticut, which is where my wife is from. And it’s a jump up professionally. Not a lot of Division 3 coaches are fortunate to have the opportunity to move from the Division 3 level to Division 1.

Credit Illinois Wesleyan University Athletics
Dave Barrett

Then again, not many Division 3 soccer teams have had his success. The Titan women have earned NCAA tournament bids eight of the last nine years and have compiled a 234-85-35 record since Barrett was hired in 2001. He was named the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin (CCIW) Women's Soccer Coach of the Year five times and was named the 2015 National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Central Region Coach of the Year.

Barrett said he wasn’t looking for a job. But when Fairfield Athletic Director Paul Schlickmann, a former colleague and someone Barrett considers a friend, called about the position, it had to be considered.

“It’s not something we were looking to do,” said Barrett. “We love Illinois Wesleyan, we love the community. It just sort of fell into our laps, and everything worked out about as perfectly as it could to make this happen."

So what is he stepping into? Barrett compared Fairfield’s conference to a mid-major in basketball, similar to Illinois State University playing in the Missouri Valley Conference. 

“Though I’d say the highest level Division 3 players can play at the Division 1 level. And we had some of those players at Illinois Wesleyan. There will be challenges for sure, but I’m comfortable coaching and recruiting this level of player.”

When Barrett took over in Bloomington in 2001, the IWU women’s soccer team was having some success, unlike the Fairfield team he’s inheriting. Despite a 14-32-8 record over the past three years, the Stags had some success in prior years, Barrett says he sees similarities with the IWU team he first coached 17 years ago.

“There is a limitless potential at Fairfield,” said Barrett. “And there’s nowhere to go but up, honestly. I’m really optimistic after meeting with the team the last couple days. They’re excited about the possibilities of hitting the reset button.”

So what is he most proud of during his time at Illinois Wesleyan?

“I’m really proud of the quality of people that we produced,” said Barrett. “Obviously proud of the results and the banner hanging in the Shirk Center. I’m proud of the national recognition we have received. I’m also real proud of how they’ve grown into great adults and professionals. It’s been a real joy to do that for them.”

Listen to the entire interview with Dave Barrett.

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Jon Norton is the program director at WGLT and WCBU. He also is host of All Things Considered every weekday.