Hall of Famer
Ceal Barry coached women’s basketball at CU Boulder for 22 seasons, winning more games — 427 — than any other CU head coach in any sport. Now a CU Athletics administrator, she’ll be inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame this summer. Here Barry talks about blazing trails, her greatest achievements with the Buffs and the singer who made her love her given name.
When did you start playing basketball?
I played outdoors on the driveway with my brothers and all the boys on the street. I was really conflicted inside. This was in the ’60s. I was 13 or 14. None of the girls did that, but I really wanted to play. I loved it. But I was kind of like, ‘I’m probably not supposed to be here.’
That was a weird time for girls in sports.
Why do you think it’s important for girls to play sports?
I think for their physical and mental health. Statistics show the incidence of heart disease, stroke and obesity in our country is severely on the rise. … One of the best antidotes for depression is aerobic exercise. Distance running, biking, getting outdoors, vitamin D, all that. It’s just good for the soul.
I assume that means you’re active and out there doing things. What does your workout schedule look like?
It’s real basic. I walk. I do hot yoga. I bike. I wish I could say I lifted weights more, but I do lift weights some and occasionally play pickle ball. In the summer I play golf. I’m usually outside every day.
You were a part of the first class of women’s basketball players at Kentucky to receive an athletic scholarship. What does that mean to you?
I never really thought about it, being the first class of players getting scholarships. Now, wow. It’s a real piece of history at that school, especially a school that really celebrates its male athletes with men’s basketball. To kind of break into that culture and their world. You know, it’s civil rights. To be a part of the civil rights that women would get equitable treatment in the athletics department. I experienced not being allowed in the athletics department to the transition of ‘OK, we’re gonna let them in, but we don’t want ’em.’
What will it take to make women’s sports as popular as men’s?
I watched Title IX being implemented. The reason women’s sports do not sell is because the mainstream media don’t cover them. There’s got to be numerous stories, not just one story. And I don’t think sponsors pay for advertisement. Advertisement pays for television exposure. [The men’s basketball NCAA Tournament deal] is $8 billion over eight years. Women don’t even have a contract. ESPN has a contract with the NCAA, but it is to televise all (women’s) sports. Softball, golf, basketball. Why? Because nobody’s paying money. Why? Because nobody knows anything about the coaches, the athletes, the history, the competition. When it’s on, they’re interested. They’ll go, ‘Wow, that was a good game,’ but there’s not enough awareness.
What does it mean to you to be inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame?
Once again, it’s the history of it. This Hall of Fame is with my peers. These are people I grew up with, people I sat in the bleachers with, people I competed against for recruits, to win a championship. It’s flattering. It’s humbling.
What is your greatest achievement at CU?
I would probably say the coaching period. It’s hard to be a coach, and I chose to stay here 35 years. I wanted to choose a place that I loved and commit to it. I think the championships and the attendance, the people that we attracted to the games — and the community really enjoyed watching our teams, how they played, how they conducted themselves. Those things were probably my greatest achievement.
What was the last book you read or TV show that you’ve binged?
The Americans. And book: I read Unwanted Advances by Laura Kipnis.
Favorite musician/artist to listen to?
You’re going to laugh. I love Journey. I’m a big Journey fan. I’ve always liked Journey. I like KD Lang. And, of course, Adele. My first name is Adele. And I hated that name until Adele became popular and then I was like, ‘I’ve got the greatest first name.’ And my mother’s first name is Adele.
Condensed and edited.
Read a personal essay about Ceal by journalist and former CU basketball star Kate Fagan (Comm’03).
Photo by Glenn Asakawa