Mr. K-State announces retirement

MANHATTAN, Kan. Ernie Barrett, affectionately know throughout the state of Kansas as Mr. K-State, announced his retirement as Director of Development with the Kansas State athletics department today, ending nearly six decades of service to the university as a student-athlete, coach and administrator.

“Kansas State University has been my whole life,” said Barrett. “I’m proud of what we accomplished with our facilities during my career and I will forever cherish the opportunity the university administration gave me to work with so many outstanding people. Friends, alumni and acquaintances have made my life a great journey and I am thankful for the lifetime of enjoyment, excitement and memories this very special place had provided me.”

Famous for his grip-busting handshakes, ever-present smile and engaging personality, Barrett, 77, was much more than a fixture at Kansas State during his 60-year athletics career he was the heartbeat of the Wildcat nation.

"The contributions Ernie Barrett has made to Kansas State in his lifetime are remarkable,” said Athletics Director Tim Weiser. “Ernie has touched the lives of countless people through his service to the University and has always spread the good word about the Wildcats. K-State would not be what it is today without Ernie's vision and efforts, and I know I speak on behalf of all Wildcat fans that we all wish him the very best.”

A product of Wellington, Kan., Barrett’s affiliation with Kansas State began shortly after World War II when he enrolled at the university in the fall of 1947. One of the most successful basketball careers in school history would unfold over the next three years, laying the foundation of a career in athletics that would see Barrett play a major role in both administration and fund-raising at K-State over the remainder of the century and beyond.

“For over a half a century, Ernie Barrett has been one of K-State’s most important leaders,” University President Dr. Jon Wefald said. “He was an All-American basketball player. He was a terrific Athletic Director. Since I became President of Kansas State University in 1986, Ernie has been one of the most extraordinary fund-raisers for athletics at K-State in our entire history.

“Ernie is one of the most beloved figures in the history of our university. From coast to coast, K-Staters know about Ernie, and they refer to him as Mr. K-State.’ Ernie is the quintessential K-Stater. His love and admiration for the university is unbelievable. He is a good friend of K-Staters all over the country. He is a dear friend of mine, and he always will be.”

It all began for Barrett on the hardwood during basketball career that to this day remains one of the most storied in school history. A member of Kansas State’s All-Century team and one of the first three Wildcats to have their jersey retired, Barrett’s silky-smooth shooting touch helped him average double figures in points as both a junior and a senior.

But it was Barrett’s production and leadership during the 1950-51 campaign, when he captained Kansas State to its only appearance in an NCAA championship game, that will forever live in Wildcat lore. He led K-State to the Big 7 title that season with an 11-1 conference record before helping guide the Wildcats to NCAA Tournament wins over No. 12 Arizona, No. 11 BYU and No. 24 Oklahoma A&M and a berth in the championship game vs. Kentucky.

Though the Wildcats fell to Kentucky in the final, Kansas State finished the year with a then school-record 25 victories. Barrett earned All-America honors for his efforts and went on to be named the most valuable player of the East-West All-Star game in Chicago later that year.

Barrett received his bachelor of science degree in physical education from Kansas State in 1951 and later that year was the No. 7 overall selection in the NBA Draft by the Boston Celtics. Instead of immediately embarking on his professional career, however, Barrett opted to serve his country and following graduation joined the United State’s Air Force for a two-year stint as a lieutenant.

It wasn’t until 1953 that Barrett’s professional basketball aspirations were realized. He went on to play two seasons in the Celtics’ backcourt alongside Bob Cousy before retiring from the game and returning to Kansas State as an assistant alumni secretary in 1955.

While working at the alumni association, Barrett added a master’s degree in journalism from K-State to his academic resume in 1956. In 1959, Barrett return to his first love basketball as an assistant coach at K-State under Hall of Famer Tex Winter and was also placed in charge of Wildcat booster activities.

Barrett made his final transition back to the administrative side of the athletics department in 1963, when he was hired as assistant athletics director for fund-raising and promotions. In that role, he played a significant part in the fund-raising efforts to build KSU Stadium.

In May of 1969, Barrett was named Kansas State’s fifth athletics director and was the driving force behind several facility improvements during his six-year tenure at the helm. The first Kansas-born athlete to head K-State’s athletics program, Barrett spearheaded fund-raising efforts for a number of projects, including continued enhancements to KSU Stadium, the construction of the Vanier football complex and K-State athletic dormitory. Barrett also began laying the fund-raising foundation for what would eventually be Bramlage Coliseum. His administrative accomplishments included the hiring of legendary basketball coach Jack Hartman.

Barrett entered the world of private business after his tenure as athletics director in 1976 to become the vice president of marketing for Chief Drilling in Wichita. However, his heart really never left K-State and in 1988 he return in the role of fund-raising consultant in the athletics department’s portion of the university’s Essential Edge Campaign.

In 1991, Barrett resumed full-time duties at Kansas State as the director of major gifts. Over the next 16 years he played a key role in reshaping the landscape of K-State’s facilities and helped secure funds for the Dev Nelson Press Box, the expansion of KSU Stadium, the indoor football facility, the Academic Learning Center, Tointon Family Stadium, the R.V. Christian Track, Colbert Hills Golf Course and the latest round of improvements to the Vanier Football Complex. In fact, few of K-State’s current athletics facilities have not been touched by Barrett.

Barrett received many honors during his athletics career and is a member of both the state of Kansas Sports Hall of Fame and the Kansas State Athletics Hall of Fame. In 1999, Kansas State erected a statue of “Mr. K-State” in front of Bramlage Coliseum as a testament to his contributions to Wildcat athletics.

Barrett’s retirement will become effective June 30.