Feb. 7—FAIRMONT — Fairmont State football entered a new chapter Monday afternoon.
University President Mike Davis and Athletic Director Greg Bamberger introduced the 19th head coach in program history, Luke Barker.
Barker enters the position after spending time at Mountain East Conference opponent University of Charleston as the associate head football coach and offensive coordinator. An alumnus of Charleston, Barker found it a little difficult to make the move but ultimately feels good about it.
"It was hard to leave there, but these opportunities are very few and far between," Barker said. "I believe that this place can be the premier institution in this conference. I think you have pieces in place here to be able to grow and take this thing over the top a little bit."
Barker succeeds the second winningest coach in program history, Jason Woodman, who accepted the head coaching position at Division I Morehead State University in December.
The new Falcons' coach isn't intimidated by his predecessor's success. Barker looks to surpass Woodman and even Harold "Deacon" Duvall on the all-time wins list at Fairmont State.
"I hope to not be the second, I hope to be the first when I leave here," Barker said. "That's my ultimate goal. My hope is to leave as the best. I want to bring championships back to Fairmont State, and that's our goal."
Barker already won the position from 61 other applicants, according to Bamberger. Barker survived the cut to 21 candidates and made the final four before Fairmont State made its decision.
As Bamberger put it, what made Barker rise above the rest of the finalists was his knowledge of the region and his plan for the program.
"It was the combination of his knowledge of this region of football, his knowledge of this conference," Bamberger said. "He has a plan. He's got a plan on how he's going to continue what Coach Woodman had built. And that was really the one thing — he had a plan, and he was able to articulate that plan."
Davis said Barker's knowledge of and connections with schools in the southern half of West Virginia influenced the decision as well, citing it as an advantage in recruiting student athletes.
"Our enrollment folks are working really hard," Davis said. "We've got people in those schools everyday, but having somebody who's already got those connections is gonna help us out. One of the things that happens is we get a couple of football players from a particular school, we find we get other students from those places too.
"It's one of the things Coach Barker talked about in our interview is that he saw his job not just as recruiting football players, but representing the University when he's in those high schools too, and making sure that all of those students would know what a great place Fairmont State is."
The university president also praised Barker for his "holistic view" of students. Barker sees student athletes as more than just football players, but also as community members and adults. Davis said Barker wants to prepare the players for more than just the next four years of their lives but the next 40 years.
Barker already had the opportunity to meet the team as a whole, but he still wants to meet with the players individually. He looks forward to getting to know every player on the team in his first week at Fairmont State.
"I got to get to know them a little bit," Barker said. "Relationship is a huge for us."
Reach Colin C. Rhodes at 304-367-2548