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May 10, 2012 Volume 33, No. 31

Don Barnes

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Don Barnes

Director of Equipment Operations Intercollegiate Athletics

Mizzou Alumni Association Award for Alumni Relations Excellence

Much of Don Barnes’ work is behind the scenes. But that doesn’t take away from the value of what he does.

As equipment operations director for the Athletic Department, Barnes manages a staff who ensures that each Mizzou student-athlete is ready for competition. He is responsible for making sure the gear and uniforms are ready before the team practices and plays in competition.  

Mizzou has 300 student-athletes competing at the Division I level in one of the premier athletic conferences in the nation. On any given day, one can find Barnes and his staff washing more than 2,500 pounds of laundry, inventorying equipment or evaluating and testing new gear. Some weeks Barnes puts in more than 100 hours, “but you’ll never hear him complain,” a nominator said.

Barnes has been at the forefront of the athletic department’s initiative to redesign all athletic uniforms. He spent countless hours going through archives, yearbooks and magazines, studying past uniforms and looking for elements to incorporate into the new ones.

A 1994 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, Barnes has been with Mizzou for 12 years. He got involved with athletic equipment while in college, which led him to positions with the Kansas City Chiefs and Drake University before joining Mizzou.

So how does an equipment operations director foster good relations with alumni? By joining forces with the Mizzou Alumni Association (MAA).

The association hosts five Tiger Tailgates each year prior to away football games. Like the football team, the MAA requires a lot of equipment in the form of spirit items, decorations and merchandise. Six years ago, the association approached Barnes about transporting the merchandise to the away games around the country. He immediately agreed, and a valuable partnership was born. 

By assisting with these events, Barnes has saved the MAA thousands of dollars in shipping, another nominator said. “His flexibility allows us the freedom to pack more things and make the experience even better for alumni and fans who oftentimes cannot make it back to Columbia to attend Mizzou events.”