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WINSTON-SALEM JOURNAL: Fred Barakat retires from ACC position

March 3, 2007

WINSTON-SALEM JOURNAL

journalnow.com


JOHN DELL

Winston-Salem Journal Sports Staff

Fred Barakat is many things to many people.

He might be best known as the former coordinator of basketball officials for the ACC, a position he gave up before last season. After this weekend's ACC Tournament, he will give up another job, retiring from the ACC as the director of the men's basketball tournament.

Barakat, 67, joined the ACC in 1981 as the coordinator of officials. In 1990, he also took over the day-to-day organization of the ACC Tournament.


Fred Barakat '61 is a former basketball and baseball standout for the Greyhounds and a member of the Assumption College Alumni Athletics Hall of Fame.

Only Barakat and the late Skeeter Francis have ever held the title of tournament director in the 54-year history of the ACC.

"I think it will be a little emotional for me," Barakat said of his final tournament. "I think I've already dealt with it mentally, knowing it's my last year. I just want to retire and be with my family more and kind of enjoy life more."

Barakat needs hip-replacement surgery and has dealt with other health issues lately, but that's not entirely why he is giving up what he calls his dream job.

"I think it's just along the lines of you don't want to stay too long," he said. "I have a passion for what I do, and I think I've done it pretty well, and it certainly has been great to work in a conference like the ACC."

But Barakat hasn't always had the best of jobs, especially when he first started as the liaison between coaches and officials after coaching basketball at Fairfield for 11 years. He was the first coordinator of officials in a major conference, and other conferences eventually followed the ACC's lead.

Barakat has been lambasted often for calls by officials, but being criticized by fans, alumni and even coaches came with the territory.

He said that the passion fans show for their schools is what makes the ACC what it is.

"I would get the brunt of that sometimes," Barakat said of the e-mails, phone calls and letters he has received over the years. "But I tried to answer all of those questions if they had a return address. And I accepted that, and I tried to do the best that I can in settling some of those matters."

Another facet of Barakat's job involved scheduling, which can be quite daunting because of complicated television deals, and in recent years, ACC expansion.

"Fred's been one of the giants in ACC history for basketball," said Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, who coached against Barakat's Fairfield teams when he was at Army. "When he was hired, it was a very unique position as far as taking care of the officials, which he did an amazing job of doing over the years. I think he established the best officiating program in the country that was the model for everyone else."

Krzyzewski also praised the way Barakat covered every detail.

"What he's done with the tournament is he's kept it No. 1 by far, where you feel like you are in a Final Four atmosphere," Krzyzewski said.

"He's been like an ambassador for us, and I don't know how you replace him. He's not a guy who brings a lot of attention to himself, and he just gets things done."

Barakat grew up in Union City, N.J., and said he had no clue about the ACC until he enrolled at Assumption College in Worcester, Mass. And once he got into coaching, he quickly found out about the culture of ACC basketball.

Barakat said that the experience of working in the ACC has been wonderful.

As for his tournament memories, he has many.

The league took some criticism for moving the tournament to the spacious Georgia Dome in 2001, but that tournament set an attendance record, drawing 182,000 overall and more than 40,000 for the championship game.

"There were questions about the building being too big, but it still worked, and remember we still didn't have a public sale of tickets," he said.

Other memories include the 1992 tournament in Charlotte, when newcomer Florida State won the first ACC Tournament game it played, beating N.C. State.

Barakat said that among individual performances, he'll remember the one Randolph Childress of Wake Forest put on in 1995 in Greensboro. "I'll never forget that with four seconds to go Childress hit that jumper to beat Carolina," he said. "Wake Forest won that game 82-80, and he just played out of this world."

As he settles into retirement, Barakat plans to spend a lot of time with his family, including his eight grandchildren.

"It's been a fantastic run for me and my family," he said. "Working with the great coaches, the great athletics directors and everybody here at the ACC office has been a wonderful experience."