By Morgan Caldwell/Sports writer
Head athletics trainer Bobby Barton may be throwing in the towel, but he’s still going to be a presence on campus. He’s taking advantage of the Retirement Transition Program (RTP) and will still be teaching classes, but not acting as an athletics trainer.Barton’s decision to retire came after a very successful 27 years working with head football coach Roy Kidd. The relationship between the two was an extremely close one.
“My wife and I, we went out to Coach Kidd’s house and sat on his back porch … and just shared ideas about what we wanted to accomplish in football,” Barton said, recalling his first real meeting with Kidd. “It was good chemistry at first sight.”
Not only did the two men hit it off right from the start, Barton’s wife Jojean and Kidd’s wife Sue got along well also.
That first meeting was the beginning of a lot of successful interaction between coach and trainer.
“The relationship between a head football coach and a trainer is very unique,” Barton said. “It’s probably the closest thing, relationship-wise, that I’ve experienced other than a marriage,” he laughed.
Their success and the duration of the partnership surprised even Barton’s expectations.
“I don’t think I envisioned 27 years without having a losing season,” he said.
Kidd’s prestige was something Barton took into account when deciding to work at Eastern. Another was the athletics training program created in 1976. It was the first, and is still the only AT program in Kentucky.
“I know how unusual it is for a head coach and a head trainer to survive together (through) five of six presidents and five or six athletics directors,” Barton said with a smile, continuing to explain his relationship with Kidd.
What really made the relationship work?
“I call it quiet confidence in each other,” Barton said.
“Even though everybody else around might be hysterical about something, as long as the head coach and the trainer have that quiet confidence, you can overcome a lot of rough water.”
Of course, Barton did more than interact with coaches in his 27 years working for Eastern; he interacted with the student athletes as well. That’s why he’s glad he got his master’s degree in health and physical education with a focus on guidance counseling.
“Obviously you get very close to the players, and they come to you with a lot of questions and concerns unrelated to football.”
Barton, while he says he’ll miss certain aspects of being a trainer, thinks the decision to retire was the right one. The new option became available shortly after his 55th birthday. The requirements were the applicant be at least 55 years old and have 27 years of experience.
“It was clear from the beginning that it was a one-time opportunity,” he explained.
Those interested had to turn in their applications for the RTP before Christmas. The timing of his retirement coincided closely with Coach Kidd’s and the hiring of Danny Hope as head coach.
Barton insisted that had no influence on his decision.
“He believes me now, but I don’t think he [Hope] believed me at first,” he laughed. “I’m a big Danny Hope fan.”
Hope played for Eastern when Barton began his career.
Barton is happy with the growth and success the athletics training program has seen during his career and naturally hopes both will continue. “I’m very proud of our student success.”