Barth resigns as Eureka College football coach after 15-year run

By Ken Keenan for Chronicle Media

Eureka College football coach Kurt Barth resigned Dec. 19. In 15 seasons coaching the Red Devils, he complied a 70-77 record. (Eureka College photo)

Eureka College recently announced that Kurt Barth, the college’s head football coach, submitted his resignation — effective immediately — on Dec. 19.

In an official statement, the Eureka College Board of Trustees expressed gratitude, “for the ways Barth positively impacted the lives of our student-athletes and the accomplishments achieved during his tenure.”

Barth began his run as the Red Devils’ head coach in 2009, with his teams compiling an overall record of 70-77 in his 15 seasons at the helm. He led the Red Devils to respective marks of 8-3 and 9-2 in 2017 and ’18, including consecutive losses in the first round of the NCAA Division III playoffs.

Barth’s last winning season came in 2019, with Eureka finishing at 6-4. Subsequent seasons resulted in an overall mark of 10-25, including 4-6 in 2023 after opening the campaign with four wins in a row. In Barth’s final game as head coach, Eureka fell to Lakeland 35-34 after being outscored 21-7 in the fourth quarter.

Prior to his coaching career, Barth was a three-time NCAA Division III All-American wide receiver at Eureka College from 1995-97. He then played professionally with the Duluth-Superior Lumberjacks of the Indoor Football League, in 2000, followed by a stint in 2001 with the Peoria Pirates of the AF2, a minor league affiliate of the Arena Football League.

Before assuming the head coaching reins at Eureka College, Barth served as head football coach at Fieldcrest High School (2000-02), and Eureka High School (2005-08).

Following the 2023 season, six of Barth’s players were named to the All-Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference Team. Senior running back Ben Bernabei (Peru), junior wide receiver Sebastian Hill (Pekin) and senior offensive lineman Hugo Garza (Arcola) each earned First Team honors.

Bernabei, the Red Devils’ primary ball carrier in 2023, posted a career-high 844 rushing yards on 182 carries and scored a career-high 11 rushing touchdowns as well. He finished second in the NACC with an average of 84.4 rushing yards per game.

Hill, who earned NAAC Second Team honors in 2022, tallied a career-high 795 receiving yards on 47 receptions in 2023, and scored a career-high nine TDs. He concluded his Eureka career with a total of 21 touchdown receptions.

After suffering a serious injury as a freshman and being sidelined for much of his sophomore season, the 6-foot-2, 305-pound Garza closed his Eureka career as a top offensive lineman in the NAAC, helping the Red Devils average 367.9 yards of total offense per game in 2023.

All-NAAC Second Team honors went to senior safety Jack Arnett (Princeville) and senior linebacker Brendan Durr (Washington); senior linebacker Austin Hopkins (Arcola) earned Third Team recognition.

Eureka College is currently conducting a search to hire Barth’s replacement.

“We are committed to the continued growth and success of our football program in sync with the NCAA Division III philosophy, which places the highest priority on the overall quality of the educational experience, and on the student-athlete earning a degree,” stated Eureka’s Board of Trustees. “While we celebrate their athletic victories, we know the vitality of the college and students’ career opportunities depend upon their success in the classroom.

“We are fully supportive of President (Dr. Jamel) Wright and Director of Athletics (Sara) Shaw’s emphasis on finding a new head football coach ready to tackle these challenges in partnership with faculty and staff.”