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 August 1, 1999

Barnett’s job: Winning, raising money for sports

BOULDER — People want to look at him. Shake his hand. Wish him luck.

Maybe tell him about this play, drawn up on a bar napkin, that would work on fourth-and-6.

Gary Barnett lets them.

He doesn’t have to. It’s not in his contract.

Barnett has to win football games.

That, in theory, is what football coaches do. That, in fact, is why the University of Colorado hired Barnett in January. To take over the football program Rick Neuheisel ditched when he accepted the head coaching job at the University of Washington.

To win.

“It’s about commitment,´ said CU Athletic Director Dick Tharp. “This was a deal sealed with a hug and a handshake. I hope it’s the first and last (football) hire I have to make.”

But wait. There’s more. There’s money. And there are people with money who are willing to give money to CU. People who are more inclined to open their wallets if Gary Barnett pretends to be interested in something they say or pretends to enjoy mingling with the masses. Inclined to the tune of more than $3.3 million in contributions to the athletic program last fiscal year, about $3.7 million this year.

But wait.

Gary Barnett is not pretending.

He’s not schmoozing. He likes these people. He’s known these people forever. Nine years as a high school football coach in Colorado, two years as head coach at Fort Lewis College, eight years as a CU assistant — Barnett is a Colorado guy. And it helps.

“No question,” Barnett said. “I know most of the faces when I go into a situation. I’m not trying to remember who this guy is, who that guy is, trying to figure out what organization this is or what role it plays.

“To do this job, head coaching, you have to have a passion for all these things. You either have it or you don’t.”

Barnett has it. And then some.

“The great thing about coach Barnett is: This is it,´ said Scott Scheifele, CU’s assistant athletic director of development. “There is nothing else out there for coach Barnett. This is where he wants to be. This is the program he wants to succeed.

“It’s sincere. People believe it, and it just makes things a lot easier.”

It doesn’t make Barnett’s job any easier.

“Most of what I do in my position is outside of coaching football,” Barnett said. “That’s just the role of a football coach anymore. I’d say 80 percent of what I do — maybe 90 percent — is outside of directly coaching football.”

He speaks at luncheons. Banquets. Shakes hands. Tells stories. Laughs.

“There isn’t a defined role,” he says. “There is nothing that anybody lays down and says, Here is what you do.’

“You just do whatever is right. If it feels like the right thing to do and I can do it, I do it. You don’t even know what those things are until you become a head coach.”

Barnett spent eight seasons as an assistant on former CU coach Bill McCartney’s staff. Then, for Barnett, it was X’s and O’s. All of it.

“As an assistant coach, you see the head coach running around trying to do this, do that, but you’re not sure really what he’s doing,” Barnett said. “And you’re not sure why he does it.”

Seven seasons as the head coach at Northwestern University — the job he left to take the CU job Jan. 20 — helped him figure it out.

“Tremendously,” Barnett said. “That’s where I got all of my training. We had the same kind of pressure. Everything was the same. We just had no expectations when we started. But after we were there, the expectations started up, of course.”

Barnett didn’t have to wait for the expectations to arrive in Boulder. People expect him to win. And they expect him to do everything else, too.

“It comes with the territory,” Barnett said. “I’m not uncomfortable with it.”

When the athletic department proposed its 1999-2000 budget June 24 — a 10.5 percent increase over the 1998-1999 budget — Barnett’s name surfaced.

“Changes in the football coaching staff are expected to generate increased interest in the fall football season and, with a $10 per person season ticket price increase, the football program is projected to generate 5.3 percent more revenue than last year,” the proposal stated.

The budget — about $25.4 million — was approved. And the football program is projected to spend almost $6 million of it. The most, by far, of any of CU’s 17 athletic programs. Men’s basketball, by comparison, will spend less than $1.7 million. A distant second place financially.

All of which makes Barnett’s role off the field crucial.

“My ability, in the long term, to generate revenue through fund raising is directly tied to Gary’s participation,” Scheifele said. “But (Barnett) believes that everybody should have the opportunity to meet the coach and be able to talk to the head coach.

“It’s a fund-raiser’s dream, I’ll tell you that.”

BOULDER — People want to look at him. Shake his hand. Wish him luck.

Maybe tell him about this play, drawn up on a bar napkin, that would work on fourth-and-6.

Gary Barnett lets them.

He doesn’t have to. It’s not in his contract.

Barnett has to win football games.

That, in theory, is what football coaches do. That, in fact, is why the University of Colorado hired Barnett in January. To take over the football program Rick…

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