Uploaded Ad


Courtesy: CUBuffs.com
Release: November 30, 2004
Article Image
Gary Barnett and the Buffs are rolling into K.C. on a hot streak.   By Associated Press
Related Links

BOULDER – University of Colorado head coach Gary Barnett, the Associated Press 2004 Big 12 Coach of the Year, held his weekly media luncheon Tuesday at the Dal Ward Athletic Center, as Barnett and junior quarterback Joel Klatt addressed the media during an afternoon press conference.  Below are excerpts from the conference about this Saturday’s Big 12 Championship game versus No. 2 Oklahoma (6 p.m. MST, ABC).                   


But first, most of the Associated Press story by Eddie Pells on Barnett being named coach of the year:


BOULDER, Colo. (AP) -- From the brink of unemployment to Coach of the Year, Gary Barnett has, indeed, seen some very high highs and very low lows these past several months.


The Colorado coach was named the Associated Press Big 12 Coach of the Year on Tuesday, receiving eight of 20 media votes to outdistance Dan McCarney of Iowa State and Dennis Franchione of Texas A&M by three votes each. Oklahoma's Bob Stoops got the other two votes.


"These really are humbling awards because you know what goes into them," Barnett said.


On its own, Colorado's remarkable jump from a 1-4 start in conference play to a spot in the Big 12 title game would make Barnett worthy of such an award. Add to that the fact that Barnett has steered the program to success after months of turmoil, and the feat seems even more amazing.


Then, there's the fact that Barnett wasn't even sure he'd have this job coming into the season. He was suspended for three months last spring in the wake of inappropriate comments he made about a former player. Calls for his job mounted on several fronts and have never completely abated.


"No. No. No," he said when asked if job security is always on his mind.


When Barnett returned from his suspension, he found not a team in disarray, but rather one galvanized by the turmoil. The team had found a personality and a voice while working under assistant head coach Brian Cabral during spring practice.


Upon his return, a less secure coach might have injected his own personality into the situation. Barnett mostly stood to the side and let the players define their team.


"It's one of the most admirable thing Coach Barnett has done," quarterback Joel Klatt said."He never tired to turn the focus away or do anything different. He saw exactly the way this team had jelled and ran with it."


Barnett acknowledges that he returned to a changed team and didn't see any reason to tinker with that part of the equation.

"They had already created this momentum," he said. "As a coach, you don't care who creates it, you just want that momentum and we had it."


The Buffaloes gathered steam while Barnett sat in limbo, reading books, attending practices at other schools, never wasting a day during the suspension, even though he wasn't totally sure he'd be coming back.


It was a frustrating three months that gave the coach, now in his sixth year with the Buffs, plenty of time to think about what went wrong.


"The thing I learned the most was that where I'd thought there was a relationship of trust and respect, I learned that there wasn't," he said. "It wasn't anybody's fault. It just didn't exist the way I thought it did within the university. But rather than point a finger, I chose to look at it and say, `What are some of the things we can do better?'"


It's too early to tell whether that effort has paid off.


Last week, athletic director Dick Tharp resigned under pressure, leaving Barnett without one of his biggest supporters. On Tuesday, the school hired former Navy AD Jack Lengyel to take Tharp's place on an interim basis.


Also in the past two weeks, allegations about fund-raising problems have surfaced. The school told the NCAA last week that a small booster club that had not been audited under university auspices bought equipment for the athletic department, an NCAA violation.  Barnett has two years left on his contract, a deal that could be terminated, extended or left alone -- it's anybody's guess. The school is supposed to revisit the deal after the season.


"Does this warrant an extension?" Barnett said of this season's accomplishments. "I think it warrants an extension. A lot of recruiting is based on those sorts of things. But that's not my decision, so ..."


University spokeswoman Michele Ames said the school is "still working on" a contract.School president Betsy Hoffman released a statement congratulating Barnett on his award.


"We believe this recognition also honors the hard work of the coaching staff and student-athletes during a very challenging year,"
Hoffman said.


Meanwhile, the Buffs are preparing for Saturday's championship game against No. 2 Oklahoma. It is a huge task, trying to defeat a team with not one, but two Heisman Trophy favorites, a team that hasn't lost this season and is seeking a shot at the national title.


Barnett knows all about prevailing against long odds, though. He's been doing it constantly since the start of 2004.


"I really haven't thought about me very much," he said. "In the throws of the battle, you don't start feeling sorry for yourself. You
worry about the people you're responsible for and getting them out of the mess they're in."





On the Big 12 Title Game: “It’s terrific for our team that we get a chance to go and represent the North and play in the Big 12 Championship.  I said to our team yesterday that you will never play in a more exciting setting unless you play in a National Championship game or NFL playoff game.  It’s by far just the most exciting thing, from the time you step into the stadium – even in warm-ups.  It’s just electric.  The other two that we’ve been in (2001 and 2002) have been that way.  There hasn’t been anything to compare to it – every bowl game that you’re in, other than the National Championship, there’s just nothing like it.  So, we look forward to Kansas City.  Our team right now is an excited, confident football team with three wins in a row.  Going into Lincoln and winning, and having two of the three (wins) be on the road, has just built a level of confidence in our team that makes us ready to go play.


“Oklahoma is a team that we’ve probably spent more time preparing for over the last two years than anybody.  We’re very much aware of how good of a team we are going to play.  We are very much aware of the coaching and the quality of the coaching we are going to see and how hard everybody is going to play.  That is not going to be anything new for us, for the most part.  There is an awareness factor and familiarity that we’ll carry into this game a little bit, and then a great deal of confidence. 


“I like the fact that we are coming off a game we just played last Friday.  We don’t have to sit a week and prepare and see who we’re going to play.  We can stay in a routine and game synch and go right into this game.  There are a lot of good things going for us.  We are really excited for our seniors that they’ve gotten themselves to a position where they can play in this game.  So, we are looking forward to it, absolutely.


“We were extremely focused in Lincoln and everybody could tell it.  I told our team that yesterday.  But, the importance of this game and the opportunity that this game presents just demands that it (the focus) go up another notch.  Not a 180-degree change, but just a little bit so it enhances your work during the week, it enhances your knowledge of the game plan and it enhances your awareness once on the field.


“I think being familiar with (Oklahoma) and respecting them the way that we do, that it’s a little easier to get the attention of your players.  They know how good of a team we are going to face.  They know how hard their team is going to play, especially after playing them all the times we have.  But at the same time, we also know that we can play with these guys.  So, it helps our confidence and confidence is key in a game like this.  Going in and believing that you can win is really key.”


On OU’s Offense: “I think they are the most balanced, two-dimensional offense we’ve played.  Really, they are three-dimensional because their special teams are so good.  They are an offensive weapon in themselves.  But, the most balanced attack and probably most difficult attack to defend is what we’re seeing now, because they can do both (run and pass) so well. 


“A year ago, when they were a one-dimensional team, we were able to scheme a pretty good pressure package that helped us stay in the game.  The only reason we could do it was because their run attack wasn’t nearly as strong as it was in the air.  We don’t have that luxury now; we can’t afford to take those risks and have ourselves in a satiation where a big play on the ground can happen.  You’ve got to really pick your times when you put that kind of pressure on.”


On Taking Risks Versus OU: “We’re playing this game to win it.  The best way to win it, we have to decide through the course of the week in further film study and as the game goes on whether or not we take the risk.  That’s almost a wait-until-you-get-in-the-game situation.  I think you have to be prepared to do it; you’ve got to be prepared to do whatever it takes to win this game.  If it means taking risks, you don’t really know that until you’re into it and you can see if you hold up during certain situations.  If you can’t (hold up), maybe you go to the risks.  You don’t want to be careless, which I guess is the best way to say it.” 


On Freshman TB Adrian Peterson:  “I am a little surprised (he’s been so effective).  It helps to be around a team that played for the National Championship a year ago.  They’ve got a lot of guys back and a veteran offensive line.  Most freshmen that are so ballyhooed out of high school, it just takes them awhile to adjust.  We saw Adrian and we tired to recruit him.  When we saw him we knew he was a great player.  We knew wherever he chose to go to school he was going to be a good player.  Whether it was going to be immediately or not, you can never be sure.                                                                          


“The thing that has impressed me the most about Peterson is that he’s dislocated his shoulder twice during the season, and he’s got a history of it in high school, yet he plays through everything.  For a freshman that is really unusual.  Usually you have to learn how to play with those kinds of injuries and that kind of pain.  For him to do that as a freshman, and not want to come out of a game, or to want to come back in when he’s been knocked out, is most impressive to me.”   


On the Pressure of the Game: “It think it is going to be big for both teams.  I don’t think one team necessarily feels more pressure than the other.  It all depends on how you handle it as a team.  Your success has a great deal to do with who you choose to listen to.  A team like Oklahoma has gotten to this point because they obviously chose to listen to people who helped them become successful.  They are going to choose to do that again.  Our team is the same way.  At the end of Texas there was a line drawn; our team had to make a decision after the Texas game as to who they were going to listen to.  They chose to take it in a direction that would allow them to get to this game.  You learn a lot by making those kinds of choices, and I think this game is going to come down to the same thing.  I don’t think Oklahoma will feel any of that pressure unless they let themselves.  Coach (Bob) Stoops and his staff have not gotten to this point so many times without having the ears of the players, the respect of the players.  You know they are going to tell them the right things and you know the players are going to listen.  It should be two teams who really don’t feel pressure, and know the opportunity that’s there for them.  You work really hard to make sure players are loose because that is the way for them to play their best.”                               


On Being Named Big 12 Coach of the Year: “First of all, it’s a tremendous honor and it’s a humbling honor.  But, these things only happen when you have a great coaching staff, and your coaches and your players do all the things they’ve done.  I’m just the last guy at the top that gets the credit.  It really should go from the bottom up.  Obviously, if we were 3-8 this award would not come around.  It happened because our coaches and players made plays and did all the things that you do to make yourself into a decent football team.  I just happen to be one of those people.  At this position, you really know what goes into having a successful year, and there are so many things that have to happen.  I hope that by me receiving this award that everybody gets a healthy dose of satisfaction out of it and feels as though this is an award to them as much as it is to me.”



On the Big 12 Championship: “It definitely feels good, obviously, to get to this point and reach one of our goals.  But, this isn’t the end goal.  We’re not in this game just to get here.  We’re going to go down there and play as hard as we can Saturday night to try and win the Big 12 title.  Granted we’re playing a tremendous football team Saturday night.  But ever since January during spring football the only people we could really count on were the people in the locker room and the coaching staff.  That’s really all we’ve had from the start, so it’s no difference to us to be the underdogs.


“(Oklahoma has) a tremendous amount of pressure on them, and we have a lot of pressure on us because of the quality of football team Oklahoma is.  We need to play a complete football game, and if we do we might have a chance to win.”


On CU’s Improved O-Line Picking Up New Blitzes: “Ever since then (the Texas loss), we’ve had a plan to combat some of those things.  We possibly will see them again, and our offensive line has done a great job picking that up, learning on the fly.  Whatever blitz is the flavor of the day from the opponent they’ve done a tremendous job picking it up.”


On Gary Barnett Winning Coach of the Year: “I’m extremely happy for him, obviously with the accolades he’s gotten this year.  He did a tremendous job.  Personally, what he did individually as a man this past off-season, standing strong in his beliefs and character was outstanding.   What he did as a man I respect immensely.  And then when he was brought back he did a great job taking the reigns and not steering us in a different way.  Our team had really found an identity and character that was our own before he came back through the spring and the summer.  So when he came back he did a great job guiding the ship instead of trying to turn it around.  I think that one of the greatest things he did this year was go hands off knowing our team had an identity when he got back.”


On CU’s Improved Offense: “Ever since Kansas our offense has moved the ball well.  The offense has done what we’ve needed to do with clock management with several big touchdowns late in the game.  The way our offense has come along has really helped this team because our defense has played well all year.  And obviously, our special teams have been an advantage for us all year.”


On Captaining Childhood Favorite CU:  “I know four years ago I was sitting in the stands when Nebraska came here and lost 62-36, and I was complaining to my best friend about not liking baseball and he turned to me and said, ‘Then quit.’  That’s really how it all started.  I went to Dallas (for the 2001 Big 12 Championship), and was a fan at the Fiesta Bowl.  So to be at the helm when this team is playing for the Big 12 title game is a great feeling.  I grew up here, and to win at Nebraska last week — all these things have made me feel really good, it really has.”


On the Success of CU’s Fall Athletics: “It’s a tremendous time to be in this athletic department.  I know that we’re all extremely proud of our (dual national champion) cross-country teams.  They don’t really get enough attention for what they’ve done the past few years.  The volleyball team has done well all year.  I know the basketball teams are going to have a good year, as well.  The women’s soccer team did a good job this year getting a win in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.  We’re all doing a great job in this athletic department.  I think the leadership has been great.  I know just walking around on campus even the regular students have a sense of pride for the things the athletics department has accomplished this fall.  After last spring this fall is much needed and well-timed.”
During his four years in Boulder, wider receiver Nelson Spruce became the Pac-12's career receptions lea...
Pac-12 Networks' Kyndra De St. Aubin talks with Colorado defensive back Chidobe Awuzie after his...
JB Long and Glenn Parker of Pac-12 Networks recap Colorado's Spring Game on Saturday afternoon in...