BOULDER, Colo. -- Gary Barnett is out as football coach of Colorado.
On Thursday, he reluctantly accepted a $3 million
settlement, bringing to an end a tenure that was riddled by off-the-field problems but ultimately done in by recent bad results on the field.
The school named defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz interim coach Friday and said he will coach the team in the Champs Sports Bowl.
In a news conference he wanted to be a part of, Barnett said the decision was made by athletic director Mike Bohn.
"In the last 24 hours, Mike has made a decision to change the
football coach at the University of Colorado," he said. "I
respect that decision, I didn't like that decision -- I didn't
resign my position -- but I wholeheartedly respect the responsibility and decisions leaders have to make. Mike felt like he had to make this decision."
There is no news yet on a possible successor but ESPN's Jim Donnan has been told that Bohn may have his sights on Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe. Grobe was linebackers coach at Air Force when Bohn was an assistant athletic director at the school.
Barnett, who finished 49-38 in seven seasons at CU, pointed to a
résumé that includes a Big 12 Conference championship, four Big 12
North titles and two AP Big 12 Coach of the Year honors.
"I would deem that a success. Other people might not," he
Bohn, who took to the microphone after Barnett left the room,
said the coaching search would begin immediately. Knowing how
crucial this time of year is for recruiting, he looked toward the
cameras and emphasized that CU is a great place to play.
"The University of Colorado is a gold mine ... and we're going
to work our tail off to bring a great coach to this program to
match the academic standing of this institution," Bohn said.
"That will be my sole focus."
The new athletic director said he couldn't pin his decision to
part ways with Barnett on a single reason. He insisted that to say
he made it because of the team's current three-game losing streak,
during which Colorado has been outscored 130-22, "would be
Still, the AD conceded the program appeared to have lost some
luster and confidence over the past month.
"A lot of things were revealed in the last month on many, many
fronts," Bohn said. "And it became clear to me it was time to
make a change."
As recently as last month, Barnett said he had felt secure about
his future with the Buffs. He had been talking about a contract
extension. A 70-3 loss to Texas in the Big 12 title game last
Saturday ended all that talk and essentially sealed his fate.
"It's pretty simple. We lost," he said. "I think our team has
been overly concerned about a contract extension ... We ran out of juice, the well went dry."
The Buffs (7-5) will face Clemson in the Champs Sports Bowl on Dec. 27.
Cornerback Terrence Wheatley said he was disappointed and wanted Barnett to coach in the bowl game. Tight end Quinn Sypniewski
called Barnett's dismissal a "tragedy" and that the coach was
upset when he told his team the bad news.
"He was upset. He spoke with emotion and with passion," Sypniewski
CU Regent Michael Carrigan said Barnett's resignation was the
best decision for both the coach and the university.
"We've implemented recent changes, but it's important to have a
change in personnel to really make the reforms lasting," he said.
"Performance issues both on the field and off the field led us to
believe it was a good decision."
Cindy Carlisle, another member of the Board of Regents, said Thursday evening that the amount of the settlement was concerning for a school facing many financial problems.
"There were many reasons on field and off that warranted dismissal," Carlisle said. "But not with a payout like this. We can't afford it. The amount to me is incomprehensible."
Carlisle outlined the qualities she believes the board would like to identify in the next coach.
"Integrity," Carlisle said. "Leadership. An ability to engage with players and help move them forward in academics and in life."
Gov. Bill Owens, who had insisted the university get a grip on
things during the 2004 scandal, had no specific comment on
"He [Gov. Owens] trusts university President Hank Brown and the Board of
Regents to do the right thing," deputy press secretary Mark Salley
The decision ended a fairly rapid -- though not all that stunning --
reversal for Colorado, which appeared ready to offer Barnett a
contract extension as recently as a month ago.
The coach said he pretty much thought the extension was a done
deal when the Buffs began the season 7-2 and appeared to be rolling
toward their fourth Big 12 North title in five years.
Many figured it was only a matter of a state audit of Barnett's
football camps, due out next Monday, that was holding things up.
Things changed, though, as Colorado ended up winning the
division title, but backed into it without winning another game.
After a humiliating 70-3 loss to Texas in the Big 12 title game
last Saturday, Barnett conceded he didn't know why his team had
been unable to recover from a loss to Iowa State three weeks
earlier that started the losing streak.
"It wasn't the off-field allegations that got him," a friend of Barnett's told ESPN's Joe Schad on Thursday. "It was 70-3 [the score against Texas]. It was what happened in the last three games. He all but had his new contract."
Barnett began as an assistant at CU for Bill McCartney during the heyday of the 1990s, before moving onto
Northwestern and turning that lagging program around.
He was brought to Colorado, ironically, to help spruce up the
image of a program that had earned something of a renegade status
under Rick Neuheisel.
At first, Barnett was successful. By the end, though, he found
himself in the center of a sordid recruiting scandal, which
resulted in an investigation that concluded drugs, alcohol and sex
were used to entice recruits to the Boulder campus, though none of
practices were sanctioned by university officials.
No charges were filed, but Barnett got into further trouble when
he used derogatory terms in talking about kicker Katie Hnida, who
came out with allegations that she was raped by a teammate in 2000.
Barnett was suspended by the school in the spring of 2004 and had
restrictions placed on his recruiting, which have since been eased.
When Barnett returned from his suspension, he still had his job,
but the president, chancellor and athletic director were all soon
Now, it's a clean sweep, though Barnett said he has nothing to
be ashamed of.
"We withstood every piece of scrutiny," Barnett said. "We
held our heads up high and came out of this thing clean."
He appeared to have a good relationship with Bohn, who commended
the coach as a consummate professional.
But the inability to get the contract extension done -- Barnett
changed agents just a few weeks ago -- left both parties in an
Barnett couldn't legitimately recruit with only a year left on
his deal; no players want to play for a lame-duck coach. CU, on the
other hand, couldn't really afford to pay Barnett what it would
cost to buy him out, then fork out more to hire a new coach.
But the school will have to.
Bohn said the $3 million Barnett will receive will come largely
from extra revenue generated by the 12th game, which all Division I
schools will start playing next season.
"It's important to respect and honor our contractual
obligations," Bohn said.
Players, not surprisingly, were stunned and a little dismayed by
the decision. Barnett addressed them in an emotional meeting before
his news conference.
"I was part of his first recruiting class,"
Sypniewski said. "I think it's a tragedy to see him go out the way
But Tom Lucero, a member of the school's Board of Regents, said Barnett had become emblematic of the
scandal surrounding the football program.
"It's not necessarily fair at times," he said. "But a change
certainly can bring fresh air to the university."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.