Gary Barnett says friends and former peers tell him he looks "10 years younger" since he left the coaching profession nearly a year ago.
Whether traceable to the makeup required in a relatively new television gig or decreased job pressure is irrelevant. Barnett is ready to trade that unlined, made-for-TV look for a new set of wrinkles -- those brought on by a return to coaching.
"I definitely will go back if it's the right place, the right thing," Barnett said in a phone interview from his home in Arizona. "I know everybody wants 'right place' defined, but it has to be the right [situation] in my opinion. I've definitely put in my year [out of coaching] and I've learned a lot. But if the right thing, the right match, is there, I'd love to get back into it."
In an interview in March with the Rocky Mountain News, the former University of Colorado coach said he would bide his time out of football, mulling his options and pondering a return to coaching, "until November, when there's about a three-week window [of movement within the profession]."
During the past three weeks, that window began opening. Eleven Division I-A schools have or had coaching vacancies. Barnett believes his best approach is to contact "three or four head-hunters who are nationally recognized ... then it's up to them" to help Barnett and a school determine if the fit is right for either party.
Barnett, who turned 60 in May, declined to identify which jobs might interest him. But the coaching position most frequently linked with his name -- Missouri, his alma mater -- might not be available for another five years. On Nov. 17, Missouri announced a five-year extension for coach Gary Pinkel, who could be at the school until 2011.
Fired by Colorado last Dec. 7, Barnett is close to concluding his first season out of college coaching in 23 years. He has divided time this season between radio (USA Radio) and television (Fox Sports Net) work, usually spending Saturdays in press boxes (radio) before he began traveling to Denver in mid-October for an in-studio TV assignment analyzing the Bowl Championship Series standings.
"I've really enjoyed the radio work, sitting in the press box for the first time ever, diagnosing games. ... It's been wonderful -- as much fun as I could have," he said, adding the TV work presented more of a learning experience about that medium. "I think I learned a lot about the perspective of the media."
Barnett, who received a $3 million settlement from CU, will be at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., on Saturday to work the radio broadcast of the Big 12 championship game between Nebraska and Oklahoma.
He said the Cornhuskers are "solid, but not a great defensive team. Their ability to run helped them -- and they're good, don't get me wrong."
Barnett left CU with a 49-38 record in seven seasons, a mark that included four Big 12 Conference North Division titles in the last five years and one league championship (2001).
Before coming to Boulder, he guided Northwestern to consecutive Big Ten Conference championships (1995 and 1996) and was a near-consensus national coach of the year in 1995. He was also honored as The Associated Press' Big 12 coach of the year twice (2001 and 2004).
His career record as a Division I-A coach is 84-83-1.