Gary Barnett

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Gary Barnett

This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and this is The Score.

College football's regular season is over. The Heisman Trophy has been awarded. Even amidst continued arguments to restructure the post-season Bowl game format to something more akin to what the NFL does, which is wind up with a Super Bowl and a definitive Best Team of the Year, the college game heads toward a healthy finale, especially with the two class squads, USC and the University of Texas, duking it out in the Rose Bowl on January 4. At this very moment, students at 56 universities across the country are gearing up for the Alamo Bowl, the Sun Bowl, the Cotton Bowl, the Gator Bowl, the Holiday Bowl, the Peach Bowl, and so forth.

These several thousand young men justly look at their upcoming Bowl appearances as the pinnacle of their season-long commitment.

But there's a dark cloud hanging over one school, scheduled to suit up against Clemson in Orlando two days after Christmas, in the Champs Sport Bowl. Players for the University of Colorado Buffaloes are struggling to find enthusiasm for the moment others are celebrating as perhaps the highlight of their college careers. They're struggling because their coach will not be commandeering plays from the sideline in Orlando. Their coach, Gary Barnett, has resigned--just a formality, in lieu of his being fired. In his seven-year tenure as head coach for the Buffaloes, Barnett dog paddled through a rough sea of controversy. Most egregious, nine women claimed to have been raped by Colorado football players during the Barnett reign. Even with numbers backing their credibility, all nine women were openly ridiculed by the coach. One female player on the team, who landed her place kicker position fare and square, complained of sexual abuse both on and off the field. Her name is Katie Hnida and she recounted such repeated offenses as several male players pinning back her arms and groping under her jersey while in the huddle. The huddle with her own teammates! Complaints to her coach were met with jeers. Then when Katie Hnida made a formal allegation of being raped by one of her own teammates, her own coach, Gary Barnett, had these of words of support: &quotKatie; Hnida is not only a girl. She's terrible." Not only a girl. Evidently, being female is cause plenty for sexual assault in Coach Barnett's mind.

Then there was the scandal of 2004 when Barnett and the University were accused of wooing high school recruits with sex. In the end, enough of the allegations were borne out to force resignations of the school's president, its chancellor, and its athletic director. To the shock of much of the community, Coach Barnett survived that one. There are ongoing allegations, however, that Barnett tried to influence sworn testimony by his coaching staff throughout the recruitment scandal. And there are yet fresh charges that he warned players in advance of random drug tests. And, an audit has uncovered a quarter of a million dollars in unsubstantiated expenditures related to Barnett's football camps.

A faction of campus faculty has been lobbying for years to have Coach Barnett fired, claiming this is a man of dubious integrity and repeated poor judgment. But Coach Barnett has not been let go from the University of Colorado for sub-standard principles. He simply has produced a poor record on the field. They lost to the University of Nebraska by a whopping 30-3. And their loss to Texas was an embarrassment, 70-3. Many of the Colorado players have protested putting the blame on their coach for the crushing losses. But these guys have lost perspective. Coach Barnett should have been fired many times over for his off-field impropieties. There's a Lombardi allegory in the Barnett story. You remember the line: &quotWinning; isn't everything. It's the only thing." Losing at the University of Colorado is evidently a worse offense than rape, illegal recruitment, or coercion of witnesses.

This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and that's The Score.



Diana Nyad