The University of Texas did to Gary Barnett what alcohol and a sex scandal couldn’t — cost him his job.
Barnett, twice Big XII Conference Coach of the Year, was fired last Thursday and will not be on the sidelines when the Colorado Buffaloes face Clemson in the Champs Sports Bowl on Dec. 27 in Orlando. Defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz will coach the Buffs.
With Barnett now distant from the Sports Bowl, the betting line on the game (when one appears) figures to sway more to Clemson.
"Barnett’s firing further hurts Colorado, which was a team already in disarray," said Eric St. Clair, race and sports director at the Rampart. "I don’t think the line will be much over 3, perhaps in the 4-to-6 range for Clemson."
St. Clair said he didn’t expect much life from the Buffaloes players, who saw Barnett as a nice guy and someone they liked.
"Whenever a team loses a popular coach, they don’t really understand the economics or see the other problems," St. Clair said. "I don’t think the game will get much play because of the 2 p.m. start and it being sandwiched in the middle of the week. There will be more action later in the day on Rutgers-Georgia Tech when people get off work."
As of Monday, oddsmakers in Las Vegas still hadn’t posted a number on Colorado’s bowl game.
A host of candidates, aside from Hankwitz, are lining up to guide the Buffaloes next year. Among the big names rumored for the position are ex-San Francisco 49ers and Detroit Lions head coach Steve Mariucci, Boise State coach Dan Hawkins and Boston College coach Tom O’Brien.
The Buffaloes captured the Big XII North Division three times in the last four seasons under Barnett. The final straw in what had been a rocky relationship between Barnett and the administration was the humiliating 70-3 loss to the Longhorns, ranked No. 2 in the nation and headed for a national title showdown against USC in the Rose Bowl.
The Denver Post reported that Barnett reluctantly accepted a $3 million settlement. Ironically, Colorado athletic director Mike Bohn had been considering a contract extension for Barnett, who compiled a 49-38 record in seven seasons at Boulder. Prior to that, Barnett had turned around the Northwestern program, leading the Wildcats to the Rose Bowl and being named Big Ten Coach of the Year in both 1995 and ’96.
Cindy Carlisle, a member of the Colorado Board of Regents, said in an ESPN story that the new coach "must have integrity, an ability to engage with players and help move them forward in academics and life."
Barnett began his association with CU as an assistant to Bill McCartney during the heyday of Buffaloes football in the early 1990s. He was brought back from Northwestern to replace Rick Neuheisel, who had turned the program into something of a renegade status.