Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

`Barnett Syndrome' Hits Coaches

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

`Barnett Syndrome' Hits Coaches

Article excerpt

Innocently, even heroically, Gary Barnett has done things at Northwestern that have plunged the college football coaching profession into hatchet-swinging turmoil.

Nobody enjoys losing. Schools in 49 states, everywhere but Alaska where ice fishing is a bigger draw, are fantasizing about being more like the 'Noles, 'Huskers, Buckeyes, Crimson Tide, Nittany Lions and Gators.

That's not unhealthy. High goals are admirable. But many NCAA wannabes have become trigger-happy and unrealistic. Gary Barnett Syndrome is a highly contagious disease. Many schools now figure, "If that Gary guy can win at Northwestern, where football failure seemed an incurable habit, surely my university can find its Barnett, allowing our struggling program to escalate to artistic and financial joy." Epidemic warning! College sports are, necessarily, predominantly under the rule of a new brand of athletic director. Operations at major schools are vastly expensive, terribly complex, highly scrutinized and potentially volatile. No longer can Big U afford to put a washed-up coach in the AD's chair. For generations, old jocks would hang around to shake hands, entertain boosters, serve as figureheads and enjoy well-paid semiretirement. AD job qualifications now scream for a CEO-type blessed with the skills of economist, politician, enforcer and marketing whiz. But, often due to impatient ambitions of modern CEO ADs, football coaches are being fired or shoved into resigning like never before. Schools searching for their Gary. Trouble is, low-risk coaching prospects are in severely short supply. Even for Notre Dame and Alabama, universities with sensational football histories and unlimited prospects, there would be no obvious Gary Barnett. Actually, ND did want the man himself, but Gary declined, to remain with now-grid-potent Northwestern. So where to turn? …

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