Back at Work

<b>Gary Barnett</b> arrived at the Dal Ward offices at 6:45 a.m. Friday, and put in his first full day of work since February. A calm and relaxed-looking Barnett spent much of the day talking to the media about what's transpired the past four months, and what's ahead for the CU football program. In an hour-long session with area beat writers, he addressed a range of issues, from national perception of CU, to how new guidelines might affect recruiting to the timetable for hiring a DB coach.

Barnett was candid, thoughtful and clear throughout the session. The following are some of the more newsy topics touched on during the interview.

Defensive Backs Coach
Among Barnett's first orders of business will be to hire a defensive backs coach to replace the departed Vance Joseph, who took the Bowling Green job in early April. Barnett admitted that his office wasn't flooded with resumes, but said that he hopes to make a hire by the beginning of CU football summer camps, which are scheduled for June 9-16.

Barnett wouldn't name candidates, but when asked if former defensive coordinator Vince Okruch was a main candidate, Barnett responded, "I'm going to hire a defensive backs coach," emphasizing the term "defensive backs."

Barnett said he plans to begin meeting with players as soon as possible. He admitted that there were some grumblings among some about transferring from the program.

He said he hadn't talked to Brian Calhoun, the only player who has publicly said he seeks a transfer, but plans too.

"I think there'll be some other guys wavering," Barnett added.

Barnett said that some of the reasons some of the players may be wavering has to do with the climate in Boulder for the African American athlete.

And he spoke candidly about the cultural difficulties that sometimes face black student athletes at CU, where there are fewer than 450 African American students on a campus of more than 29,000 students.

"I think this school and this community is a hard place for African-American student-athletes to feel like they are comfortable," he said. "I think that within the university and within the community it has become a very difficult place for them."

When asked how CU might counteract negative recruiting by other college coaches, Barnett said, "There won't be anything we can do about other coaches (using that against CU in recruiting); that is just the dirty part of the business. I think that on our end the only thing we can control is that our players see that we are making efforts to make this a better place for them. I think there are definitely things we can do within the university and I definitely think there are things we can do within the community to do our part."

He also said he will call on the black community in Boulder and former black CU football players who've been through the program.

Today is the last day of the early recruiting period where coaches can be out on the road visiting high schools. The next period will be the summer camp phase, where prospective athletes visit schools. Barnett said that's a vital period because it's when many parents visit CU with their potential recruit children and get a feel for the program, campus and community.

He also said that his assistant coaches have been much more well-received by high school coaches around the country and in Colorado in the past month than some might have thought, considering the negative publicity.

And he acknowledged that the recruiting reform will definitely affect CU's recruiting, but wasn't yet sure how, since most of the changes have to do with visits, which don't happen until the fall.

Barnett also declined to comment on the status of defensive end Marques Harris for the 2004 season, only saying he was still suspended from the team indefinitely.

The Buffalo Sports News will publish the interview session in its entirety in three installments over the next few days.

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