How will the Buffs remain competitive?

<b>Gary Barnett </b>found success at Northwestern on the football field despite the school's stringent admissions standards. He said he believes Colorado will remain competitive in the wake of sweeping recruiting reform and shifting academic requirements.

On Friday, Barnett fielded questions by select reporters from the Associated Press, Buffalo Sports News, Colorado Daily, Daily Camera, Denver Post, Longmont Times-Call and Rocky Mountain News. Here is part two of that interview.

Q: How do you remain competitive?

GB: You recruit competitive people and hire competitive coaches, and that's how you do it.

Q:Have you had calls from some of your peers after this action plan has been introduced?

GB: When I went to Northwestern from here, everybody I called told me not to do it. I'm sort of getting the same response now. And that is, 'I can't believe what they're doing.'

Q: How does that leave you?

GB: Just the way it was when I went to Northwestern. ‘OK, I'm going to prove you wrong.'

Q:Given that you did go through the Northwestern experience, are you that much farther ahead now?

GB: I think so. There is no question. Everything is possible.

When we first got (to Northwestern) we almost made a critical mistake. We started blaming the parameters that were out there. In our first year, to give you an example, I hired a bunch of guys who were really good recruiters, and we started recruiting and writing letters, and all of a sudden we had all these guys lined up and we got their transcripts and walked them over and gave (university admissions administrators) 100 transcripts, and they said 90 of them can't get in school.

So our immediate reaction was that's why you can't win. You won't anybody in school. But we stopped short of saying that. We said OK, these are our parameters, this is what we're working with and anybody who is not in that parameter, we're not going to worry about. We were able to focus our energy on what we were able to do, what was in our little ranch with the fence around it, and not worry about the other.

I think that's a real valuable lesson to have going into this. These are our parameters. Yeah, it's not what everybody else does. It's not the way they're going to operate, but it's the way we're going to operate, and we're going to be the very best at doing it the way we're doing it. We will make this into a positive. It's easy to sell wholesomeness.

Q: Some of this is about the media. We live in the age where the media is more accessible because of the Internet and ESPN. Has the thought crossed your mind that the media will never let this go?

GB: Sure, yeah, I'm prepared for that. I am prepared for that. That makes someone doing my job, it makes it particularly difficult on them because that's a constant pounding on you. It really is. It's not a big pounding but after you do it for enough days, you get a pretty big bruise and you can get an injury. But I'm prepared for that. I know it's going to happen.

Q: What does it do to you when you're the butt of national jokes? Jay Leno, (David) Letterman, everybody is taking their shots at you?

GB: You know, four months ago I would have told you I couldn't survive it. I got an e-mail from somebody yesterday telling me to put a bullet in my brain. I would have said I can't take that, but I've learned through this whole process that none of that stuff is terminal. And I've learned to look at it and say, 'You know what? They don't know me. And if you were to line up all the football coaches in the country and ask them about my reputation and my character, most of them would all stand up for me. And all the players that I've had have come to my defense. And that's all I've been able to control; that's all that's really important to me: My family, the people that I work with and the kids that I coach. That's all that's really important. I'd like to have the other things be important, but when things like that happen you just have to say, 'That isn't important.' What is important is these kids, their parents and my family.'

Q: Somewhere in your book you said you're at your best when your back is against the wall, or when you're backed into a corner. Is that where you are now?

GB: Yeah, we're there. Yeah, I feel that way.

Q: Are you at a competitive disadvantage, and if you are, was there ever a time where you expressed that to the administration?

GB: We've been at a competitive disadvantage here for a while. We really have. When you compare the resources of this university to the other schools we compete with nationally, that our fans want us to compete with, we're not even close. We're not even in the same ballpark. How we've done it, I don't know.

We've never had a competitive advantage. I don't care what anybody says. So we've come from behind in this process for years and years and years. And it's not anything new to us.

Do these rules put us at a competitive disadvantage? I don't know that we know that. And if it is, so be it. That's the way it is. I doesn't make any difference whether we are or not.

Did I say those things to the administration? No, because it wouldn't make any difference. There wouldn't much they could do about it.

Q:The interesting thing about recruiting to Boulder is that normally the town sells itself. But it hasn't just been the university, it's been the town of Boulder and the environment that African-American players are coming into has taken a beating. What do you say to your black players, some of whom have received the same type of e-mails you have, and what do you say when you're out recruiting to a parent of those kids? How do you make that sell?

GB: Well, I haven't been out recruiting yet, so I haven't been able to do that.. But that's an issue we have to address now.

I'm going to call on the black community to help me. I'm going to call on former players who have gone through it. I'm going to call on the parents of black players who are here in our program. I'm going to call on our black players who are here right now that have made it and are doing OK.

It isn't easy on them. There is no question, they don't have the same quality of life that a white student-athlete has or a white student. There is no doubt about it. And I'm going to harp on it to the university. They're going to put us under Student Affairs, well, they're going to hear about it. If they want to integrate us into this campus, part of that is understanding they have to integrate some other people into this campus as well. It's going to be something I'm going to raise a stink about with the university.

Q:Was that something you realized before all this happened?

Q:Sure. We haven't had any more than 440 African American students on this campus every year. Maybe 500 one year. So it's always an issue with the kids. But there isn't anybody better at dealing with it than us because we've got one-quarter of all the black student males that we've recruited and brought to this campus and graduated. And we've found ways for them to live here acceptably.

Q:Yesterday in the press conference, the president said the student athlete isn't any different from any other student. But that's just blatantly untrue. These kids have sometimes 200 (recruiting) letters that say, ‘You're so much more special than everybody else.' If the school is asking kids to come here, how is she going to say, ‘You're not different from anybody else?'

GB: That's a de-recruiting process. Everybody has that problem, every university has that issue. When you go to extremes and you fly them in with private planes and you take them to restaurants they're never going to go to, then you have a bigger de-recruiting process than those of us who don't play those games.

We don't do those things. We don't take them to places they're not going to go to when they're students here. We don't spend excessively, we don't fly them in those planes. We've never done those things that people think we do in this recruiting process for that reason – we don't want them to have any surprises when they get here. We want them to know they're going to be just like everybody else, it's just going to be harder for them, because of the demands that are going to be on them from us. They're held to a higher academic standard, student athletes are, even though it's made to look like just the opposite and that they're given privileges. They're given high standards, they're held to higher behavioral standards than the normal students.

We've tried to make an effort here not to have any surprises so that you don't have to have that big separation between recruiting and de-recruiting. So when they get here, they'll say, ‘This is just the way I thought it would be.'

That part's never been out, no one's ever understood it. Mostly because (recruiting expenditure has been reported) on the news side. So everything is exhorbitant and extreme when it comes from the news angle. But those of you who know what college sports is like have a different feel for it.

Q: If these (recruiting and academic changes) that you've talked about affect you adversely, how far down the road is that?

GB: I think when you would see it, probably, and I'm not willing to say that it's going to, it would show up about the time this next recruiting class would be in a position of leadership, which would be typically in their third year or fourth year.

Q: You're still going to be on the road recruiting, right? There's no restrictions?

GB: There are no restrictions that I know of.

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