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About Gary

Professional Highlights

Coach Barnett is known as a teacher, mentor and counselor.  He has always produced winning programs while preparing his players for success on and off the field.

  • 14 years as a Division I head coach

  • 4 time Coach of the Year (twice in the Big 10 and twice in the Big XII) including a record of 17 Coach of the Year awards in 1995

  • 3 conference championships (1995, 1996 Big 10 Championships, 2001 Big 12 Championship)

  • 4 Big 12 North Division championships

  • 16th ranked (SuperPrep) recruiting class of 2000

  • 11th ranked (SuperPrep) and 14th ranked (CNN/SI) recruiting class of 2002

  • 18th ranked (PrepStar) and 19th ranked (Scout) recruiting class of 2003

  • Marinus Smith Award 2005 – presented by the CU Parents Association to teachers, advisors and staff who have made a significant impact on the lives of undergraduate students

  • One of four finalists for the 2003 State Farm Eddie Robinson Coach of Distinction Award, presented to a coach for his football success, serving as a role model to his players and for service to his community

  • 79% graduation rate on average (one class was 100%)

  • ESPY Award

  • Coached Most Improved Teams (three times)

  • Coached two turnaround teams in 1995 and 2001 (as recognized by the NCAA)

  • On the coaching staff for the 2004 Hula Bowl in Maui

  • Coached the East-West Shrine Game

  • Offensive Coordinator of the 1991 national championship team

  • Member of the Parkway HS (St. Louis Mo.) Hall of Fame

  • Member of the Northwestern University Athletic Hall of Fame

  • Member of the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame

Personal Background

  • Married to Mary for 39 years with whom he has raised two successful, accomplished children (Courtney, Northwestern 1997, and Clayton, Georgetown 1999, Denver Law 2003).  Courtney works for World Relief and has spent her career working for non-profit organizations.  She and J.J. are currently expecting the Barnett’s first grandchild.  Clayton is practicing law in Denver and is engaged to be married this summer. 

  • Chicago Father of the Year in 1995 and Chicagoan of the Year in 1996

  • Mentored students from ages 15-23 for more than 30 years

  • Founded an organization to support educational programs for economically disadvantaged and at-risk youth (  The Barnetts started the foundation after the passing of one of their players and to further their interest in helping young people succeed in life.  Orange Bowl MVP Charles Johnson, Boulder physician Dr. John Meyer and Boston TV anchor Paul Burton are all involved in the organization.

  • Received a Master’s in Education and played WR at University of Missouri

  • Physically active as a golfer and runner

Coaching Experience

University of Colorado

After his turning around the fortunes in Evanston and leading Northwestern to the Citrus Bowl and the Rose Bowl, Coach Barnett was named head coach at CU on January 20, 1999.  He had previously coached as an assistant under Bill McCartney from 1984 to 1991.  After assuming the head coaching position, in seven seasons he led the Buffaloes to a 42-33 record.  He coached four division championship teams and one conference championship team.  Two of his teams finished ranked in the nation’s Top 10 and the Top 15.

At Colorado, he won the Big 12 Conference title (2001) and four Big 12 North Division crowns (2001, 2002, 2004, 2005).  The Buffs were 29-19 in conference games under Coach Barnett, including a 14-2 mark over the 2001 and 2002 campaigns, the fourth best two-year record in conference history.  His last four teams were 17-3 against Big 12 North counterparts, best in the conference.

Coach Barnett was twice honored as the Big 12 Coach of the Year by the Associated Press (2001, 2004).  He was twice honored as Big 10 Coach of the Year by the Associated Press (1995, 1996).  On average, teams coached by Gary Barnett have won division or conference every 3.5 years.

In 2004, the conferences’ media recognized him as their Coach of the Year after his team went to a Bowl for the fourth time in six years under his tutelage.  The Buffs finished their season with a 33-28 win over UTEP in the Houston Bowl, concluding an 8-5 season.

Coach Barnett is a member of a very select group of head coaches who have twice coached the NCAA Most Improved Team.   Several years after arriving at Colorado, in 2001, he tied for the top spot (also a plus-6), joining him with three coaching legends who have also accomplished the feat on two occasions (Paul “Bear” Bryant at Kentucky 1946 and Texas A&M 1955; John McKay at Southern Cal 1962 and 1972; and Johnny Majors at Pittsburgh 1973 and Tennessee 1989). 


In seven seasons at Northwestern, he compiled a 35-45-1 record, which included the outright Big Ten Conference title in 1995 and a shared championship in 1996.  He took the Wildcats to their first bowl game in 47 years when the ’95 team played USC in the Rose Bowl.  His 1996 squad traveled to the Citrus Bowl, the first time Northwestern had ever participated in Bowls in back-to-back seasons.

Coach Barnett led Northwestern to two of its first three bowl appearances in school history.  He coached the Wildcats to two winning seasons in his tenure (1995 and 1996).  In those two seasons, he matched the total winning seasons at Northwestern for the previous 31 years.  Northwestern was 10-2 in 1995, with an 8-0 mark in Big Ten play.  They were 9-3 in 1996, posting a 7-1 record in league action.

Coach Barnett has demonstrated an ability to win, despite academic and university restrictions.  Northwestern was honored with the 1998 AFCA’s Outstanding Academic Award, as the Wildcats boasted the nation’s highest graduation rate.  All 22 of Coach Barnett’s recruits graduated in four years.


  • Coach Barnett is the color commentator on KOA Radio for Colorado Buffaloes football games.