No one knows more about the Sweet Sioux Tomahawk than former Northwestern coach Gary Barnett, who went 4-3 against Illinois. Now broadcasting games for the Sports USA radio network and breaking down the BCS on Fridays and Sundays on Fox Sports Net, Barnett remains connected to the sport he loves. Headed to Columbus, Ohio, to call Saturday's Michigan-Ohio State game, Barnett checked in with sports editor Jim Rossow to discuss the Wolverines' demise, his possible return to coaching and Barack Obama.
What happened to Michigan?
I don't recognize Michigan. I know what Rich Rodriguez wants them to look like, but it's going to take a few years to make that happen. It happens. When you make changes, you fall victim to this type of thing. They should show some improvement next year, and then in 2010 I expect them to be back. He has to find the right players for his system.
What's tougher, coaching or broadcasting?
Coaching. Not even close. Broadcasting is fun all the time.
Do you plan on coaching again?
I haven't really made myself available for that kind of stuff. If I were going to do it, this would be the year. I've been away from coaching for three years, but I've been around the game. I miss it a lot and still have a lot to contribute. If the right thing came up, I'd do it. I don't have any expectations, though.
Best Illinois-Northwestern memory.
I remember the ones we won, not the ones we lost. My first year (in 1992), being down (26-6) in the fourth quarter and coming back to win (27-26) was an unbelievable experience. To do it with Lou Tepper on the other sideline, someone who I had been officemates with and on the same staff together (at Colorado), that didn't make it more fun for me but it did make it more exciting.
Best Northwestern memory.
There are so many. Being in the Rose Bowl, I guess that would be No. 1. Beating Notre Dame (in 1995) would be 1A, the Penn State game (in '95) would be 1B, sitting in the Purdue locker room with the Big Ten trophy (in '95) would be 1C and so on.
Pat Fitzgerald starred for your Rose Bowl team. That almost didn't happen.
Fitz really wanted to go to Notre Dame. We offered him but he was holding out for Notre Dame, which sort of ticked me off. We had one scholarship left and I was in Louisville getting ready to offer this linebacker. I was in a car outside this kid's house when I got the call that Fitz was ready to commit to us. Well, I was still ticked off, so I had to think about it for a minute. I decided to take Fitz. It's a good thing we did for everybody involved.
Are you surprised he has been able to get Northwestern going again?
For some reason, people don't remember that Northwestern has had three Big Ten titles in the last 13 years. I don't think there's but two other teams that have done that, yet no one thinks about them being in the upper echelon of the Big Ten. Penn State gets all the hoopla but what have they done: they've won the Big Ten, what, once in 17 years? Yet people definitely relate more to the Penn States than the Northwesterns of the world, and it will never change. The image of Northwestern will always be how strong it is academically.
Does the Big Ten deserve two teams in the BCS?
That's a hard argument this year. The sad thing is that there are only two teams in the Big Ten that deserve it. In the Big 12, there are about six. I think the Big Ten needs to add a 12th school and get a championship game. That's the way they take the next step. I admire the fact that they stand for something and just won't throw anyone in there to have a championship game. But I think you need a 12th team. Otherwise, it might not make the progress that fans would like to see.
You're Jim Delany for a day. Who do you add?
I know of the inner workings and how close Notre Dame was, but they just refused to do it. The most logical one is Pittsburgh, just because of geography. Then I'd go with Rutgers – I think they'd be a good addition.
Would you like to see a playoff?
No. Absolutely not. If I'm at Ohio State, I would say yes. If I'm at Illinois, definitely no because you'd never get a chance. If you have 64 teams like they do in basketball, I can do that. That's one-third of the representation in Division I. So if you took 32 teams (in football), I could do that. Then the Illinoises of the world would have a chance to get in there. If you limit it to eight teams, the rich get richer. If Obama wants to redistribute the wealth, he doesn't want a playoff. Pardon me, President Obama.