Michigan State interim head football coach Harlon Barnett has made one thing clear from the moment he was named as acting head coach on Sept. 10 — he wants to turn the interim tag into a full-time position.
Since being elevated following the suspension and eventual termination of former head coach Mel Tucker, Barnett and the Spartans have gone 2-7 and are heading into their final game against the No. 11-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions, but Barnett believes he should receive serious consideration for the full-time job.
“I am a Spartan, I bleed green, and there’s nobody that they can find to do a better job,” Barnett said at his press conference on Monday. “Maybe equal to (me), because I ain’t gonna do that — confident, not cocky — but there’s nobody that they can find better. Maybe equal to, but not better.”
Just hours after Barnett made his pitch, MSU basketball coach Tom Izzo praised the former All-American Spartan defensive back’s efforts this season with the turmoil surrounding the program.
“There’s a lot of great coaches but great coaches to me are people that can motivate other people and that understand the surroundings they’re in,” Izzo said on Monday. “I’ve talked to Harlon twice every week and I appreciate greatly what he’s done. I understand the circumstances he’s working under, I’m not sure most people do. To keep a group of players this day and age together like he has, that’s worth a lot of consideration on a lot of things.”
In spite of Tucker’s firing and a 30-day opening of the transfer portal, Barnett was tasked with holding the team together and did so, keeping all but four Spartans from leaving the program.
Barnett returned to MSU in 2020 under Tucker as the defensive backs coach following a two-year stint at Florida State as defensive coordinator. He spent 11 seasons in East Lansing as part of former head coach Mark Dantonio’s staff.
On Monday, Barnett said he’s been told he’ll receive the opportunity to interview for the full-time head coach position, though it has not been formally scheduled. He also expressed his deep adoration for the university.
“As far as the job itself and wanting the job, and I do want this job as the head football coach,” Barnett said. “And I said this before: there's nobody that they can go find that loves this place more than I do and I don't think will do a better job. Because there's something to loving a place and caring about a place as opposed to just going there for a job, if that makes sense. There's extra that will be done, above and beyond. Understanding a place, I understand what Michigan State is all about and our alumni and our fans. … That’s my deal.”
MSU athletic director Alan Haller is still searching for a head coach. With the early signing period from Dec. 20 to Dec. 22, expect Haller to make a hire in the coming weeks in order to rescue what’s left of MSU’s 2024 recruiting aspirations.
With Barnett being unexpectedly propelled into a challenging position as head coach of MSU’s program during turbulent, uncertain times, Izzo commended the job he’s done to “keep the train on the track.”
“I’m a huge Harlon Barnett fan, and what Alan (Haller) and then the people decide to do, I can appreciate he wants to be under consideration,” Izzo said. “I know how I felt. And he’s played here, he’s coached different places, he’s got a lot more experience than I had. It semi-worked out for me, so let’s see what happens.”
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