The program he led to a Big 12 championship in 2001 is two coaches removed from him now and its fans are much more concerned with, coincidentally, a return to dominance -- the slogan he coined when he was hired at CU in 1999 -- than they are at rehashing the past.
During an interview with the Camera in September when he was back in Boulder as part of a weekend-long celebration of the 10th anniversary of the that conference title, Barnett said he would love to coach college football once again, but it would have to be the right school and the right set of circumstances.
He said he would prefer to be a head coach than an assistant.
"Gary Barnett would still be a good coach if he were coaching, and probably a better coach because I've got five more years under my belt," Barnett said in September. "You get better as you get older not worse."
Barnett reportedly expressed interest in the Colorado State job after the Rams cut ties with Steve Fairchild following a 3-9 season this fall, but said this week in interviews with area radio and television stations that he probably doesn't fit the profile for the vacancy at CSU because of his age.
Back in September, Barnett doubted whether he would ever get another opportunity because he is 65 years old and because of the circumstances that led to his firing at CU."I look at it realistically, and I look at a combination of my age and the misperceptions that were created about me, and more than likely that isn't a possibility," Barnett said. "It's all about marketing now and I think it would be a difficult task for any athletic department marketing group to be able to do that with someone of my age."
Barnett said he has had multiple opportunities in the past five offseasons to become an assistant coach and he has had several interviews for head coaching jobs.
He said he keeps up hope that an opportunity will present itself, though he knows with each passing year, those chances fade.
"It just hasn't been anything that has been close to what would be a good fit for me and probably for them, too," he said. "I think it's been mutual pretty much."
Barnett's final two years in Boulder in 2004 and 2005 were dominated by a lawsuit alleging the CU program used sex and alcohol as recruiting tools. The lawsuit came about after two women said they had been raped by a group of players and recruits at a 2001 off-campus party.
No charges were ever filed and no arrests were made in connection with those accusations. The school later settled the case with the accusers. A total of nine women, including former CU walk-on place-kicker Katie Hnida, told police and prosecutors they also had been raped by CU football players during Barnett's tenure, but none of those cases produced arrests or charges either.
Barnett said he still has to set the record straight about what actually happened under his watch at CU when he is interviewed for jobs.
For instance, some have the impression that the program was investigated for wrongdoing by the NCAA, when in fact, no major NCAA violations came of the scandal.
Defending his reputation and track record remains something Barnett is passionate about.
"The athletic director has usually done his due diligence and vetted everything out and talked to the right people and everything, but when you're in front of eight or nine other people, many of whom aren't even in the athletic department or only know what they've heard or read, then, yes, you do," he said. "It's not a subtle explanation. You have to be pretty blunt with it. You know me, I'm always going to be pretty blunt with it and candid. I don't pull any punches. I make sure that there aren't any surprises with anybody."
Barnett admitted that seeing some coaches get hired has bothered him in recent years because he knows things about those coaches that tell him those schools made poor decisions. He said he doesn't allow himself to dwell on it and usually moves beyond it pretty quickly.
Barnett splits time these days between homes in Colorado and Arizona and remains busy during football season by working in radio, but the hunger to be on the sidelines will probably always be there.
He hopes someone will give him the opportunity to prove himself once again so he'll be able to leave the game he loves the right way.
But he knows it probably won't work out that way.
"You know the truth and you know yourself," Barnett said. "Not one single player or parent ever turned on us. They did everything to support us in every single way and every coach and every family and everybody in that department, all of our secretaries and everybody in that building. We all knew and we have that and we'll always have that.
"We know the truth. We know what we stood for and what we did and what we accomplished and how we did it. We did it the right way. That's the only thing you can do. You just can't stop life because of the misperceptions that other people have garnered."