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The Scarlet & Black

Barnes brings new era to GC Football

New Grinnell College football coach Brent Barnes on campus in January 2020. Photo by Andrew Tucker.

Grinnell College has hired Brent Barnes as its new head football coach. Barnes most recently comes to Grinnell after heading the football program at Alfred State College in New York. Barnes has coached football for many years and has known about Grinnell College from his involvement in collegiate athletics. After hearing about the open position for head coach, he believed he could be a good fit.

“I thought [that] I have a lot of high academic experience working at places like Middlebury, University of Chicago, Rhodes College and Simon Fraser University. I’m not saying that all these schools are as comparable to Grinnell, but there’s a lot of parallels. And because of that I thought I’d be a good fit for the position,” he said.

The interview process came in two parts. The first being a short phone interview. Barnes was then invited to Grinnell for an intense, day-long interview. During this second interview, he met with every stakeholder associated with football program, including Andy Hamilton, director of athletics, other coaches, the search committee, the Faculty Representative, select team members and the Office of Student Affairs. Later, Barnes met the rest of the team for a question and answer session.

Barnes recognizes Grinnell College’s unique football program, and that in order to have success, one cannot simply replicate programs of other peer institutions. “You have a vision when you come in for a presentation, but what you have to be able to do is adjust to the resources, priorities, and advantages that [are] offered,” he explained.

While recruiting, Barnes hopes to highlight Grinnell College’s resources as an advantage. “What I do know is that there is a lot to sell here. … If we can get this message out to the right people, we have a chance to really bulk up the football program in positive ways,” he said.

Barnes plans to highlight what makes Grinnell unique among other colleges and football programs. “I don’t think that football recruiting in general has done a good enough job differentiating those differences [between peer institutions]. … This school is a special place, and we haven’t sold it as a special place quite as well as we can.”

Additionally, Barnes aims to attract recruits with backgrounds as diverse as possible. However, this goal is often difficult to achieve due to the systematic issues and barriers surrounding elite colleges and diversity. Barnes recognizes this problem and plans to do his best to advocate for diverse recruiting. “That does not mean we want to simply recruit only those institutions; it simply means that’s got to be the starting point,” he explained.

Athletics at Grinnell College are different from other collegiate programs, from state schools to other private universities. According to Barnes, these differences need to be recognized and highlighted.

“[At Grinnell], you are dealing with young men who value the educational benefit here as much as anything else. I’m selling the football program and the ability to continue their athletic careers. More than anything, I’m selling them on, ‘This is an institution that will change your life,’” he said.

Barnes is most excited about the opportunity to work with the players. “The opportunity to work with a group of people who have decided to continue their athletic career here, despite everything that’s happened, I can’t imagine a better group you’d want to go to battle with,” he said.

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