Gary Barnett reluctantly stepped down as football coach of Colorado on Thursday, accepting a $3 million settlement and ending a tenure that...

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BOULDER, Colo. — Gary Barnett reluctantly stepped down as football coach of Colorado on Thursday, accepting a $3 million settlement and ending a tenure that was riddled by off-the-field problems but ultimately done in by recent bad results on the field.

Barnett said the decision was made by athletic director Mike Bohn.

“In the last 24 hours, Mike has made a decision to change the football coach,” Barnett said. ” … I respect that decision. I didn’t like that decision — I didn’t resign my position — but I wholeheartedly accept … the decision.”

Barnett pointed to a résumé that includes a Big 12 championship and conference honors as coach of the year.

“I would deem that a success. Other people might not,” he said.

Choking up and pausing, Barnett thanked his players and fellow coaches. He conceded he was disappointed in the decision and that as little as three weeks ago he was looking forward to a contract extension. Colorado, however, lost three straight games by a combined score of 130-22.

“It’s pretty simple. We lost,” he said. “I think our team has been overly concerned about a contract extension. … We ran out of juice. The well went dry.”

Colorado (7-5) plays Clemson in the Champs Sports Bowl on Dec. 27 in Orlando, Fla. Barnett, 49-38 over seven seasons, will not coach the team.

Cornerback Terrence Wheatley said he was disappointed and wanted Barnett to coach in the bowl game. Tight end Quinn Sypniewski called Barnett’s dismissal a “tragedy” and said the coach was upset when he told his team the news.

“He spoke with emotion and with passion,” Sypniewski said.

Regent Michael Carrigan said Barnett’s exit was the best decision.

“We’ve implemented recent changes, but it’s important to have a change in personnel to really make the reforms lasting,” he said. “Performance issues both on the field and off the field led us to believe it was a good decision.”

Barnett went to Colorado, ironically, to bolster the image of a program that had earned something of a renegade status under Rick Neuheisel, who bolted for Washington.

At first, Barnett was successful. By the end, though, he found himself in the center of a sordid recruiting scandal, which resulted in an investigation that concluded drugs, alcohol and sex were used to entice recruits to the Boulder campus, though none of the practices were sanctioned by university officials.

No charges were filed, but Barnett got into further trouble when he used derogatory terms in talking about kicker Katie Hnida, who came out with allegations that she was raped by a teammate in 2000. Barnett was suspended by the school in the spring of 2004 and had restrictions placed on his recruiting, which have since been eased.

When Barnett returned from his suspension, he still had his job, but the president, chancellor and athletic director were all soon gone.

His resignation came on the same day the Rocky Mountain News reported that new president Hank Brown had asked attorneys to investigate allegations in a letter that Barnett attempted to influence the sworn testimony of subordinates during the recruiting scandal as well as charges of NCAA violations and financial improprieties.

Among the alleged NCAA violations is an assertion players were tipped off well in advance of what were supposed to be random drug tests.

Bohn said the $3 million Barnett will receive will come largely from extra revenue generated by a 12th game, which Division I schools will start playing next season.

Barnett at Colorado
Gary Barnett’s tenure at Colorado:
Season W-L Big 12 finish*
1999 7-5 Third
2000 3-8 Fourth
2001 10-3 First
2002 9-5 First
2003 5-7 Fourth (tied)
2004 8-5 First
2005 7-5 First
* North Division finish