Oct. 8, 2011
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
There is a media darling to be found at a convenience store in the Northeast Heights of Albuquerque. A few days ago, this Lobo was more of an unknown.
Because a few days back, George Barlow was not the head coach of the University of New Mexico football team and didn't have his mug plastered on every TV station in Albuquerque.
Heck, local football fans might even recognize Barlow by his voice alone because that too is has become a hot commodity on Albuquerque radio stations.
"I go to this one convenience store every day near my house," said Barlow. "Nobody has ever paid much attention to me. Now, I go in and people look over and say, `Coach, how you doing? How's it going?' At first, I looked around like, `Who are they talking to?'
"I'm getting that more and more."
Yep, that's the kind of attention that comes when you become the symbol of Lobo football. Barlow inherited that spotlight - and that hot seat - from Michael Locksley, who was removed from that seat prior to UNM's game with New Mexico State.
Barlow obviously had to hit the ground running as UNM's interim head coach, but the personable Barlow said the part of the job that surprised him the most was the media responsibilities.
"That was the biggest adjustment," he said. "There are more administrative responsibilities that come with being the head coach, organizing practices, taking care of office stuff. I'm in the position now where I'm making decisions for other areas on the team. I don't really have a problem with it, but there is more to do, more to think about.
"The football stuff comes easy, but I was really surprised the first week by everything I had to do with the media."
For sure, the job of any head coach for a marquee sport involves a lot of marketing and media work. As a symbol of that program, you become the face and the voice of that program - and the media comes calling.
One day this week Barlow headed off for what he thought was a Mountain TV interview only to find out it was a Mountain phone interview. He had to hustle back to his office phone.
It can be complicated.
Barlow has a weekly Mountain West teleconference with the other league head coaches. He has a weekly TV show. He has a call-in show Thursday nights on KKOB. He has a weekly luncheon/press conference with the Albuquerque media on Tuesdays. He meets with the local media after practices and on Sundays after road games. He has phone interviews with media members from other areas of the country. He also talks to the local press after Monday, Wednesday and Thursday practices.
And he gets recognized when he goes to the corner convenience store.
"I was kind of surprised the first week," he said. "I didn't even feel like a football coach with all the media stuff I had to do. It's more natural when it's just football stuff."
The media probes are about all that football stuff and how it feels to slide into the hot seat that comes with a winless football team. The Lobos' bye week probably couldn't have come at a better time for Barlow. UNM will play at Nevada this coming Saturday.
"The extra time gives me a chance to get acclimated to some of the administrative duties and the media obligations," he said. "But it also gives me time to think more about the football and any changes we feel we need to make."
The Lobos' offense has been decent the past two games, scoring 28 against the NMSU Aggies and 45 against Sam Houston State. The UNM defense has given up 52, 59, 48 and 42 points.
If Barlow is to put a win on his resume as the Lobos' head coach, something has to change on defense.
"We obviously need to make some adjustments, but we are limited by our depth in what we can do," he said. "We went into the season with certain systems and terminology and any changes have to be simple enough where they don't confuse the kids.
Any changes have to be somewhat compatible to what you have been doing. You can't go from A to Z."
In a way, Barlow went from A to Z in his jump from associate head coach to interim head coach. The alphabetical jump he needs to make isn't as big a jump in the letters' chart. He has to jump from L (lost) to W (win).
"The kids understand that we realize where some of our problems lie and that we are doing things to fix them," said Barlow. "I don't think there is any quit in this team. They know that I care about them and this staff cares about them and I expect them to keep playing for us."
Barlow also should know this about the media, too: It will keep on calling.