EAST LANSING, Mich — Spartans defensive backs coach Harlon Barnett is taking over as the interim head coach at Michigan State.
It's a title the former MSU student athlete always dreamed of having, just not in these circumstances. It comes on the heels of the suspension of Mel Tucker while he is investigated by Title IX for sexual harrasment claims made by Brenda Tracy.
Barnett says he is meeting with every player, staff member and trainers one-on-one to see how they are feeling about the entire situation.
He says he has not spoke with Tucker in person or over the phone. They have only communicated over text since the suspension.
The 56-year-old wants to make sure everyone is on the same page moving forward.
"We've got to all come together in this time of adversity and we have to be unified through the adversity," Barnett said. "We need all of our leaders to lead. Not only the coaches but the leaders to lead. I told them they lead by love and encouragement, accountability and discipline. We have to lead. We all have to lead. This is a determined group. They worked very hard this offseason. They've worked hard so far this season. Hey, we are 2-0, right? They are still motivated and excited to move forward in this season. We have a mission to complete so we are mission focused."
This will be the first time Barnett will ever be the head honcho of any program, but he believes he is ready.
He's coached under Michigan State's all-time wins leader Mark Dantonio. He also played for eight-time Super Bowl winning coach Bill Belichick and seven-time national championship winning head coach Nick Saban.
Even though he has an interim title, Barnett is excited about this opportunity.
"I have wanted to be the head coach at Michigan State, but not in this way," Barnett said. "That's always been a goal of mine. I am a Spartan through and through. Anybody that knows me, knows I am a Spartan. They will tell you that the dude is green all day. I really appreciate the opportunity to be the head coach here. Again, not like in the circumstances. I think the players, I connect with those guys in a good way. I am very excited about this coming week and this opportunity to show what I got."
Barnett has quite the test to open up his head coaching career. No. 8 Washington comes to town on Saturday. MSU lost to the Huskies 39-28 in Seattle last season.
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