Gary Bargen helped NU reach four straight NCAA basketball Tournaments.
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By Randy York
Gary Bargen has been on both sides of the athletic fence, so he knows when you can push the envelope and when you can’t. The former Nebraska assistant basketball coach (1987-95) has spent the past 17 years in NU’s Compliance Office, including the last 13 heading the staff charged with ensuring that the Huskers’ 23 athletic teams are in compliance with NCAA and Big Ten Conference rules and regulations. That’s no small task for anyone, and when Tom Osborne announced Wednesday that Jamie Vaughn would replace Bargen as associate athletic director for Compliance, NU’s athletic director thanked Bargen for his outstanding service and wished him well in his retirement.
Vaughn will assume his new position on July 16, but wisely asked Bargen to stay on staff until Aug. 3 to help him transition from his leadership position in compliance at Big 12 member Kansas State to his new job in the Big Ten at Nebraska. “Jamie Vaughn is a great hire for the University of Nebraska, not just in compliance, but within the whole athletic department. He has a great resume, and he’s been in some excellent programs,” Bargen said. “Jamie’s run his own shop at Kansas State, so he’s been able to provide education to and work with some very strong coaching personalities, and those experiences will help him be very successful at Nebraska. He’s a people person and as a graduate of Wayne State (Neb.), he cares a great deal about the University of Nebraska. He knows how important this position is to protect the integrity of this institution and specifically the athletic department and the coaches in each program. He’s an excellent person to direct the compliance program, and our staff is super excited about his being hired at Nebraska.”
Everyone who knows Bargen, 70, understands how and why he wants nothing more than to leave Nebraska in good hands, and fortunately, compliance isn’t the only case where that’s true. Before Bargen exits stage left and moves to Kansas City, where he and wife Nancy will be closer to three of their four children and 13 of their 15 grandchildren, he made a point to give the Nebraska basketball program the same vote of confidence he gives his successor in compliance. “Tim Miles has a lot energy,” Bargen said of NU’s new head basketball coach. “He’s been very successful in building programs everywhere he’s been, and some of those programs were in dire straits. They were on their backs looking up, so I think he’ll be able to do that in time here. People will have to patient. He’s a good man, and he’s surrounded himself with a quality staff. He knows that games at this level largely are won with talent. I think he will put the pieces together with discipline and strategy. He’s hired coaches that understand the Big Ten area, recruiting-wise, and his contract is designed to allow him to build this program the right way, so he can capitalize on the new practice and game day facilities.”
Bargen understands what it takes to make Nebraska successful. He was a member of Danny Nee’s coaching staff that qualified for four consecutive NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournaments from 1990 to 1994. The Huskers, in fact, were a No. 3 national seed in 1990 but were upset in the opening round. “We had the talent that year to be a Sweet 16 team or maybe even an Elite Eight team,” he said. “We had size, shooters, rebounders and great depth. We just didn’t get it done.” Even though he’s moving, Bargen will continue to follow all Nebraska sports and expects to attend as many games as a football, basketball, volleyball and baseball season ticket holder can make from Kansas City. Two of Bargen’s sons played college basketball. Mike Bargen played at Marquette and still coaches at Butler Community College, the Kansas school that sent Caleb Walker to Nebraska.
As a man who works out and meditates almost daily, Gary Bargen is fit and ready to get closer to his family. “We’ve been able to be a part of their lives,” he said, “but not to the extent that you hope you will be when you get closer to them on a daily basis. Our grandchildren range in age from 14 years down to six months. They’re involved in a lot of activities, so when we move to Kansas City, we’ll be able to attend their activities on a regular basis. Hopefully, we can help during times when they need help, and we can be a more meaningful part of their lives. There’s no substitute for being there in person. We’re getting closer to family, but we’ll continue to support our favorite team three hours down the road. Nan and I have always enjoyed being at every game we were able to attend, and we both believe that once you’re a Husker, you are always a Husker.”
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