It takes something extraordinary for a comment made by an FCS head coach on a mid-day radio show to go across the country and across the pond. Something extraordinary like offering every adult who buys a ticket to your game a beer.
Portland State's Bruce Barnum did just that, and before long he was on nearly every sports website in the country -- including this one.
“I’ve got a deal for you,” Barnum said on The Bald Faced Truth with John Canzano radio show earlier this week, “anybody who heard me on your show... just say ‘I heard Barney on the BFT’ at the Barney Beer Garden and I’ll buy your beer.
“I’m not buying your ticket, but I’ll buy your beer.”
The promotion was a success, and Barnum has the receipt to prove it.
FootballScoop spoke with Barnum as he drove home Tuesday night to discuss the wildest week of his coaching career.
This conversation has been edited for clarity and length.
FootballScoop: Let's back this up to the beginning. Where did this idea come from?
Barnum: Beginning of the season: 'How are we going to sell tickets? How many have we sold?' I said, 'How about Barny's Beer Garden?' For football alumni, we'll put it in the corner, let's get them back in the mix and I'll buy them beers every game -- thinking it'd be 30 guys or whatever per game. We had some beers donated, 100 beers for every home game. I said, 'That'll work.' You have to pay tax, $3 per beer. I'm thinking $1,500 for the season, not bad. Everybody's happy and my alumni are back and watching football.
Anyway, I get on the (John) Canzano show and I'm like, 'You know, why not? This might get a few people out.' Obviously my mouth got me in trouble again. It took off. I was thinking Shawshank Redemption, drinking five beers out of the bucket on the roof, everybody's happy, the pandemic's over, Portland's a mess, let's go out and forget about it for a while. Then all of a sudden it turned into what it did. I was getting calls from every coach I knew all across the country.
The president was there, he had a blast. There were no lines. It rained, which probably saved me a couple thousand dollars. It poured in the second half; that probably kept some people away.
FootballScoop: How many people did you end up hearing from?
Barnum: Texts came from all over, in and out of the profession. I heard from most of the Big Sky guys. (Bobby) Hauck at Montana said, 'Barny, you're going to have to work for an extra 20 years.' San Jose State, they had a late game at Hawai'i so they were texting me. I heard from the Vikings. 'I see you're still crazy as hell, Barny.' Oregon State was all over it. My brother in Tokyo picked it up somewhere.
Every coach in America knows once it hits FootballScoop, every coach and sports journalist is going to know about it.
FootballScoop: How did your administration react?
Barnum: (laughs) What's the best way to describe this? The phone was blowing up in all their meetings because they were hearing from Hillsboro, where we play. They heard from security, they might've heard from the mayor. 'What are we doing?' We were in game plan. 'Barny, what'd you say?' The president, AD, everybody, afterward they thought it was the greatest promotion they'd ever seen from the university. They were getting the same calls. 'Who's your football coach? How'd you do that?' And I was just talking out my ass to Canzano on the radio.
FootballScoop: Have they told you how much this promotion boosted attendance versus what they expected going into the week? [Portland State reported 3,124 tickets sold.]
Barnum: I don't know. We have a new ticket guy, and all I know is he was my best friend for four days. He was the happiest guy in the place. I don't think they had many coming, probably a parents game until this happened. It probably got a couple thousand people to come out, which is cool as hell for my players and Western Oregon's players. It was a fun atmosphere.
FootballScoop: Most important question. What did your wife think?
Barnum: I'm still married, how's that? There's some things we wanted that might not be happening now. She wants one of those RVs, (our son Brody) is playing baseball at Wazzu. That might be on hold for a little bit.
You know, I haven't seen her. I leave the house around 4:30 and I get home around 8. The kids asked the same thing, 'What's Mom think?' Next question, Zach.
FootballScoop: I just want to confirm. This $14,400 came out of the Barny bank account, correct?
Barnum: That came out of it. Now, there are some positives happening. The brass is talking about going dutch with me, which I would love -- $7,200 is a lot better than $14,400. But I wasn't going to do it and then go, 'Who the hell's paying this?' That wouldn't be right.
It sounds like I might get a dutch out of this. The brass has been great.
FootballScoop: You get paid very well compared to the average person, but you're not making millions like they do in the Power 5.
Barnum: It's more than a month (salary.) Like you said, I don't get paid like them. But I get paid so much more than my staff, I don't feel guilty. I think I'm the lowest in this conference. What I decided on was the highest paycheck I could get without bonuses. I get the same as (other Big Sky coaches) I just don't have that side here.
But yeah, it's going to hit me, but it helped my program. They did extend me; I would've been in my contract year but they extended me because of the pandemic. I've got a couple seasons to try to upset the ranked boys and get back on top.
FootballScoop: Would you ever do it again?
Barnum: A lot of people have asked that. Not this year, I know that.
Why not, if it's going to be what it was? We'd try to plan it out more, instead of me making a deal and making everybody react, I should probably let the brass do it. Talk to the beer distributor, the stadium, concessions. I don't know if I'll do it again personally.
FootballScoop: How did this work, logistics wise?
Barnum: That was the magical part. There's nothing that could've come back on me because it wasn't, like, our administration pouring the beers. The stadium has a liquor license and professional bartenders. They put an X on your hand every time you got a beer to make sure you aren't trying to drink a 12-pack. There were plenty of people around to make sure our student-athletes weren't there, to make sure people didn't take advantage of it.
FootballScoop: And you won the game.
Barnum: Yes. That would've been a flop, wouldn't it?