James Jones: Barnhart remains at top of his game

Published 5:01 pm Saturday, October 21, 2023

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Despite nearly 50 years in the sportswriting business, Tony Barnhart still has a popular fanbase in college football.

Barnhart, AKA “Mr. College Football,” spoke at the Selma Quarterback Club on Monday at the George P. Evans Building, addressing the wild, wacky world of college football.

“It always amazes me in July and August when I get stopped in Publix, people ask me when college football is getting here,” Barnhart said.

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When Barnhart acknowledged this is his 46th year covering college football, both our ages were exposed. I began following Barnhart, 70, while working with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution entering high school at age 15. I was eight years old when Barnhart began as a sportswriter.

Outside of the late Cecil Hurt of the Tuscaloosa News, Barnhart was my favorite sportswriter. I always enjoyed reading his stories, especially in the era when newspapers were popular and in high demand.

Barnhart is a pretty good author too. His book, “Southern Fried Football,’’ published over 20 years ago, remains one of my favorite college football books.

Like the Selma QB Club Audience,  I never get tired of hearing Barnhart discuss college football, I’m the same way. He spoke to the Club on two other occasions, in 2014 and 2019.

Barnhart gives football fanatics what they need to hear, not what they want to hear, maintaining honesty and integrity.

For example, his prediction on the SEC Championship Game.

“I’d be surprised if it’s not Alabama and Georgia in the SEC Title game,” Barnhart said. “I need to see more from Alabama against Tennessee, but I think Alabama wins. LSU can score 40 points a game, but they can’t stop you or me.”

Barnhart picked Georgia to win the SEC and capture a third straight national title, but slightly hedged.

“I picked Georgia in June and I will stick with that,” Barnhart admitted.

If Barnhart was playing to an audience, mostly Alabama fans, he’d pick the Crimson Tide to win the SEC and national championships. Barnhart discussed a scenario where the Crimson Tide could win it all, but he made no prediction.

Barnhart also predicted that the SEC will abandon its eight-game schedule and go to nine games in 2025, which he prefers.

The Eastern and Western Divisions will be gone.  Alabama’s traditional opponents, Tennessee, Ole Miss, and Mississippi State, will be off the yearly schedule, going to every two years. Alabama and Auburn will remain a yearly battle.

We enjoyed the visit from Barnhart. We look forward to seeing him again in the Queen City talking to the Selma QB Club. He’s always enjoyable.