Wearing a Northwestern-purple tie and a wide grin, Randy Walker called himself the luckiest guy in the world.
The coach at Miami of Ohio the last nine seasons was introduced as the Wildcats' new coach Wednesday afternoon. He replaces Gary Barnett, who was hired as Colorado's coach earlier in the day.
"I just keep having good things happen to me," Walker said. "You're looking at an old farm boy from Troy, Ohio, who didn't have a whole lot of resources going for him when he came out of high school. I thank God every night I'm alive that football is a game I could play.
"It gave me a chance to do the things I want to do in life," he added. " . . . And that's coach football."
Barnett's departure and Walker's hiring puts an end to a tumultuous few weeks for the Wildcats. Barnett, who returned the Wildcats to glory in 1995 and 1996 with a trip to the Rose Bowl and consecutive Big Ten championships, has flirted with leaving almost since he arrived in Evanston in late 1991.
He was a candidate for jobs at UCLA and Notre Dame, and linked to jobs at Georgia, Oklahoma and Texas.
Colorado Athletic Director Dick Tharp said Barnett's hiring is subject to the approval of the university's board of regents, which will meet this morning to discuss the matter.
If the board approves the hiring, as expected, Barnett was scheduled to be introduced during a news conference Friday.
Barnett, returning to the school where he was an assistant for eight seasons under Bill McCartney, replaces Rick Neuheisel, who left Colorado on Jan. 9 to coach Washington at $1 million a year.
The date for next year's Sugar Bowl, which will feature the nation's two top-ranked teams, has been rescheduled to avoid a conflict with Monday night football. Instead of Monday, Jan. 3, next year's game in New Orleans will be Tuesday, Jan. 4. . . . Kennedy Pola, a fullback at USC from 1982-86, became the fifth member of the Colorado Buffaloes' coaching staff to follow Neuheisel to Washington. . . . Southern Mississippi has extended the contract of Coach Jeff Bower. The one-year extension, which comes after Southern Mississippi's fifth winning season in a row and third consecutive bowl game, will put Bower under contract through the 2002 season. . . . Former Nebraska quarterback Tommie Frazier is heading to Baylor as a graduate assistant. . . . North Carolina State star wide receiver Torry Holt underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Wednesday and will not play in the Senior Bowl this weekend.