Donald Hall might have summed up football the best when he said, "Baseball is fathers and sons. Football is brothers beating each other up in the backyard."
Gary and Rob Bernardi can relate to that sentiment all too well. The two brothers have always been competitive by nature and coaching has been instilled in their blood. Gary serves as Colorado's offensive line coach after coming over from San Jose State three years ago with head coach Mike MacIntyre. Rob is the longtime athletic director at Nicholls, a FCS school from Thibodaux, Louisiana.
Both of them have roots to the Pac-12 dating back to the 1980's. CU is the fourth conference stop for Gary, who has coached offensive schemes for a combined 24 seasons in the conference at Arizona, Southern Cal and UCLA. During the course of his 35 year coaching career, he's experienced 393 (Division I) games and 11 bowl games. The offensive line has improved greatly with the addition of Bernardi and hasn't allowed a sack in the last two games.
Rob started his journey as a graduate assistant at Arizona and Oregon State, before ultimately landing in Lousiana to lead Nicholls' athletics. In the last 14 years as the Colonels AD, he's been responsible for improving facilities on campus, increasing funding for the university and bringing a progressive outlook towards future projects. Rob's accomplishment earned him the 2013 Under Armour AD of the Year for the FCS and being one of the longest serving directors has allowed him to have a bigger voice on pressing matters related to the NCAA.
Even though the Colonels football program is currently in a drought according to the win column, Rob believes they'll overcome the deficit. He draws a parallel between what Colorado has gone through and what Nicholls is currently facing.
"I see a lot of comparisons between the Colorado program and unfortunately our program right now", Rob noted. "In that when coach MacIntyre took over the Colorado job they came off an 1-11 season. They had gone through three or four years of really not playing up to the standards that people were use to at Colorado and he struggled a couple years. Now look, they're 2-1 and just came off a win against their in-state rival and they're showing some signs of resurrection. We're kind of in a similar situation."
AD Bernardi hopes MacIntyre will be able to lend some advise to Nicholls first year head coach Tim Rebowe and maybe shed some light towards the end of the tunnel.
A huge part of future success for both schools is winning the battle on the recruiting trail. It has been the strong point for coach Bernardi, who's regarded as one of the best recruiters in college football. Rob hopes his brother can share some pointers on recruiting techniques.
"My brother is a tremendous recruiter and I believe he has quite a reputation. I don't think there's a high school coach in Southern California or Arizona, that Gary doesn't know."
Rob see the bigger picture with Colorado when it comes to building the program.
"It's recruiting at the end of the day that will make CU competitive once again. I think they have every reason to attract recruits."
The Champions Center is set to be the anchor to the Buffs success in keeping talent for years to come in Boulder.
The advantage of being in a "power 5" conference for CU is great, but they've still struggled with pulling recruits from the state of Colorado. On the other hand, Nicholls' roster is dominated by young men from Louisiana and the surrounding areas. The school might be in a subdivision of the NCAA, but both them and CU have the difficult task of attracting talent away from schools like USC, Oregon, LSU and Alabama. As an athletic director, Rob commends Rick George for the work he's done saying, "I give him a great deal of credit, he didn't hire coach MacIntyre, but I think it's a responsibility of and athletic director to provide the resources necessary for a coach to have success. Clearly Rick has done that with the new facility and that's given Coach MacIntyre a foundation in which to build the program on."
The meeting between Colorado and Nicholls marks the third time Gary and Rob's teams have played against each other. The two times previous came when they were members of the Pac-10 conference and each of them have a win. Both brothers agree there's no greater feeling than being able to play in the Rose Bowl. The "Granddaddy of Them All" has been the scene for three bowl games in Gary's career. The rubber match between the Bernardi's will be interesting, but not as much as the following week. Gary will face-off against his family again, as he welcomes his son, Joe, and No. 13 Oregon into Boulder. The games will be difficult on Coach Bernardi and he hopes for the best outcome.
"In a lot of ways it's a hard game, just like my son's a graduate assistant at Oregon and that's hard. You have great love for your family and great love for your son or brother, but obviously you want to win. It's a great conflict."
CU is favored by 40+ points against Nicholls and the game should give a good litmus test for both programs. Expectations after three games is that CU will take care of business going into the Pac-12 conference schedule.