Coach Barnett taught at Kearny for 34 years, from 1968 until his retirement in 2002.

A graduate of Hoover High School, Coach Barnett was recruited to play football for Don Coryell at San Diego State. Upon graduation from college, Coach went to work for the San Diego City Schools and was offered a position at Kearny High, where he taught woodshop and coached the wrestling team. He was also a member of Birt Slater’s varsity football coaching staff.

When Coach Slater retired in 1976, Coach Barnett took over as head varsity football coach, a position he held through the 1985 season. In 1986 he assumed the role of Kearny’s athletic director. Over the next 16 years he continued to support Kearny as athletic director, assistant football coach, head football coach, and dean of students.


Coach Barnett loved to teach. He taught his students not only the skills of football, wrestling, and woodworking, but also the skills of getting along with others, and how to feel good about themselves. He always challenged his students and players. His philosophy towards competition was to compete with the best, to strive to be better.

Coach was a dynamic personality on campus, joking with staff and students, leading the staff to victories over the students in the annual donkey basketball tournaments, and sharing his passion for horses with Kearny’s special needs students. He had the respect of everyone on campus, and everyone appreciated his great sense of family and focus on teamwork.

Coach Barnett has been instrumental in creating and supporting organizations that support Kearny’s students. He was a founding member of the Kearny High School Alumni Association and has been a regular supporter of the Kearny Community Foundation.

In 2011 he was honored as one of the initial inductees into the Distinguished Kearny Komet Hall of Fame. In 2021 the students and staff, the Komets of today, presented Coach Tom Barnett with a  plaque of recognition for his dedication and contributions to Kearny High School. The plaque is mounted at the entrance to Komet Stadium.

The Kearny Alumni Association has named their annual student scholarship in his honor.

Thank you Coach Barnett. Thank you for being a Komet, and thank you for showing us how to be one too.


2022 Scholarship Recipients

Congratulations to this years recipients of the Kearny High Alumni Association Tom Barnett Scholarships!

Tammy Bui
Josiah Paul Comparas
Arlette Cervantes (not pictured)
Jessalyn Fowler
Avril Leiva (not pictured)
April Santiago
Kara Templin

Thanks to Dayna Elliott, President of the Alumni Association and Sandra Gibson, Chairperson of the Scholarship Committee for presenting the scholarships at the Kearny Senior Awards ceremony on June 9th!

And, THANK YOU to all who have supported this fund for the last 26 years! We’ve handed out approximately $138,000 and helped 138 students in their ongoing education, whether 2 or 4 year or vocational!