George Barnes was more than ready to leave the snow behind.
Born and raised in the Midwest, he and wife Leah itched for a move to a warmer climate. Leah had lived in Arizona for a year as a child and loved it, so the destination point was settled.
The problem was a lack of money.
When Leah would ask George just how they would find enough cash to uproot a family of four and move it cross country, the answer was easy.
"I told her all the time if we had any money issues, 'Deal or No Deal' is going to call and we're going to be rich,'" said Barnes, the new athletic director at Tempe McClintock High.
"That was the joke. It was, 'How are we going to pay that?' 'Deal or No Deal.' 'How are we going to move to Arizona?' Oh, 'Deal or No Deal.' "
Funny thing is, it worked.
Barnes sent a tape to the show, inadvertently dressed in Indianapolis Colts gear simply because there was a game on later that day.
After months of back and forth with the show's producers, Barnes was invited to participate in a special football edition of the program.
Clad in his blue Peyton Manning jersey, Barnes was flanked by 10 former star athletes as he made the decision to keep playing or take the banker's offer. As Leah yelled one thing, former star running back Marcus Allen yelled another.
"It was crazy," Barnes said.
In deference to Manning, Barnes chose briefcase No. 18 as his own. If he turned down every banker's offer from start to finish, he would end up with the dollar amount inside, ranging from one cent to $1 million.
It never got to that point.
Barnes chose to take the deal when it sat at $189,000. The money was plenty to finance the move and pay off some old student loans. He also took his family to Disney World.
"'Deal or No Deal' gave us a call recently and asked if we did anything fun," Barnes said. "I think they wanted to hear I bought a Bentley, bought a Ferrari, but I was like, 'Look, I'm living the dream out here (in Arizona).' "I don't know if we would have made that leap of faith without a little extra change in our pockets."
Barnes was more than happy to win the large sum of money. In fact, he said the experience of flying to Los Angeles and hanging out with the NFL players he idolized as a kid was payment enough.
But this part still stung: As is custom, the show revealed the No. 18 briefcase to Barnes and the viewing audience, a what-could-have-been scenario.
Inside it was the $1 million tag.
"I'd be lying if I said I didn't want that million dollars," Barnes said. "Even Howie Mandel (the host) looked at me and said, 'Don't let it do it to you. Don't get yourself down. You played a great game. You played it like you were supposed to.' "
Barnes swears the money wouldn't have changed him. He said he would have attacked the recent opening at McClintock with the same fervor.
In May, Barnes walked into the administration building at McClintock to talk to principal Kim Hilgers while in town for a different interview. Barnes believes the résumé he sent from Indianapolis wasn't even enough to earn him an interview, but constant phone calls and e-mails made his name a familiar one.
"He was very persistent," Hilgers said.
She agreed to see him and eventually gave him a formal interview the next day.
"What are you doing tomorrow at one?" Hilgers asked Barnes.
"Whatever you want me to do," he told her. "I'll be in the same suit, because I only brought one, but I'll be here."
Barnes beat out 14 other applicants for the job. As it stands, he is likely the only athletic director in the nation to be a contestant on "Deal or No Deal." And if Barnes waited out the final briefcase, he would likely be one of just a few millionaires among them. But he would still be one.
"I think about that periodically," Barnes said. "If I had that million dollars what would I have done? I might do a couple things different - I might have a Corvette out there instead of a Cavalier - but I'd still be right here."