Bob Sansevere: Tim Brewster’s firing leaves the U with a big train wreck to clean up

Wipe those sweaty brows, Gophers fans, and let out a mighty sigh
of relief. The scary rumors are false. Tim Brewster will not get to
coach the
University of Minnesota
football team until the end of yet
another dismal season.

That cockamamie story was circulating on a few websites Saturday
night: Brewster had been fired but would be allowed to finish the
season.

Phew, right?

The problem with dumping a coach during the season is not much
changes when one of his assistants takes over, which is the deal
here.

To his credit, offensive coordinator Jeff Horton, the guy who
gets the interim nod, did not once say during a Sunday news
conference, “Gopher Nation,” the term that made some of us
nauseated every time Brewster used it to describe the
university’s paltry fan base.

Over the final five games, the Gophers face three nationally
ranked Big Ten teams. So Horton gets to do what Brewster made a
habit of doing: lose more games.


Football is the engine to every
athletic program,” Gophers athletics director Joel Maturi said
Sunday, just hours after telling Brewster he was history. “And our
engine is sputtering.”

Brewster was the engineer of this train wreck, making Maturi the
one in charge of the rail line. They both messed up: Brewster for
failing to win and Maturi for hiring Brewster in the first
place.

Rather than go with someone with more credentials, Maturi
plucked Brewster from anonymity. That was Maturi’s first imprudent
decision related to Brewster.

Brewster had no r?sum? that screamed he was the guy to run what
is supposed to be a major
college
football program. Brewster was the
tight ends coach with the Denver Broncos, and he apparently wowed
Maturi with his rah-rah, over-the-top, Gopher Nation-spewing
enthusiasm.

Another imprudent decision was extending Brewster’s contract
through 2013 following a 6-7 season in 2009. To make it look as if
he was protecting the
university in the likely event
Brewster continued to screw up, Maturi reduced the buyout. So,
instead of being paid his full base salary through 2013, Brewster
gets paid half of it.

That’s still $600,000! And that’s ridiculous.

Even more ridiculous: The buyout would have been $800,000 if
Brewster were fired after the 2009 season. When he was hired,
Brewster was a nobody with no leverage and desperate to be a head
coach. Maturi should have gone into hard-line mode in the beginning
and offered Brewster a minuscule buyout.

“When we redid the contract last year,” Maturi said, “I believed
it was important to give Coach Brewster more time.”

Swing and a miss on that one.

“We’re a 1-6
football team,” Maturi said, “and
quite frankly, nobody expected us to be a 1-6
football team.”

Quite frankly, nobody expected Brewster to have the job past
this season, anyway.

Maturi said firing Brewster now allows him a chance to get right
to work looking for a new coach.

“In reality,” Maturi said, “we hope that this timeline, we’ll
have more very good quality, recognizable, achievable, experienced
coaches.”

In other words, just the opposite of Brewster when he was
hired.

Maturi receives a lot of credit for hiring Tubby Smith as the
Gophers basketball coach. That’s an easy hire, a no brainer. Tubby
had a r?sum?, an impressive one. And he was looking to get out of
Kentucky and land in a less demanding job before Wildcat alumni
shoved him out the door. So, let’s be honest here: Tubby picked
Minnesota. It wasn’t the other way around.

Maturi claims that, ultimately, he will hire the new
football coach.

If you’re a Gophers fan, you must be hoping Maturi won’t get to
pick a new coach on his own. He does need help, and is likely to
get it.

Maturi made a point of saying, before anyone could ask, that he
has talked to Gophers alum and former NFL coach Tony Dungy and
Dungy isn’t interested in the job. However, Maturi added, Dungy “is
willing to do everything that he can to help us find the right
leader for this program. I’ve also spoken to others influential to
Gopher athletics and especially to Gopher
football, and they, too, have
committed their time, their willingness to meet, their willingness
to solve the problem that has been here for quite some time.”

At the top of anyone’s list should be two names: Marc Trestman
and Leslie Frazier.

Trestman, a former Gopher, is coach of the Montreal Alouettes, a
team he has led to back-to-back Grey Cups and one Canadian
Football League championship.
Alumni pushed for Trestman the last time there was an opening —
and that’s before he began tearing up the CFL — but Maturi ignored
them and went with his guy, Brewster. Meantime, Frazier was Dungy’s
suggestion when Brewster was hired. The Vikings’ defensive
coordinator would make a terrific
college coach.

Whoever comes in, the bar isn’t exactly high.

Even Maturi admitted, “You’re not following Vince Lombardi
here.”

Bob Sansevere can be reached at bsansevere@pioneerpress.com
.