Less than a half-hour after the announcement that he was fired
as the University of Minnesota football coach on Sunday morning,
Tim Brewster strolled through the football offices searching for
things to take with him.
He took his time, and even carried the same welcoming grin that
he did for every one of his lengthy noon talks with beat reporters,
in which he would reflect on each tough loss this season.
But on this Sunday, at the end of his disappointing 3 1/2-year
head-coaching stint with the Gophers, who were 1-6 this season —
the same record he had as a rookie coach when the team finished
1-11 in 2007 — Brewster had nothing to say.
“Not at all,” said Brewster, whose quiet departure was a
complete reversal from the day he was hired three years ago when he
talked big and raised the fans’ and players’ expectations to go to
Rose Bowls and win Big Ten championships — something the program
hadn’t done since the early 1960s.
Those dreams and expectations faded the past couple of seasons
after the Gophers “took a step backward” under Brewster, athletics
director Joel Maturi said.
But they’re back now.
Maturi says he is imagining the next coach he hires finally
going “to the Rose Bowl” and then even maybe having “a statue of
them outside of TCF Bank Stadium.”
“I think we have to have somebody who hopefully will come in and
say, ‘I can make a mark for myself,’ ” said Maturi, who named
offensive coordinator Jeff Horton as interim coach Sunday. “When
was the last time we went to the Rose Bowl (1962)? When is the last
time we won a Big Ten championship (1967)? You’re not following
Vince Lombardi here. This is a situation where somebody can come in
and win some games, and people are going to feel good about him,
and they win a few more games and they’re going to feel really good
That’s Maturi’s goal — to have Gophers fans feel “really good”
about their head coach and program again. That hasn’t been the case
since coaching legend Murray Warmath won a national title in 1960
and went to back-to-back Rose Bowls in 1961 and 1962.
Maturi wants to hire a high-profile coach this time, unlike
Brewster, who got the job despite never being a college head coach or coordinator.
The Gophers are willing to pay more than Brewster’s $1 million
salary, which included compensation. They could offer a five-year
deal worth between $2 million and $3 million, which would rank
among the top four salaries in the Big Ten. Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz,
Ohio State’s Jim Tressel and Michigan’s Rich Rodriguez make between
$2.5 million and $3 million.
Former Indianapolis Colts coach and former Gophers quarterback
Tony Dungy would bring excitement and energy back to the program.
But Maturi said Sunday that Dungy told him he wasn’t interested in
coaching right now. But, Maturi said, Dungy is willing to help find
the next coach.
Dungy reportedly recommended Vikings defensive coordinator
Leslie Frazier, who is interested in the job, according to a tweet
Sunday by Rivals.com college football writer Tom Dienhart.
“Hopefully, they will hire a big-name coach,” said Mahtomedi
High School senior offensive lineman Tommy Olson, who is the
Gophers’ top recruit.
Horton, who was a graduate assistant under former Gophers and
Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz, said the Gophers should be able to
attract “highly visible” candidates and hire a top-notch coach.
“This is a big-time university, big-time stadium,
big-time city,” he said. “It’s got the whole package. There’s not a
coach out there that wouldn’t want to be a part of that
opportunity, coming in and coaching in the Big Ten.”
Maturi, who said he could hire an unemployed coach before the
end of the season, talked about the importance of the new coach
helping the Gophers take advantage of the opportunities in an
expanded Big Ten, which will include a conference title game and
divisions with Minnesota competing against Nebraska each year.
” Football is the engine to every
athletic program,” Maturi said. “Our engine is sputtering, and we
need to find a way to fix it, and we’re committed to doing so.”
Senior quarterback Adam Weber said, “everything is here. The university gives everything a
student-athlete needs to be successful, not only academically but
athletically. It’s just a matter of time.”
But time ran out for Brewster, whose struggles led Internet
message boards following the team to go so far as to discuss the
possibly of bringing back former Gophers coach Glen Mason, who was
fired after an Insight Bowl loss in 2006.
Mason declined to talk about Brewster’s firing and the state of
his former program when reached by phone Sunday by the Pioneer
Press. But Mason said he planned on sticking with his current job
as a Big Ten Network football studio analyst.
In 10 seasons under Mason, from 1997-2006, Minnesota went to
seven bowl games but never finished higher than tied for fourth in
the Big Ten (three times).
Mason established an identity of “running back U” at Minnesota,
and had the Gophers competing with the better programs in the Big
Ten consistently. But his teams never broke through. Brewster in
the eyes of some increased the overall talent level, but Minnesota
never rose to the occasion in big games, going 0-10 in rivalry
games against Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan and Penn State and 0-10
against ranked opponents in Brewster’s tenure.
“Mason did a pretty good job, but then they felt like he didn’t
do quite a good job as far as handling the public and the high
school coaches,” former Gophers All-American and influential
booster Bob McNamara said. “Coach Brewster did a great job with
that, and I thought a pretty good job of recruiting. But who knows
what the answers are (now)? I think we all hope that we can get a
combination of all of those things. But it’s going to be