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

.