In like a lion, fired Gophers coach Tim Brewster goes out like a lamb

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

about him.”

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


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