Is Minnesota's Football Program in Free Fall?

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Is Minnesota's Football Program in Free Fall?
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Rumors abounded, in the Twin Cities yesterday on the afternoon drive home from work, that University of Minnesota Coach Tim Brewster was going to leave to go to Kansas. 

My first thought was, "What could the Jayhawks possibly be thinking?"

Did Kansas forget that they thrashed the Gophers 42-21 last year in the Insight Bowl?  Were the Jayhawks impressed with Minnesota’s victories over Florida Atlantic and South Dakota State?

A surprising twist to the story was the reaction of Minnesota’s Athletic Director, Joel Maturi.  In a press conference on Tuesday, Maturi acknowledged he talked with Coach Brewster about the rumors.

Maturi, in the press conference, was quoted as saying, “There are rumors that he’s going to Kansas, so I don’t know. What can I say? So I can’t guarantee it, no. I can’t guarantee the decisions of other people.”

Really? How could Brewster have endeared himself to Kansas after losing to them in the Insight Bowl 42-21 last year?

My assumption would have been that Coach Brewster would have told his boss that he has no interest in leaving and  is very thankful for his continued employment with an opportunity to build the program at Minnesota.

Brewster should be thankful to still be on the sidelines, given that his offense failed to score a touchdown in its last 30 possessions of the season. 

The team, under Brewster, is not very disciplined. Minnesota has led the Big Ten in penalties the past two years. The Gophers committed a personal foul in all but two games last year.

No one knows what was actually said between Brewster and Maturi, but it appears that the conversation did not leave Maturi with a warm and fuzzy feeling. 

Maturi stated in his press conference, “I’m smart enough to know that (Brewster’s) not going to tell me, nor is the athletic director (Lew Perkins) at Kansas going to tell me until it’s a done deal...I know how the game is played. I know how it is.”

Really? Does Maturi feel that Coach Brewster could possibly be playing him and is not being completely honest?

Brewster can’t possibly think that he has leverage with their University, when in the last three years he has gone 6-18 in the Big Ten and 14-23 overall. Brewster has not yet tasted a Big Ten victory in November.

Brewster does not even have a signature victory. The Gophers have been 0-9 in trophy games with its rivals in the last three years and 0-8 against ranked in opponents during the same time frame. 

Maturi added that he doesn’t plan on addressing the issue of whether to extend Coach Brewster’s contract until after the Insight Bowl. Is Maturi breaking up with Brewster? Is Brewster breaking up with Maturi?

Of course, the people that suffer the most when the Head Coach and the Athletic Director have a falling out are the kids.

Both major newspapers reported this week that several prominent recruits were rescinding their commitments to Minnesota. The most prominent being Josh Huff of Aldine, Texas, who has now signed a commitment letter to attend TCU.

The Minnesota program is in a difficult position. 

Do you mend the apparent rift and go forward, or do you decide that now is the time to part ways? 

Despite the news concerning recent recruits, most college football observers believe that the Gophers have more talent on their squad than in recent history. Are the Gophers on the cusp of turning their program around under Brewster?

Of course, on the other hand, talent alone doesn’t ensure victories, as this season’s 6-6 record attests.

Money may be the biggest factor impacting Minnesota’s decision—such as severance pay due to Brewster, estimated at $400,000—his annual salary.

As a cost-saving measure, Minnesota opted to travel by chartered bus to Iowa City for its last road game. If the budget won’t allow travel by plane, will it allow the termination of Brewster?

At the end of the press conference, Maturi acknowledged that he is prepared with “a list of candidates” to pursue in the event that Kansas hires Brewster. Fans are likely wondering if that is the same list Maturi uses when he decides to terminate a coach.

On Dec. 31, Minnesota plays Iowa State in the Insight Bowl in Tempe, AZ. The matchup will likely be low-scoring, as both teams have offenses that rank at the very bottom in college football.

Some fans in attendance will likely be wondering if the Gophers will begin 2010 with a new coach.

The postgame press conference for the Insight Bowl just got a lot more interesting.

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