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The Gophers football team plays at West Lafayette, Ind., on Saturday, with a chance to double its victory total.
A victory would be a shame for everyone who isn't related to Tim Brewster or a senior player on the team. Winning, at this point of Brewster's tenure, would only complicate the timing of his departure.
I don't believe Brewster has a chance to return in 2011. If he is indeed fired, here's how the rest of this autumn could, and certainly should, play out:
1 FIRE BREWSTER NOW
The University should have fired him Monday, after the Wisconsin loss. Now he faces two winnable games, at Purdue and home against a bad Penn State team.
Firing him after a victory is not likely, but the next time his team looks inept, it will be time to make the decision and begin the search for his replacement.
2 HIRE GLEN MASON AS AT LEAST A TEMP
The trickiest aspect of these decisions is their timing. There is a reason few colleges fire football coaches during the season -- because football, unlike baseball or basketball, is a complex bureaucracy that can topple when the balance of power is altered at the top.
If you're going to make the move during the season, you must hire an interim coach who will represent the university well and field a competitive team. There is one person immediately available who could handle that job -- Brewster's predecessor, Glen Mason.
Mason knows the program. He knows the bosses. As an analyst for Big Ten Network, he's watched the games and knows the players. He lives in the Twin Cities. He could take over immediately and give the Gophers a chance to finish the season with some measure of self-respect.
3 MOVE MATURI
Joel Maturi, the Gophers athletic director, was the man who looked into Brewster's eyes and yet became the first man at an institution bigger than a high school to hire Brewster as a coordinator or head coach. He should have nothing to do with hiring Brewster's long-term replacement.
Removing Maturi from the picture leaves two alternatives -- quickly hiring a new athletic director who can decide on the next football coach, or forming a search committee. Because I doubt the university's ability to hire a mover and shaker as a new AD, this is the rare instance in which I'd be in favor of a committee.
Usually, such task forces allow individuals to avoid making tough decisions, and avoid accountability for mistakes. In this case, unless Tony Dungy is willing to spend a month in Minnesota conducting the coaching search himself, a committee would be necessary, because there is no one person in place at the U who could handle the job.
4 CAST A WIDE NET
The Gophers could do worse than hiring Mason -- Brewster has proved that.
But Mason, despite his ability to build a program, wouldn't exactly excite what Brewster calls Gopher Nation.
Consider Marc Trestman, the Minnesotan who won a Grey Cup last year. Consider Mason, who at least would return the program to respectability. Consider a promising coach such as Houston's Kevin Sumlin.
Most important, hire someone who doesn't believe in the excuses too many Gophers coaches and supporters trot out every time they lose a game.
You should be able to recruit to a fine school in the middle of one of America's most livable and picturesque urban areas. You should be able to recruit to a beautiful new stadium. You should be able to advance to a major bowl every four or five years, even if the university insists on the coach recruiting athletes who can actually spell "athlete."
Every winning program has at some point hired an excellent coach whose abilities overwhelmed the limitations he faced.
For Wisconsin, it was Barry Alvarez. For Iowa, it was Kirk Ferentz. For TCU, it was Gary Patterson.
The right coach is out there, somewhere. At this point, all we know for sure is Brewster is not that guy.
Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon and weekdays at 2:40 p.m. on 1500ESPN. His Twitter name is Souhanstrib. • firstname.lastname@example.org