Should the Gophers football coach be fired or given a contract extension?
Joel Maturi gets paid lots of money to make big decisions. At least, that's the working theory. Someday, we may even find out whether it's true.
Or maybe not. It's just a theory.
Today, Maturi, the Gophers' athletic "director," faces what, for him, seems to be a tough decision: Whether to fire football coach Tim Brewster, give him a contract extension, or dither.
Dithering is winning the day.
Let's review Maturi's big decisions:
• He fired Glen Mason after he finished the 2006 season with a 6-7 record, including 3-5 in the Big Ten. Three years later, Maturi's chosen replacement for Mason has gone 14-23 and 6-18 in the Big Ten and needs a victory over a mediocre Iowa State team to avoid going 6-7 this season.
• Maturi provided diplomatic immunity to Tubby Smith when he defected from Kentucky. You could say Maturi hired Smith. I'd say Smith hired Maturi, which is why Smith is the most powerful and secure member of the athletic department today.
• When Dan Monson had run a popular basketball program into the ground, had emptied Williams Arena faster than a stink bomb, Maturi dithered and gave Monson one more year to finish emptying Williams Arena.
When he flopped again in the fall of 2006, Maturi accepted Monson's resignation, wasting a season because Maturi didn't fire Monson when he should have. Luckily for Maturi, Smith decided to hire Minnesota a year later.
Brewster has given Maturi every reason to fire him. He has been openly insubordinate, firing offensive coordinator Mike Dunbar against Maturi's wishes and yelling at him in front of witnesses.
After going 1-11 in his first season, Brewster went for a quick fix by recruiting heavily out of the junior college ranks in his first full recruiting season.
Maturi said before the start of the 2008 season, "We know statistically that junior college kids don't always succeed academically, and that's our biggest concern. Our coach knows that, and our staff knows that. But I think the reality is that when you're 1-11, you're looking for some immediate improvement in certain positions."
Now Brewster the renowned recruiter is bringing in more junior college players. If he's such a great recruiter -- and his recruiting prowess was the reason for Maturi's infatuation with a salesman who had never been a head coach or coordinator above the high school level -- why would he need an infusion of junior college players in his fourth recruiting season?
The answer, if you need it spelled out for you, is this: The players he has already recruited aren't good enough to carry the program.
To summarize: Brewster looked incompetent on the sidelines in the last three games of his third year on the job -- against Illinois, South Dakota State and Iowa. He has ruined a productive quarterback in Adam Weber. He has fired a successful offensive coordinator against the wishes of his boss and replaced him with a coordinator, Jedd Fisch, who is overmatched.
Brewster has proved otherwise insubordinate to his boss and has resorted to recruiting junior college players after three seasons on the job because his supposedly outstanding recruiting classes might be the product of the fertile imaginations that run recruiting websites. He has recruited one superlative athlete -- quarterback MarQueis Gray -- and that recruit, after two years on campus, has yet to indicate he can play quarterback in the Big Ten.
Maturi has three choices: Fire Brewster and hope he can hire someone better; extend Brewster's contract to remove the excuse that uncertainty over his future is damaging his recruiting; or dither.
Dithering seems to be the worst of these three options. Even if you think Brewster should be fired, extending his contract at a low wage with a low buyout would give him a chance to succeed on his own terms and would remove any excuses for continued mediocrity.
Firing Brewster, sadly, would raise its own problems. The guy who would be assigned to hire Brewster's replacement would be the same guy who was charmed by Brewster's winning personality and couldn't bring himself to fire Monson.
Jim Souhan can be heard at 10-noon Sunday, and 6:40 a.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday on AM-1500. His Twitter name is SouhanStrib. • firstname.lastname@example.org