I know I was asked to write about Gopher Basketball, but I just cannot help myself. I need to share my thoughts on this Gopher Football season, and the new low it has reached. I’m not talking about the possibility of going 1-11 (again). We already did that under the 1st year of Tim Brewster, and as brutal as that was, I could take it. He was a 1st year head coach, was bringing in a top 25 recruiting class, and you have to give someone a learning curve. However, it is 4 years later and clear the program has reached a new low. I thought there were a number of lows in the “Brewster Era,” and particularly this season…but it was not the inexcusable losses to NIU or even USD, but rather it’s the accumulation of everything that has led to my current feelings on the program.
Personally, my biggest fear going into this year, and not getting rid of Brewster in the off-season (instead, Joel Maturi gave him an extension) was not a matter of wins and losses, it was fan support and the possibility of having 30,000 fans in an already small 50,000 person stadium. My worst fears have come true, as that is what has happened this season. I think they could have been close to 40,000 in the beginning of the game, but with 11 minutes left on the clock in the 4th quarter, this is what our brand, new stadium looked liked, I’d say about 5,000 were left:
When you look at things from a fan perspective, it’s alarming when you cannot give away a $60 ticket for a Nationally televised game against a top 10 team. I am not the most popular person in the world, but I posted on Facebook that I was giving away an extra ticket to over 1000 of my friends, and you know how many people wanted it? One. For the Northwestern Homecoming game a few weeks ago, I had 2 extra tickets, and you know how many takers I got? None. I literally walked around our tailgate lot asking anyone if they wanted a free ticket, as I cannot stand to let a ticket go to waste.
Today, I tailgated with die hard Gopher fans, people who arrived to the tailgate lot before 1pm to get a prime spot for our 7pm game. These are not the fair-weather fans, these are the fans that fork over $1000 for their spot in the Ski U Mah Lot, purchase premium seating, are boosters, and support the team through thick and thin. These are also the people telling me that they were considering not renewing their tailgating spot next season and cutting back on the number of tickets they have. This is not a knee-jerk reaction, as no one expected to win this evening, but this is a well thought out decision, as the University of Minnesota Athletic Department does nothing to appreciate their season ticket holders. We pay face value for each ticket, which is either $50 or $60/game. People who do not have season tickets can either pick a ticket up for $20 (lower level seat), or more likely, for free. So, what do we get for being loyal fans, watching every minute of Gopher Football, and supporting our team unconditionally – nothing, but a poor performance week after week. Certainly not discounted tickets, special events, or season ticket holder appreciation, we simply get to foot the bill to watch our team win one game this season.
I know a number of people that dropped their season tickets last year for this very reason, and many more plan to drop their tickets this year…one year into a brand new stadium. The excitement of a new venue comes once in a lifetime, and that buzz has already died down and the University of Minnesota Athletic Department has been unable to capitalized on it.
Moving onto the team, I am no football expert, nor do I pretend to be. I watch every game, and I watch a lot of football in general, but never having played it – I don’t know all the in’s and out’s of every intricate detail. However, I am versed enough to be concerned about the team. I do not think it is any secret that Tim Brewster was a better cheerleader and salesman than an x’s and o’s football coach – but the one thing I had hoped he brought in was talent. After seeing Jeff Horton coach the past two games, I really question what level of talent we currently have. I have a lot more faith in Horton (despite his career head coaching record) than I did in Brewster, and to see us struggle, getting blown out by Ohio State 52-10, is worrisome to say the least. We are a Big 10 team that does not even appear to be in the same league as our competition. Looking at the future, this season is over, what is the obsession with playing Adam Weber? Nothing against Weber, he’s a great kid and I think he could have really been a great quarterback had he had better coaching…but this year is over. You may as well give Gray some snaps, and get the underclassman as much experience as possible.
Looking ahead to Iowa, it is over Thanksgiving weekend, which means that the majority of the 10,000 person student section will not be around. If we are lucky enough to get The Bank near capacity, it will be because 20,000 tickets will be filled with the well traveled Hawkeye fans, and once again, it will be “Kinnick North.” With that being said, I will be there – I’m not going home to Racine, WI for Thanksgiving so I can attend the game, and I am even missing a wedding of a family friend. That is still my level of dedication to this team, I just hope that Athletic Director Joel Maturi makes some kind of an effort to keep current fans interested and attempt to show appreciation towards them so I am not one of the only Gopher fans left.