It's no secret, the Gopher football team is just awful. Die hard Gopher fans know this, casual fans know this, people who couldn't even name one Gopher football player know this, and everyone in the Big 10 knows this. So, it begs the question, who is to blame for this travesty?
The players? I'm not going to sugarcoat things and say that we have a talented team that could go head to head with Wisconsin, or even NDSU. There is a lot of room for improvement, and there should be improvement over the next few years. Jerry Kill is playing a lot of young players, and they have a lot of learning to do - or as they call it "a teaching moment" every time they get reamed out on television. I'm not about to throw the players under the bus, they're just kids, kids that have lost any confidence and have experienced 5 losses in the past 6 weeks.
Tim Brewster? There is no doubt that "Coach Brew" as Gus Johnson kept calling him, did a lot of damage in his four years. Much more than I'm sure the public knows or has seen (including myself). At Jerry Kill's press conference last week, it was mentioned that Kill inherited 22 players that were academically ineligible. He handed over a team that he could only coach to one win last year, after 3 years of touting his excellent recruiting. He had no consistency, he went through more coordinators than I can even remember, and had no discipline with his team. The only thing he consistently did was over promise and under deliver. Quite honestly, I could write a 100 page blog about all the things that Brewster did wrong, but he is not the one that's mostly to blame for the state that we're in. All he did was accept a job he wasn't qualified for in the 1st place.
Jerry Kill? There's already a firejerrykill.com, people calling for his head on GopherHole.com, people that think he should resign after six games. To those people, I say - are you kidding me? Its six games. It has been a miserable six games – don’t get me wrong. A lot of this falls on his shoulders. A team that's well coached will lose to Michigan, not get blown out 58-0. A team that's well prepared will lose by a touchdown or two to Purdue, not 45-17 and have Purdue pick up almost twice as many yards as the Gophers. The bottom line is, coaching needs to improve, bottom line, but that's nothing that Kill doesn't know, and is working his tail on.
That leaves us with one common denominator, the person that was here during these coaches, and the last decade of Gopher football that has led to this – Joel Maturi. I don't know how anyone can put this entire situation on anyone else's shoulders but his. Everything he's done with the football program, he's handled incorrectly. From showing now support to Mason and not extending his contract until after the Music City bowl, to firing him one year later. He likes to do that, extend and then fire, as he did with Brewster, which means more money to pay out, and less money to give the next coach. Then he proceeded to replace Mason, who made the program respectable and competitive, with a coach that never been a coordinator, much less a head coach at the college or pro level. You simply don’t take a mediocre program to the next level by replacing an experienced coach with an unproven one. He said flat out that his neck was on the line with the Brewster hire, but it clearly wasn’t, as there were no ramifications for his choice. He then promised Gold Country that he would fill Brewster’s shoes with a “Tubby Smith” type of hire, meaning a well-known and proven coach with experience at a BCS school. Jerry Kill has certainly won over many of us, but he is not a “Tubby Smith” type of hire. He’s a coach that’s done well everywhere he’s gone, but he’s not the big name hire, and it was also known to Maturi that he experienced health problems. I’m not saying he shouldn’t have been hired because of them, that’s discriminatory, but it’s another things to worry about when you’re already taking a program that felt as if it had hit rock bottom. That seems to be the theme with Gopher fans, you keep on thinking you hit rock bottom, and it’s the lowest the program can go, but it always seems to get worse. Coaches have come and gone, but Maturi has stayed through them, and results don’t seem to be getting better, and I don’t see them getting better until he is replaced.
Coming into the Gophers' first home game, there was so much excitement surrounding the program. We just came off of a very respectable loss at USC, and saw a lot of potential in a number of players. Coach Kill embraced the game day experience and actually got the University to close down Oak Street for what he intended to be the biggest party in Minnesota. It ended up being a sunny, beautiful, hot day - and I know that we had been planning our tailgate for weeks, as many were looking forward to this day. When I left the tailgate lot just to get inside in time for kickoff, the Ski-U-Mah lot was still packed. I was one of the first ones to leave to head over to the Bank. By the time many of my friends got into the game, the Gophers were already down by 7 points. That wasn't exactly the way you want to open up at home, to the New Mexico State Aggies. The majority of Gopher fans thought it would be a blow out, and with their recent track record, it should have been.
There were a number of things that went wrong today, and the first was losing to New Mexico State. Even if you don't look at the USC loss as a moral victory, it was at the least, a respectable loss. The Aggies were one of the 5 worst teams in college football last year, and the Gophers were favored to win this game by a landslide. It also seems like the quarterback controversy is not solved. Gray struggled in the first half, and was then sidelined in the beginning of the second half. There was actually a large crowd applause when it was announced that Max Shortell was going in. During his first play, he ran for 22 yards, and it seemed like he was going to be finishing up the game. He then proceeded to go 2-7 (many of those passes were great, and it was the fault of the receivers that they didn't catch them), and was taken out of the game. Gray went back into the game, and did a good job leading his team. There's no question, that Gray seems to be our most talented athlete, but he may not be a quarterback. Max Shortell is a quarterback. I actually get excited at the idea of McKnight and Gray being Shortell's receivers. That is certainly a position where we are lacking, and without McKnight's 146 yards out of the total 238 receiving yards, we would have been lost. Add another option to the team by putting our best athlete in Gray out there, and you've got two great options. I would also love to see Gray go to the next level, and I see him being able to do that as a receiver, not as a quarterback.
Obviously, the part of the day that went the most wrong was when Coach Kill suffered a seizure on the sidelines. I have to say, I've never quite experienced the emotions I felt this afternoon, and I'm sure most of the fans at the game share my sentiments. Although my seats are across from the Gopher sidelines, none of us could tell exactly who went down at first. I thought it could have been one of the assistant coaches, and when I realized it was Coach Kill, my stomach just tied up in knots. There was absolute silence at TCF Bank Stadium, you'd never imagine a group of 40,000 people could be so quiet. I remember even being able to hear the EMT's walkie-talkie from the 2nd deck. Personally, I was thinking - how much more can one man go through? He's already won the battle with cancer, he's an inspiration to all of us, and now this? I was actually relieved to find out it was a seizure, because from the reactions of the players and other coaches, I thought it could have much worse, like a heart attack.
Of course losing to New Mexico State stinks, ok, it sucks. I am guessing that Coach Kill finds this loss more unacceptable than any of us could. There's really no reason to harp on this, as it's done. Many have compared it to Brewster's loss against South Dakota last year. And yes, it is probably a worse loss on the books than that - however, this is Coach Kill's second game, not his fourth year. People gave Brewster a lot of leeway when he went 1-11 his first year, and he inherited a team that went to a bowl game the previous year. Coach Kill inherited a team that won 3 games last year.
I wish Coach Kill a speedy recovery, and hope that he takes care of himself and his health first and foremost. I have a very good feeling he will have no problem of taking care of the football team. It may not be this year, but in the long-term. This week was the opposite of a moral victory, I think morale is very low. Not just because we lost a game, but because we all feared losing our leader, Coach Kill.
The term "moral" victory has been used by many in the past 24 hours. In Minnesota’s season opener at USC, the Gophers were predicted to lose by anywhere from 21-24 points, and they only lost by 2 points. As one of the lucky ones able to attend the game at the LA Coliseum, I was amongst many Gopher fans that left the game with our heads held high because of this game.
What does that mean to fans, the players, and Jerry Kill? When looking at the fan reaction to this game, the majority of the comments on www.GopherHole.com from posters are positive:
"I was happy with... The adjustments made at halftime. We got better as the game went on."
"I think the Gophers in a lot of way looked like a functional football team today. Their first half performance left something to be desired but I was impressed with their adjustments in the second half."
"Losing sucks, but much to be encouraged about! The first half was in my eyes mostly nerves. I really believe that if we play a pre-season game or a game vs a cupcake before playing USC, we win that game."
"We almost had an epic start to the Kill era."
"What do we have? A future. At this point we should be thrilled about that. Kill is still unproven, and the team is not going to be great this year. That said we have a SOLID start to a new regime. We should all feel better about the Gophers future tonight than we felt last night."
Of course, most seemed to agree that there is a lot of work to do, but there is a lot of faith in Gold Country that progress will be made. This loss gave the fan base hope, something which it hasn't had in a long time.
As for the players, I'm sure they're frustrated, and I'm sure they are upset that they were just a few plays from shocking the nation. But I'm also guessing that they have to feel good about themselves. This is a team that was down 19-3 at halftime, and held USC scoreless at home, in the 2nd half. You can see from practices, and even from following the players on Twitter that they are working their tails off. These are guys that are going to bed early, waking up early, working out, going to practice, class, and have probably had their routines changed quite a bit in the past few months. You have to think that when you sacrifice so much, you want to see results. This has to have them believing in Jerry Kill and his system.
When looking at what this means to Coach Kill, it's obvious to see he is not satisfied. I would never want a head coach that is satisfied with any loss, no matter how respectable it is. From his appearance on the Sports Huddle this morning, he said things like, "We're disappointed . . . in a position to win . . . thought we should have won," and "we have a lot of studying to do, viewing game tapes today . . .not enough hours in the day to correct problems."
That's exactly the kind of mentality and responsibility that makes Gopher fans even more hopeful and excited. He hasn't made excuses, he has probably undersold the team and their abilities. Personally, I find that refreshing. There were a number of things that I'm excited about, from Gary Tinsley to Max Shortell, Brandon Green's return (and our receiving team in general), Lamonte Edwards, the list goes on and on, but the most promising part of this entire team is Jerry Kill to me. The fact that he took a young team that came out full or nerves, and changed his game plan at the half to make the Gophers look poised and driven, was impressive.
With all of this being said, we're still 0-1, and there is a lot of work to do and a lot to be proven. I do have a gut feeling now that this season won't be as painful as I had imagined it would be, and I look forward to an upset or two...or three….;).
...and every sports fan for that matter. To be quite honest, I think every person that has a passion for something, or wants to utilize social media to enhance their business should be on Twitter. The first question I always get when I start talking about Twitter is, "why should I use that?" and the 1st statement usually is "I don’t get Twitter." If you're in that mindset, you're not alone. If you're already a regular Twitter user, you're ahead of the curve, and should probably get a Google+ account, just in case it takes off.
I have more and more friends and colleagues ask me every day what the purpose of Twitter is. For me, it's the fastest possible way to gain and share information. If you're used to Facebook, you need to look at things a different way. With Facebook, you typically put things out there to get comments back, with Twitter, you're getting so much more information, and you're probably not getting as many comments back (at least when you 1st start). It's about engaging people into conversations. Facebook is generally a community for your friends and family to interact with one another, whereas Twitter is a place to disseminate news and information, and facilitate discussion about topics people are passionate about.
The great thing about Twitter is that they're people that have the same interests as you. I have over 1200 friends on Facebook, and I'd say that probably about 15% of them care about the #1 love in my life, Gopher Hoops. Since I am from Wisconsin, and we Sconnies are loyal, I would say that about 50% of them love the Packers…..however, I don’t write about the Packers and where that's a crowd I love to engage, but not as much as Gopher fans. When I look at my Twitter following I'm over 1300 followers, and I'd say about 70% of my followers follow me because of a shared interest in the Gophers. What this means is when you lose the last 10 out of your 11 basketball games, and your wife, husband, friends, and family think you're crazy for being down in the dumps, saying the name talking about recruiting in your sleep, and constantly talking about "next year,” there are hundreds of people I can console, commiserate with, and sometimes argue with that share the same pain.
Beyond building a community, it's the fastest and easiest way to receive information. I say that because you don't have to be at a computer or a TV or radio, you can get an application on your phone and it's as easy to read as a text….and takes less time to load than if you were browsing the internet on your iPhone. The need for fast information is exactly why www.GopherHole.com has gotten so popular. Media members have to verify their facts and write their stories. While that is happening, someone close to the situation can post the rumor on GopherHole, and a lot of the times, it's correct. I remember the day that Glen Mason got fired, I was in Orlando that day and got a call from my work husband at GopherHole that he was gone. All of my friends doubted me because it wasn't up on the Star Tribune, Pioneer Press, ESPN, or any news station yet. Sure enough, it had just made it to GopherHole first. Multiply that times 100, and you've got the speed that information travels at on Twitter. With that speed, you also have to have the common sense to sift out information that may not be true. You can't have it all - but it is the best way to get information wherever you are.
Beyond just information that you learn, people give great advice. I've been able to just put a question out there about how to find a bouncy to how to put a highlight reel together, where to find a waterproof sleeve for a kid in a cast, any recipe you could think of, and that's just from typing out 140 characters. I'm sure my Mom is relieved that it's cut down on my calls to her at dinnertime asking about a recipe, because I can get responses for just about any question I ask in minutes. If you build a big enough network, it can become a great resource to you.
Another thing I love about Twitter is the fact that it's very non-intrusive. If you tweet a comment to someone, they can reply directly back to you - it's not like commenting on a Facebook picture where everyone and their grandma comments on how "cute" a baby is, or "congrats" on an engagement. You get the notification only when they reply to you.
I know what you’re thinking – I don’t have time for Twitter. That’s the thing, you can do as much or as little as you want. I have friends that read every single tweet from every person they follow. I am not one of them. I don’t ever “catch up” on tweets, and I think that’s when some people feel overwhelmed and on an information overload. I just read when I’m online or have a few minutes to scroll through on my phone. Once you get Twitter set up it really takes as long to do as writing a text, it will become habit.
So, if you're convinced that Twitter is something you'd like to look into, let me share with you the tips I've learned over the past two years of Tweeting. I think that is one of the biggest frustrations with many that I speak to; they sign up for Twitter and don't know how to use it, so they don't ever log back into it after they create their account.
How do I get started?
Create a Twitter account at www.twitter.com - choose your Twitter handle. I prefer when people use their full names. It gives you more credibility and people will take you more seriously. I also can never remember anyone's cutesy moniker, so if I'm out and about and think of tweeting someone, and it's @Go4ers4lyfe instead of @BobSmith it's much more difficult. Complete your profile too, add a bio so people will know by looking at your profile if they want to follow you, and upload a photo. If you do want to stay anonymous, that's okay too. Just know that people like me will assume you are a 40 year old mouth breather living in your parents' basement—not that there's anything wrong with that ;). You will also have the option of making your profile public or private. I look at Twitter as a public platform, so I recommend making your profile public, but that's just me, I keep my Facebook for only friends to see, and Twitter public. Keep in mind, if it is public, don't tweet anything you wouldn't want your boss or Mom to read.
Should I link it to my Facebook or LinkedIn?
I don't think this is a good idea. Twitter is quick bursts of information, and it has a completely different purpose than Facebook and LinkedIn. In order to really utilize social media, especially if it is for business, is to maximize each platform. For me I keep Facebook more personal, Twitter more sports and current events related, and LinkedIn more professional. You can link them if you decide to do so, through the applications listed below.
Do I need do download any applications?
I would advise you do so. As much as I love Twitter, I find the Twitter for Blackberry and iPhone apps to be horrible, as well as the web version of Twitter.
How do I find people to follow?
You won't get much from it until you start following people. So go through the follow lists of me and other people with similar interests. If you love Gopher Basketball, look up Myron P. Medcalf (@GophersBBGuy) and look at who he follows, and follow the people you are interested it. If you want to start following some of the Gopher Football players, start following MarQueis Gray @goldengopherqb5 and look at the list he follows and interacts with. If you love Gopher Football, follow the official Gopher Football twitter @GoldenGopherFB and who they follow. Once you get a list you like, you won't even pick up a paper (unless it’s the Star Tribune, of course), all the info you're interested in will be in 140 characters, and within seconds of it happening. Many times they will also post the link to the breaking news, so you will be directed to the website for the full article, instead of having to search for it.
How do I actually Tweet?
It's very easy, you can begin a new tweet and post anything that comes to your mind. It can be a current event you just heard about, a comment on the last play of the game, or a question.
•Replying - make sure you always hit the reply button on the tweet you're replying to. That way, they know what comment you're referencing.
•Retweeting - there's a new and old retweet. The "new" one doesn't let you add your comment, this is a good option when it would be too many characters to retweet. I like the original one. So basically, you hit retweet and it will come up like this: RT @NadineBabu today was a good day. So - if you want to add your comment, do it before the RT, or they will not know where the original comment ended. So yours would look like: Yes it is RT @NadineBabu today was a good day.
What is a “#” and when do I use them?
That is a hashtag, and this is a very common question asked about Twitter. Use a hashtag before a keyword that you’re using to make it a topic on Twitter. If you actually click on a hashtagged word, it will show you all the other tweets in that category. For example, I always hashtag #Gophers, making it easy to search for. You can also create permanent searches for hashtags, once again, I have one set up for the Gophers, so at a glance, I can see anyone that tweeted about them. Another way you’ll see hashtags used is when creating a saying like #RememberWhen or #ICan’tLiveWithout. Sometimes these phrases end up trending, and people use them to tweet their experience and use the hashtag at the end. Don’t over use hashtags though, one or two in a tweet is enough. You will notice if you get addicted to Twitter (as I have) that you will start using hashtags in your texts and emails…that’s how you know you’re hooked!
The last piece of advice, TWEET! Yes, you can just stalk on Twitter and watch everyone else converse and have fun, but while you will get a lot of great information, you'll get a whole lot more out of it if you tweet. I have good friends I don’t follow on Twitter because they haven’t sent a tweet in 9 months. With that being said, follow me and engage me in conversations, you can practice on me or ask questions. I'm pretty good at responding to most of my tweets. Consider yourself forewarned, I tweet a LOT. Many unfollow me during gamedays and March Madness because I'm a little out of control!
This past weekend I had the pleasure of making the trip to Houston, Texas to attend my 8th Final Four in the past 11 years. I do feel like every year the Final Four gets better and better, and this year’s trip to Houston continued the trend of every year becoming my new favorite. Jim Nantz had a great quote echoing that sentiment; “It never gets old. What I find is that when somebody asks me about my favorite Final Four I say, ‘the next one.’ You get to where you appreciate it more. It gets bigger and better every year.” I could not agree more with that statement. I know what you’re thinking; that this was the worst National Championship game ever, but when you’re there, it’s so much more than the game itself.
Annual Final Four goers are a rare breed, and female Final Four goers are an even rarer breed that I thought was almost extinct until I met a group of Illinois fans at the 2007 Final Four in Atlanta. There were three Illini grads that we ran into at the Coach’s hotel; they were coach stalking just like we were. We ended up chatting, and to pass their initiation, I had to name the past 10 NCAA National Champions. A strong memory is not one of my strong suits, so I struggled, but managed to do well enough that they knew that I was a true basketball fan and was welcome to hang with them. 4 years later, we’ve kept in touch, met up at a few other Final Fours, and this year, I ended up traveling with them to Houston. That’s one thing that I find as important as the games; meeting other die-hard fans that have traveled all over supporting their teams. Every one of those fans has great stories to go with their travels. For example, we met a KU fan this year at the Hilton that told us the story of how he became “Butler Boy” at last year’s Final Four in Indianapolis. He walked into a bar before the National Championship game that turned out to be a Butler bar. The fans were fairly subdued, so he thought that he’d get them a little fired up, and ended up buying about $500 in shots and drinks for the bar. He was doing cheers with them, and was so excited, he got up on the stainless steel bar to do some chants with everyone. He ended up slipping and falling down to the ground. When he leapt to his feet (think Molly Shannon’s character Mary Katherine Gallagher), the crowd cheered enthusiastically for him, calling him “Butler Boy.”
At the Hilton, a former player approached my Illini friends and told them he was a huge fan as well. I asked if he had played there, and he said he had. My friends still couldn’t place him. He then asked my Illini friends who the school’s all-time leading scorer was. Sure enough, it was Deon Thomas, the only men's basketball player in Illinois history to score at least 2000 career points. He is now coaching at Lewis and Clark Community College, and couldn’t have been a nicer guy.
I know people always question my “coach stalking” as a hobby. The reason why I love to meet coaches is because they share the same love and passion for college basketball that I do. They are experts at their game, and I’m like a kid in a candy store just listening to their stories and soaking it all up.
A few other highlights from coaches we met, but let me preface this all by saying these were just meetings and I don’t claim to be "close personal friends" with any of them.
Gregg Nibert, Presbyterian College – Coach Nibert ended up sitting next to us at lunch, and it was such a pleasure to talk to the coach of the smallest Division One program, who has been with the program for 22 years. We chatted about how a lot of coaches are passing up big time jobs with big time money and big time pressure to stay at smaller schools. I’m pretty sure just about any coach there would love to have the longevity that Coach Nibert has. He recruits good kids that want an education and get fired up at the opportunity to play schools like Mizzou, Vanderbilt, Princeton, Wake Forest, and Kansas State like Presbyterian College did last season.
Gene Keady – This is one of my favorite coaches to speak to. I first met him a few years ago in San Antonio. I made fun of West Lafayette, and he was a good sport about it, as he really loves living there. I got a photo with him where I did not look very good, and as we were walking away, I saw noticed it wasn’t the best picture. I asked for another. He laughed and made fun of me, saying to my male friend “how do you put up with your wife, she is very demanding?” I thought that was hilarious. I asked him for a better picture this year, and he said “If you get a good shot with me, then you won’t have any reason to come up and talk to me in the future.” I assured him I would always come up to him, and if it ended up being a keeper, he’d made my Christmas card.
Steve Fisher, SDSU – it was truly an honor to meet Coach Fisher the night that he won Coach of the Year. My friend actually approached him because one of his friends played for Coach Fisher, and he could not have been any nicer or more gracious. I was in awe meeting someone that has won a National Championship at Michigan, recruited and coached the Fab 5, and has had a long and successful career at SDSU, only losing 2 games this past season.
Bill Self, Kansas – I don’t think it’s really a secret that I absolutely worship Bill Self. I have never met a more charming man in my life, and that’s why we seek him out every year to say “hello.” The 1st time I met him was in 2007 in Atlanta. He was by himself at the Coaches’ hotel, and in street clothes. He looked very different than he does in a suit. I went up to him and asked “excuse me, are you Bill Self?” He responded, “No, I’m Bob Stoops.” I think that’s one of the things that make him so likable; He’s an elite coach at one of the best basketball programs in the nation, and he just acts like a regular guy from the Midwest. He loves my Illini friends, and has known them since he coached there. When he saw them walking up, he immediately smiled and said “My Illini girls!” He makes a point of always saying how much he loved coaching there.
Jamie Dixon, Pittsburgh – When we approached Coach Dixon to introduce ourselves, he had already seen us talking to Coach Self, and said “so, you all know Bill,” and was very welcoming. We were actually very impressed with Dixon, he liked my friend’s T-shirt that said “You know you’re a redneck….if you Fired Tubby Smith.” He was kind enough to take this photo with us:
We also ran into Gary Williams, Scott Van Pelt from ESPN, Ralph Sampson Jr., John Thompson, Tubby Smith, Mark Few, and many other influential individuals in the world of college basketball. For me, the Final Four is my Disneyland, it’s the happiest place on earth. Regardless of the games, it’s always an amazing experience and something new each and every year. If you ever have the opportunity to attend a Final Four, I would highly recommend it, you won’t regret it!