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Mason reacts to criticism, booing, student drinking

  • Article by: Chip Scoggins
  • Star Tribune
  • October 17, 2006 - 11:01 PM

Gophers football coach Glen Mason said he doesn't read the newspaper or listen to talk radio.

But when asked by an out-of-town reporter Tuesday about the growing criticism of him and his program during an 0-4 start to the Big Ten season, Mason launched into a wide-reaching speech that seemed neither angry nor off-the-cuff. He also made it clear he took offense to fans booing the Gophers in a loss to Penn State two weeks ago and said alcohol might have contributed to negative reaction from fans.

The highlights of a lively news conference:

• Mason shrugged off criticism from fans and media by telling a story about how he got ridiculed and then praised by the same fan during a game when he coached at Kent State.

"If you ever take it personal, you're wrong," he said. "It's what makes sports so great. People are interested. There are a lot of sports out there where nobody cares if they win or lose. They can listen to that [talk] radio all day. They're not going to hear their name, good or bad. I think you just go with it.

"We devote one whole section [of newspapers] to sports. Can you imagine that? Most people, when they get on an airplane, they throw the front page and financial page [away]. They [take] the sports page and read it and look at it and study it. The worst thing is they believe it, from my perspective. It's all editorial. There's no facts in there. Everybody gets to editorialize everything and what they think. They may be right and they may be wrong.

"It probably bothers people around me a heck of a lot more than it bothers me. Now if my wife, Kate, was here you would get an earful. But it changes that quickly [snap of the finger], one way or the other."

• Mason did not directly mention the Penn State game, but it was obvious he was bothered by some fans' reactions. A section of students chanted "Fire Mason" and then booed his team as it left the field at halftime trailing 14-7 after some questionable play-calling and clock management.

"If you're mad at the coach, whatever, but those kids are your team," Mason said. "What I really like to say is, fine, if you don't like me that's one thing. But do you love the Gophers? Are you really a Gopher fan? Now ask yourself that question. Because you can't be doing some of the things if you are. You can't because those are kids out there. You ought to be supporting those kids. Even though you might not be yelling their name it affects them negatively. I don't think that's very smart.

"There's a cumulative effect. When you act that way, don't you realize there's prospective student-athletes there that are looking at the school? Is that what they want to get involved in? Is that the kind of support they want?

"Like [Penn State coach Joe Paterno] said one time: 'We don't boo at Penn State. You know why? Because we're Penn State. We have too much class to boo.' "

• Mason said some of that negative reaction might be attributed to alcohol.

"I'll probably get criticized for saying this, but a lot of drinking goes on in there," he said. "We serve alcohol in that stadium. Not many college stadiums do that. I was at one game, looking up there, I thought, 'Where's Fox News? There's a lot of underage drinking out there because I know that guy ain't 21.' Right?"

• Mason concluded with a parting shot for his critics.

"See, here's the thing: I've been doing this for a long time," he said. "I've been a head coach 21 years at places where people have short memories. They weren't very good when you get there and you make them better, and they forget how they were. When you sign on you know there's going to be some tough sledding. If you're not [tough], you better not sign on because you ain't going to make it."

Chip Scoggins • ascoggins@startribune.com

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