Jim Souhan: U seems to have hired right kind of coach

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 16, 2007 - 9:16 PM

I know what you were thinking, that the hiring of Tim Brewster was the latest in Goldy Gopher's "A Series of Unfortunate Events."

That was my first reaction, that a football program and athletic director suspected incapable of finding a Gatorade bucket with a divining rod had chosen the lamest résumé in their dumpster-sized dossier.

The football program has given us every reason to doubt. Since Lou Holtz, the Gophers had hired Grimacin' Glen Mason, Wacky Jim Wacker and Genial John Gutekunst.

Current AD Joel Maturi had fumbled decisions on Dan Monson and Mason, costing the university millions of dollars.

And history raises this question about the latest hire: Brewster has never been a coordinator or head coach in college or the NFL, meaning none of his bosses ever gave him a fast-track promotion.

To reference another strata of college football, you can look up the résumés of the eight coaches who have won the BCS championship game, and you won't find any tight end coaches.

Urban Meyer, Mack Brown, Nick Saban and Bobby Bowden were winning Division I head coaches; Pete Carroll had been an NFL head coach; Jim Tressel had won four national titles in Division I-AA; Larry Coker and Bob Stoops were coordinators at college powerhouses.

They offered impressive résumés; Brewster boasts of impressive recruits, such as Julius Peppers and Vince Young.

The last time a local team promoted a position coach to the top job, Red McCombs was hiring Mike Tice to save money, and Tice spent a season and a half learning on the job.

So there are plenty of reasons to doubt the U and Maturi, plenty of reasons to wonder whether Brewster can be not only an inspired football boss but a program saviour.

That's the logic-based reaction.

Here's my gut feeling, based on Brewster's reputation and testimonials: The Gophers hired the right kind of guy.

Is he the right guy? There is no guarantee of that, nor would there have been if the Gophers had hired Larry Coker, Dan McCarney or Frank Solich.

As the search began, the U braintrust had a rare epiphany. What this program needed was not a play diagrammer or a retread. What this program needed was a credible and persuasive salesman.

Someone who could sell tickets and raise stadium funds, who could promote the program 12 months a year and attract recruits from Hibbing to Houston. The anti-Mason.

In terms of public perception, Brewster is a breaking-news-as-it-happens talk-radio disaster. Gopher fans can't identify him as "one of us," can't cite his strategizing as the key to a championship, can't call him a rising star, can't pick him out of a lineup.

Initial public perception, though, wins about as many games as the prevent defense.

Mason flashed a winning smile the day he got here. Monson offered the Gonzaga pedigree and promises of exciting basketball. Brad Childress had most of Vikings Nation, that desperate third-world country, drooling over his West Coast offense, even though he hadn't coached on the West Coast and hadn't run the Eagles' offense.

I can still remember friends saying, the day after Childress' introductory press conference, that "We got the right guy."

The key to Brewster's tenure will be not how his career looks on a résumé or how he performs behind a lectern; it will be how he works a room.

Monson was notorious among boosters and fans for avoiding eye contact in crowded rooms, Mason for turning on his infrequently used but estimable charm only in the presence of a few influential boosters.

Childress displayed just enough winsomeness to get him through the Vikings' interview process, and is expected to charm us again in 2061, upon the return of Halley's Comet.

Preconceived opinions don't matter, and what is said today at the big press conference won't, either.

What will count is Brewster's mien in the living rooms of recruits and the cramped offices of high school coaches, his campaign to win the corroded hearts and addled minds of the Gopher faithful.

Because he's competing with The Chiller, Brewster has a chance to make the Gophers the most likeable football team in town.

This will require a well-conceived siege. Brewster's slog begins today.

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