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Clearance Clarence: Tips for hiring the right kind of Gophers football coach

Posted by: Michael Rand under College football Updated: October 19, 2010 - 11:59 AM

Commenter Clarence Swamptown never pulls punches in his weekly feature Clearance Clarence. As usual, the opinions expressed here on Gophers football do not necessarily reflect those of RandBall or the Star Tribune. Here we go. Clarence?

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*Outstate Bar of the Week:  The Fourtown Store & Tavern, Fourtown, Minnesota. 
 
What is the bar famous for? It’s the only beer, burger, groceries, and/or gas in a 30-mile radius. 
 
Can I watch the game there?  Yes.  They have a large flat screen television above their u-shaped bar. A trendy downtown u-shaped bar is fine because most of the clientele are attractive and have exactly two functional eyes.  An outstate u-shaped bar often makes it difficult to know if the googly-eyed sleeveless goober is staring at you or the stuffed beaver on the other wall.
 
Can I watch the NASCAR race there?  Absolutely.
 
Do they have a website?  No.
 
What bar games are available? My favorite game is Touch-Screen Adult Photo Hunt.  With my poor hand-eye coordination and sausage fingers I am not good at touching the screen, but I am a solid spotter who can point and yell without hesitation THE BLUE SAILBOAT BEHIND THE NAKED LADY IS MISSING.   They also have a pool table and darts.
 
Anything else I should know?  My grandmother was born on a farm just east of St. Paul, where the 3M campus currently sits.  At the turn of the century her father sold that land and moved the entire family to northern Minnesota, because he was told that cropland there was half as expensive but twice as good.  He was lied to.  The cropland here pretty much stinks.  If he had kept the land in St. Paul, I might be writing this from Tahiti, or maybe Cozumel, or at least Chanhassen.  Instead, we own sections and sections of boggy wasteland that produce annual bumper crops of horse flies and meth-labs.  Sometimes it is comforting to think about my ancestors and realize that making remarkably stupid decisions is hereditary and not entirely my fault.
 
*Outstate Diner of the Week:  Main Street Café, Siren, WI. 
 
What are they famous for?  If you had a little too much fun at the cabin on Friday night, I can think of no better way to start Saturday morning than at the Main Street Cafe.
 
What are the waitresses like?  Well-seasoned and terrific.  It’s only about 7 paces from the kitchen to the farthest booth, so the service is always fast and your coffee cup is always full.
 
How’s the food? Wonderful.  The place tiny, but it’s always busy because the food is great and the portions are generous.  Go with the chocolate chip pancakes and, as always, order a side of bacon.
 
Do they have a website?  No.
 
Are they on Twitter?  No.
Anything else I should know?  For whatever reason, their booths and tables are incredibly small.  It’s as if the person who built the seating had never heard of Wisconsin or observed the crowd at a Packer game.  You’re not going to want to sit for very long, so horse down your pancakes, tip kindly, and stroll down the block to Tom’s Bar for a bloody Mary.
 
*Country & Western Song of the Week: Southern Cross by Crosby, Stills, & Nash. 
 
*Thoughts on Gopher Football:  RandBall has posted a list of potential Gopher football coaches. Over time the coaching list will be sorted out, whittled down, and brought to light, and we can debate the best candidate at that time.  Until then, let’s talk about what type of coaches to avoid.  The Gophers have been very successful at finding coaches who are not very successful.  Let’s use that experience to our advantage. These suggestions are neither radical nor revolutionary, but sometimes it feels like the Gophers athletic department over-thinks the selection process, so I humbly suggest the following guidelines:
 
Don’t be afraid to look locally. The last Gophers coach hired with any previous local ties was Smokey Joe Salem (1979-1983), who had previously coached at the University of South Dakota.  It has also been decades since the Gophers were able to lock down a majority of the top in-state recruits.   These two facts are not completely coincidental.  The football program is at rock bottom, and the rebuilding process must rely on a solid foundation of local talent.  It’s not xenophobic to prioritize a local candidate.  The new coach doesn’t have to be local, but it doesn’t hurt. 
 
Don’t hire a recruiter. Hire a coach. Tim Brewster sold Maturi a bill of goods based mostly on his ability to recruit.  A reasonably well-trained donkey could convince a five-star recruit to choose Texas.  First hire a coach who has shown the ability to win, preferably at the college level, and the recruits will follow.  
 
Don’t confuse passion for ability.See Brewster, Tim, and the late Wacker, Jim. 
 
Don’t use an external search firm. Search firms sell their services in two major ways:  They filter coaching candidates while keeping the process anonymous, and they beat the bushes for unknown names that might fly under everyone else’s radar.  I fully understand why an Athletic Director would want to use a search firm to conduct the selection process in relative anonymity, but rumors and innuendo are the last of the Gophers’ problems.  Any speculation about Gophers football is good publicity at this point.  A search firm also has a vested interest in over-hyping an unknown coaching candidate, because if the most obvious candidate were also the best choice, then why hire a search firm in the first place?  It was an Atlanta-based search firm that sold us a mysterious NFL tight ends coach.  Don’t waste your time with a search firm.  Find a handful of trusted, intelligent individuals who are fully vested in the success of the program and rely on their instincts.
 
These guidelines seem almost too obvious to mention, but for whatever reason they were ignored during the last coaching search process.  I hope they don’t make the same mistakes again.
 
Your thoughts on outstate bars, outstate diners, the Southern Cross, and tips for the Gophers’ coaching search process are welcome in the comments below.  

 

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