Joe Christensen covered Major League Baseball for 15 years, including three seasons at the Baltimore Sun and eight at the Star Tribune, before switching to the college football beat. He’s a Faribault, Minn., native who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1996. He covered Jim Wacker’s Gophers for the Minnesota Daily and also wrote about USC, UCLA and the Rose Bowl for the Riverside Press-Enterprise before getting this chance to cover football again.
Email Joe to talk about the Gophers.
Everyone I talk to these days has an opinion about the Gophers' coaching search, or has talked to "someone who knows what's going on," or has a sister-in-law who heard a rumor from Joel Maturi's plumber.
Well, almost everyone. The players themselves, the guys who will actually work with the new coach, seem blase about the search, almost uninterested in who might be their new boss. I've asked at least a half-dozen players, and none seem particularly engaged, certainly nowhere near as interested as their fans are. "We know people are talking about it," linebacker Mike Rallis said, "but it's not worth worrying over something that's out of your control."
For the rest of us, though, it's a great time to debate the merits of this guy or that coach, even though it seems likely that much information currently circulating has little basis in reality. Make a great bar topic, though, trying to divine Maturi's intentions. Sitting coach, or coach-in-waiting broadcaster? Big-name star or little-known up-and-comer?
For those who want to think big, Jim Harbaugh, coach of 13th-ranked Stanford, is a popular choice. Why would he leave Palo Alto? To return to his Big Ten roots, the theory (and that's all it is) goes, and for a big raise in salary.
Trouble is, the former Michigan quarterback figures to have his choice of a dozen or more jobs this winter -- a list that, according to The Dallas Morning News, could include the Dallas Cowboys -- and Minnesota might not be his first choice.
Meanwhile, Wednesday was the second anniversary of Phillip Fulmer's resignation at Tennessee, and many Gopher fans celebrated the occasion by speculating about the ex-Vol coach's interest in coming to Minnesota.
Fulmer, who went 152-52 and won a national championship a dozen years ago in the first BCS Championship Game, has even talked about the Gophers' job, telling the Knoxville News Sentinel that the school "has great potential" and is a place "you could recruit to" -- and Fulmer is an acknowledged expert at recruiting, albeit almost entirely along the Atlantic coast.
He wouldn't tell the paper whether he'd like to be considered for the job, which is how it's done these days. Candidates are usually pretty candid about NOT wanting a job, or "withdrawing from consideration" when they're informed they're not getting it, but nobody wants to publicly pursue one and risk not getting it.
Mike Leach has followed that policy, too, after calling Minnesota "a good program" in the first couple of days after Tim Brewster was fired.
In his case, it's probably for the best because, despite all those Gopher fans clinging to hope that the former Texas Tech coach is a candidate, Leach won't be getting the job. Probably a dozen different people with connections to the school have confirmed that, in addition to the controversy that got him fired a year ago, Leach offended people around the program when the Gophers played the Red Raiders in the Insight Bowl in 2006. Give it up, Gopher fans, the Pirate's not sailing this way.
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