New football coach Tim Brewster aid his goals include keeping in-state talent from leaving -- and to get the Gophers to the Rose Bowl.
Facing some skepticism about his coaching résumé and lack of name recognition, Brewster needed to hit a home run in his first public appearance as the University of Minnesota football coach Wednesday.
Brewster delivered in the clutch and showed he's not afraid to swing for the fences.
Dressed in a gray suit and maroon and gold tie, Brewster put his enthusiasm and energy on full display as he vowed to sell the program, upgrade recruiting efforts and lead the Gophers to a Big Ten title in his introductory news conference/pep rally at McNamara Alumni Center.
"To me, this is the best-kept secret in college football," Brewster said. "What's not here? I think there are so many things to sell here. I just think it takes the right guy and the right group of guys to get out and sell this university."
Brewster's role as a salesman and reputation as a first-rate recruiter were common themes throughout his whirlwind first day, which began with a 7 a.m. meeting with players.
Several people present said Brewster gave such an impassioned speech in his first meeting with his players that the entire team gathered in a celebratory huddle at the conclusion.
"We don't do that in team meetings normally," defensive end Willie VanDeSteeg said. "That was cool. First impressions are big, and he did a good job."
Brewster, 46, handled his first news conference with similar aplomb. Flanked by his family and a fan holding a cardboard sign forecasting a Rose Bowl trip, Brewster deftly handled questions about his coaching profile and made it clear that he will travel the state to sell the program and scour the nation recruiting the best talent.
He also said the program is not in the rebuilding phase -- something his predecessor, Glen Mason, suggested this past season -- and promised to deliver the school's first Rose Bowl trip since 1962.
"We're going to win the Big Ten championship and we're going to take the Gopher Nation to Pasadena," he said. "That's my dream, that's my goal and that's my belief. It will happen here sooner rather than later."
The experience question
Brewster's hiring caught some by surprise because he had not been a head coach or coordinator at the pro or college level. He served as an assistant coach at North Carolina and Texas for 13 years before moving to the NFL, where he worked under Marty Schottenheimer and Mike Shanahan the past five seasons.
Brewster, 46, said he chose to learn the game under respected coaches rather than "chase titles."What I chased was knowledge and understanding," he said. "I thought it was more important who you worked with opposed to what your title was. I was on a quest to learn rather than jump around."
Though he was impressed with Brewster's coaching acumen, athletic director Joel Maturi said he and top school officials were enamored with his salesmanship.
"Everybody I spoke with said, 'What you see is what you get,' " Maturi said. "He's energized, he's passionate and he's sincere. I do believe it's easier to sell something that you believe in."
University President Robert Bruininks called Brewster "a gifted communicator."I think one of the things that really impresses me about him is his connection to people, his ability to forge and build strong relationships, with young people, with their parents, with the general public," Bruininks said in a statement.
Brewster's eagerness to mingle with the masses and sell the program stands in stark contrast to Mason's model. Mason's reluctance to rub elbows with the general public was a constant source of frustration both inside and outside the university. School officials made it a priority to find someone willing to connect with the fan base, and Brewster seems to fit the bill.
"The thing I want to do the most is get out and sell this program to the people of the great state of Minnesota," he said. "It's going to be an easy sell."
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