Brewster makes positive first impression

  • Article by: CHIP SCOGGINS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 18, 2007 - 10:31 AM

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."

That, Brewster said, will lead to better recruiting. Brewster was recognized as a premier recruiter in his previous collegiate jobs at North Carolina and Texas, and he sounds convinced that it will continue at Minnesota. Brewster said he will close the borders while also attracting blue-chip prospects around the country.

"I think people are going to be very surprised at the caliber of athletes we recruit and get to come to school here," he said.

Brewster's on-field coaching plan is a little more of an unknown. He said he wants to evaluate his talent in spring practice before completely deciding what offensive and defensive systems he will implement. Speaking in general terms, he said he wants to run the ball on offense and play fast and physical on defense. He also told his players that he expects them to be tough and play with passion.

"I promised [the players] one thing, and that is I will never let them down," he said. "I'm going to have my football team prepared to play on Saturdays."

The only offer

Ultimately, Brewster's tenure will be judged by wins and losses, Maturi said. Maturi acknowledged that he had never heard of Brewster before this search but decided to hire him after a series of meetings with him and discussions with people who know Brewster.

There was a report in a Dallas newspaper Wednesday that Texas Christian coach Gary Patterson turned down the job and a $2 million contract offer over the weekend, but two Minnesota officials vehemently denied that claim.

"We only offered the job to one person and that is Tim Brewster," associate athletic director Tom Wistrcill said.

Kathryn F. Brown, university vice president and Bruininks' chief of staff, was the highest-ranking nonsports administrator to meet Brewster before his hiring. She accompanied Maturi to Denver to interview Brewster.

Bruininks, who is in Mexico with family members, has had phone conversations with Brewster but still has not met him in person.

"[Bruininks] has complete confidence in Joel's decision-making," Brown said.

Brewster said he felt a sense of destiny after having dinner with Maturi in the same hotel that the Denver Broncos stay in the night before home games. As they went upstairs to Maturi's third-floor room for more discussions Brewster said he felt antsy. Maturi told him his room number: 3073.

"I said, 'No, we're not going to 3073,' " Brewster said. "That's the room that I was in every Saturday night prior to every home game when I coached with the Denver Broncos. You guys figure that one out. There is some definite fate involved in this deal."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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