Reusse: Kill follows the Mason School of Scheduling

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 6, 2012 - 11:41 AM

For a program like his, he will take all the home games and low-risk opponents he can muster in the nonconference season.

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Here's all you have to know about Gophers football coach Jerry Kill's view of scheduling: He's still trying to have Norwood Teague, the new athletic director, get the Gophers out of a home-and-home with North Carolina that is scheduled to start in Chapel Hill next season.

Photo: Bruce Bisping, Star Tribune

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We were around when the regulars on Minnesota's nonconference football schedule were Missouri, Nebraska and Washington. We remember 1977, a season in which Cal Stoll's Gophers defeated Washington and Michigan, both Rose Bowl teams, and had a nonconference victory over UCLA to boot.

We were a small but vociferous group with a cause that we thought was just: to maintain some dignity with the Gophers' nonconference schedule.

We even came up with an acronym: The BUMS (Braying Unhappily at Minnesota's Schedule).

The cacophony was at its loudest when Glen Mason took over as the coach in 1997 and -- ticket buyers be danged -- he did everything possible to line up three (or four) layups before the Big Ten schedule.

Starting in 1998, Mason went 27-3 in nonconference games over nine seasons. The Gophers did not play a nonconference game against a BCS opponent between Baylor (then a Big 12 bottom-feeder) in 2000 and California in 2006.

Mason took a 17-game nonconference winning streak into the Cal game, and he whined bitterly about making the visit to Berkeley and taking a 42-17 whipping. He was fired at the end of that season and replaced by Tim Brewster.

Coach Brew turned out to be the one guy the BUMS were able to dent. He inherited a home game with California, and talked about scheduling annually a first-class opponent. He kept the promise by landing a two-game series with Southern Cal.

Listening to us helped Brewster to become the first head football coach in University of Minnesota history to be fired during a season. He made it through seven games of 2010 -- including a nonconference schedule with a competitive loss to Southern Cal, sandwiched between unforgivable losses to South Dakota and Northern Illinois.

Jerry Kill coached the NIU offense that tore up the Gophers in the second half, and that helped him to get the job as Brewster's replacement. This is Kill's second season and he appears to have a couple of Mason qualities:

One, a coach who knows how to run a staff and run a team; and two, a coach who wants a nonconference schedule that is as conducive to four victories as possible.

As a co-chair of the BUMS, I talked to Kill about scheduling this week. Even though he was the country gentleman as always, I felt like Jeff Bridges making his first visit to see the Big Lebowski and getting this message:

"Your revolution is over, Mister. Condolences. The BUMS lost."

After talking with Kill, I'm seeing Mason's 2002 menu as the close-to-perfect nonconference schedule in the Gophers' future: Texas State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Toledo and Buffalo.

Except, you would substitute a Division I-AA (a k a, FCS) opponent for Toledo or Buffalo, and play only one team from the mighty MAC.

"The biggest thing for us is for our players to understand what winning is about," Kill said. "We're building something, and you do that by winning. And the best chance of winning is playing at home."

This went back to Kill's complaint that the Gophers had opened on the road -- first Southern Cal, then UNLV last Thursday -- in his first two seasons. That "problem" has been solved with home games scheduled to start the next several seasons.

Here's all you have to know about Kill's view of scheduling: He's still trying to have Norwood Teague, the new athletic director, get the Gophers out of a home-and-home with North Carolina that is scheduled to start in Chapel Hill next season.

"North Carolina isn't exactly a titan," I said to Teague.

The AD shrugged and said, "Here's my philosophy: Scheduling is so sensitive to coaches that it's not something I'm going to micro-manage."

Kill confirmed again he wants out of the North Carolina series and said, "We always need three [nonconference] home games, and four would be better. With the division we're in, and with Wisconsin as our crossover game, there's no benefit in getting beat up in nonconference games."

Bill Snyder was the all-timer when it came to scheduling cupcakes in his first go-round at Kansas State. Is that what we're talking about with the Gophers?

"I don't know ... but Snyder's schedule helped build a program, didn't it?" Kill said.

It's official. The BUMS lost. Bring on New Hampshire!

Patrick Reusse can be heard noon-4 weekdays on 1500-AM. • preusse@startribune.com

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