Souhan: Gophers' situation calls for bold step

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 11, 2013 - 12:09 PM

There is somebody close who has the credentials to fill the leadership void.

There is nothing self- sustaining about a college football program. Any college football program.

When David Shula coached Alabama, the Crimson Tide became a joke. When Lane Kiffin coached USC, the Trojans became a joke. With Mack Brown grasping a lifeline at Texas, the Longhorns have become a punch line.

Those are perhaps the three most esteemed jobs in college football. With the wrong person in charge, the programs withered, costing their universities millions of dollars and much esteem.

When the 2013 football season began, the University of Minnesota boasted these leaders at crucial positions in the football hierarchy:

• President Eric Kaler. Hired from Stony Brook, he has no idea what it takes to run a Division I football program.

• Athletic director Norwood Teague. Hired from Virginia Commonwealth University, he has no idea what it takes to run a Division I football program. Even when it came to his expertise, college basketball, he wound up hiring what may have been his fifth or sixth choice to replace Tubby Smith.

• Football coach Jerry Kill. While he has generated much support for his personality, and empathy because of his struggles with epilepsy, he is 4-14 in the Big Ten, a winning percentage that gets almost every other college football coach fired.

• Defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys. Forced to be the acting head coach when Kill is unavailable, he never has been considered a head coaching candidate in Division I, even if that is the job he is currently filling.

Of the four, only one can claim to have a working understanding of what it takes to win in Division I football. With Kill unavailable, the University of Minnesota may have the weakest football brain trust in the country — and in the pitiful history of Minnesota football.

Kaler and Teague can’t be trusted to manage this difficult situation or to make a strong hire if Kill walks away at the end of the season. There is only one person in town who knows what it takes to win — or to lose less — at Minnesota, and he is available.

Kaler and Teague should admit their shortcomings and hire Glen Mason as their football czar.

Maybe Mason becomes the interim head coach. Maybe he becomes the long-term coach. Maybe he becomes the U’s football athletic director. Maybe he becomes a one-man search committee for Kill’s replacement.

They should leave it up to him. He’s far more qualified to handle any of those jobs than they are.

Since Lou Holtz teased Gopher fans with his cameo, Minnesota has tried every variety of football coach.

They tried hiring internally, allowing defensive coordinator John Gutekunst to succeed Holtz. Gutey won 39 percent of his Big Ten games — and was fired.

They tried hiring a trendy national candidate in Jim Wacker. Wacker won 20 percent of his Big Ten games — and was fired.

They tried hiring the best coach available: Mason. He won 40 percent of his Big Ten games — and was fired.

They tried hiring an enthusiastic recruiter and promoter. Tim Brewster created the notion of Gopher Nation, won 22 percent of his Big Ten games — and was fired.

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