In Tuesday's Star Tribume, columnist Chip Scoggins wrote about the University of Minnesota athletic department and how it has failed to meet many of the challenges that it has faced in recent years:
Lean times are nothing unusual for Gophers athletics, but their current condition is particularly sobering even by their standards.
In the past year, the Gophers have lost their athletic director and their popular football coach.
The football team finished with a losing record. The men’s basketball team will finish with a losing record barring a miracle. And the men’s hockey team barely has a winning record.
They should change the name of Dinkytown to Debbie Downerville, accompanied by a sad trombone playing in the background.
The column attracted several hundred comments from readers. Here are some of them:
Banndcathy: We all have our theories and suggestions for improving the teams and making coaching hire decisions. What would be a great service by the Strib is to profile neighboring state D1 programs. When did they bottom out, how did they climb to prominence. Was there a pattern, or dumb luck, or alumni throwing money at the programs.
Snoebird: The upswings at Michigan State and Wisconsin started with a change of university presidents. Eric Kaler expressed his dedication toward building a strong athletic program when he was hired, and he has made inroads with the football program, its stadium and the athletes village. But he failed badly on a key component: the hiring of a capable athletic director. Who's to say he's going to get it right on his second try and with the athletic department $290 million in debt? Wisconsin had a perfect candidate -- a former football star who became a prominent businessman -- in Pat Richter, and he showed what a great AD is supposed to do by grooming Barry Alvarez as his successor. But what happens at the U is that it loses its best AD candidates -- Lou Nanne, Tony Dungy, etc. -- to the pro teams. It appeared to have a great combo in Mark Dienhart (AD) and McKinley Boston (VP), but the basketball academic cheating scandal forced their ouster.
Alanson: 16 or 17 year old kids with expectations of a professional sports career look at the U and just don't find the polish and enthusiasm that they can find at 20 other universities. Then you add in the issues with facilities, an acting athletic director, a history of losing and (in the case of football and basketball) second tier coaches. These kids that can go to the historically dominant schools have no reason to go to the U. This can be turned around (case in point: Oregon, formerly a doormat of the Pac-12). But it takes money and enthusiasm - just not present in Minnesota.
Bbliss2022: Give Pitino the rest of this year and next year. He's trying to build a program, not just win games. The way fans are screaming here now the way they were in East Lansing in 1998 for Izzo's head. Or the way they were screaming for Coach K's head back in the day. Building a program takes time. Show a little patience.
Solo44: I attended the U in the 80's and the men's sports teams were mediocre then. But I can't recall them all simultaneously being as bad as they are now.
Kmcbm: Hire Beth Goetz- smart, thoughtful, tough, charming, and gets the importance of the big three men's sports while understanding the needs of the non-revenue sports especially woman's. Business community will not only embrace her, but find her refreshing. She represents all that's great about athletics and society. She's a leader and will prove to be a world class fund raiser. Easy decision for Kaler if he thinks it through.
Jaylit: Until I retired I was a long-time football season ticket holder. I saw some of the most inept football coaches come and go over the years. I also had basketball tickets in the 70's. So I feel I have over the years been a strong supporter of U of M sports programs. Saying that, everything that has gone wrong with Gopher Men's Athletics's starts at the very top of the University. Poor choices as AD's, results in poor choices as head coaches, which is then reflected in lousy teams. The current President needs to make darn sure that the next AD is truly the right person. Right now it is a disgrace and a pitifully run organization. And if it were a business, they would be ready to go into bankruptcy, which is a sad indictment of the leadership currently in charge of making those decisions at a major university.
Sportsrat6: A culture of winning needs to start with Dr. Kaler and the Board of Regents. If so, that culture needs to be in academics, research, medicine, athletics, literally everything. There are other major universities out there that have nurtured successful models that could and should be used as a template. Change won't take place over night. Implement a good model and weed out administration, faculty, staff, and coaches who aren't on board.
Caferev: I think Goetz and Claeys deserve a real shot. The other two, Pitino and Lucia, are a never-will-be and a has-been, respectively.
Jeff67: With the exception of a new basketball arena, most of the pieces are in place for the gophers to achieve success, its just not happening in the high visibility revenue sports. Women's hockey, women's volleyball are very good. women's basketball is at least competitive, men's wrestling, a few track and field folks receive all american honors, I think a few swimmers make it in there, the dance team just won the national championship. Can't comment on gymnastics because I don't know. Yes, I think the new athletic facility is a game changer and long overdue, but once that sucker is completed, there are no excuses. None. The only excuse will not even be an excuse, it will be a reason, and that reason will be incompetence. I'm 48, so I have the patience to wait this out. And I will. If we continue to fail after that, I may even get off my butt and get involved because I want to see the young men and women succeed. And they should.
Dewarf: The new AD is the key hire. He will require a commitment from Kaler and the Regents that allows him to do whatever is necessary to establish winning programs, especially in the Big Three revenue programs (FB, Men's BB and Men's Hockey). That means he will have the authority to sit down with each of these coaches (Tracy, Richard and Don) and let them know his expectations for excellence. Not mediocrity, not winning records -- excellence. That means competing for and winning conference championships on a consistent basis. You only get what you expect and demand. Nothing short of excellence (kinda has a ring to it, doesn't it) will be accepted. And that starts at the top. If Kaler and the Regents don't get the new AD hire right -- nothing will change at the U. It can change quickly with the right leader. Go Gophs!
JimmyJames76: The "university" thinks the only way to be successful at sports is the throw money at the problem. Throw cash at poor coaches, shady AD's, fancy new facilities, etc. When the coaches can't coach, and the teams fail what does the "university" do? Give them massive salary increases. Rewarding failure just encourages more failure. They should take the focus off sports, and put it back on education. Search for good, reasonably priced coaches. If kids won't come here because they don't have their own personal state of the art practice facility then wish them well, and be glad that you're still an educational institution first. Stop rewarding failure. Do you really think it would be worse? They can't lose a lot more than they are now. NDSU doesn't usually beat the Gophers at football because they have coaches making multi-million dollar salaries, or because every kid has his own practice facility that would rival the pros.
Dja42: Where are all the Iowa jokes now, Minnesotans?
Skleer: Come to wisconsin and visit the axe.