Editor's note: This is an installment in a 10-part series asking "what if?" certain major events in Twin Cities sports history had turned out differently. This is purely an exercise in amusement. Nobody at the Star Tribune -- least of all the author -- has a DeLorean that goes 88 mph and has the ability to go back to change the past. Send any feedback or suggestions to mrand@startribune.com.

This suggestion comes from RandBall blog commenter Jamax2: What if ... Glen Mason had been hired as Ohio State's head football coach in 2001 instead of Jim Tressel? Wow, this one should be fun.


First off, it changes the course of Gophers football completely. On the one hand, there perhaps isn't a litany of heartbreaking losses -- in particular, and as noted by others as a possible "what if" of its own, the infamous 38-35 loss to Michigan in 2003 after being up by three touchdowns in the second half at the Metrodome.


On the other hand, Mason built up at least enough momentum with the program to make it credible again. Let's not forget this team wasn't going to bowl games until he arrived (even though, as we all know, going to a bowl game these days is about as difficult as spending more money than you intended to spend at Target Field). If a new coach takes over in 2001, do the Gophers immediately sink back to the bottom of the Big Ten instead of nestling in the middle? Do enough fans and donors tune out completely, thus erasing the chance to build TCF Bank Stadium?


Or does a new coach take Mason's stellar offensive recruits, add some defense to the mix, and suddenly create a team that breaks through and becomes similar to Big Ten brethren Iowa and Wisconsin? And is TCF Bank Stadium now sold out every Saturday (with talks of expanding to 80,000 seats), instead of just filling up for big games and U2 concerts. Does the path still lead to Tim Brewster, then to current coach Jerry Kill? Possibly. But probably not.


Nationally speaking, maybe Mason's arrival at Ohio State negates the entire Buckeyes scandal that is happening right now. Would Mason have been bold or bright enough to put the kibosh on the reported tattoo and vehicle shenanigans that eventually cost Tressel his job and put OSU in hot water with the NCAA? It's entirely possible he handles things differently. But perhaps Ohio State also would have suffered the same types of maddening losses the Gophers regularly suffered in the early-to-mid-2000s.


A near-certainty: Sweater vest sales in Columbus, Ohio, would not have been nearly as lucrative for the past decade.