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Tim Brewster set bar high, never reached it

10/17/2010

Tim Brewster came to Minnesota talking big and dreaming bigger.

I can't remember how many times I heard Brewster mention Minnesota's 18 Big Ten championships and six national championships, never mind the fact that neither event had happened since 1967.

Brewster knew the bar needed to be raised in Minneapolis. You couldn't blame him for aiming high. Why else would the school fire a coach (Glen Mason) who consistently made bowl games?

But Brewster couldn't make Minnesota into a championship program. In fact, he couldn't get the Gophers to the level Mason had them at the time of his termination following the 2006 Insight Bowl. Brewster never won a trophy game and went 1-9 in November games, with his lone win coming against FCS South Dakota State. His teams have been outscored 67-0 in their past two meetings with rival Iowa.

When he stopped winning in September and October this season, his days became numbered. And after Minnesota lost its sixth consecutive game Saturday at Purdue, dropping to 1-6 on the season, the school pulled the plug on the Brewster era.

Brewster went 15-30 at Minnesota and 7-18 since November 2008.

"While I appreciate the passion and commitment that Coach Brewster has shown, it is clear that a change in the leadership of Gopher football is necessary," athletic director Joel Maturi said in a prepared statement. "We have high aspirations for our football program and we are not satisfied with its current direction. The results so far this season have been unacceptable and the program has simply not shown enough improvement over the past three and a half years to continue with the status quo."

Co-offensive coordinator Jeff Horton will take over for Brewster on an interim basis. I hate to see lame-duck coaches in college sports, so this seems like the right move.

Firing Brewster only cost Minnesota $600,000, a buyout lowered in his recent contract extension.

Brewster never lacked passion, and his recruiting abilities as a former Mack Brown assistant showed at Minnesota. I loved the way he upgraded Minnesota's schedule, which had been a joke during the Mason era, and added showcase nonconference games against teams like USC.

But he also showed too many signs of a first-time college head coach.

His decision to replace veteran offensive coordinator Mike Dunbar and switch from the spread to a pro-style offense didn't pay off. He replaced Dunbar with an NFL assistant in Jedd Fisch whose complex concepts flew over the players' heads. Brewster kept shuffling his staff, a formula that rarely works in a sport where sticking to your guns usually is the way to go.

Minnesota is the first FBS program to make a coaching change in 2010, and the school now begins what could be an extensive coaching search. There are some dream candidates Minnesota can pursue (alum Tony Dungy, former assistant Kevin Sumlin, Mike Leach) and some more realistic ones (Montreal Alouettes coach Marc Trestman, former Iowa State coach Dan McCarney).

It will be interesting to see how much control Maturi has in the search since he was the one who hired Brewster.

Minnesota is a challenging job, but it's a better job now with a beautiful on-campus stadium to sell.

There are no excuses why Minnesota shouldn't be a middle-of-the-pack Big Ten team, building toward the high bar Brewster set but never could reach.