MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Tim Brewster arrived at Minnesota in 2007 promising to bring the Golden Gophers back to the Rose Bowl, to heights not seen on campus in more than a generation.
He leaves with fan apathy nearing an all-time high, having failed to capitalize on the momentum from a beautiful new stadium and joining a long list of coaches who haven’t been able to get it done at Minnesota.
Brewster was fired Sunday, one day after the Golden Gophers lost to Purdue to fall to 1-6 in his fourth season on the sideline. Brewster went 15-30 at Minnesota, including 6-21 in the Big Ten, and the Gophers’ 28-17 loss to the Boilermakers was their sixth straight defeat.
He was 0-10 in trophy games and never beat chief rivals Wisconsin or Iowa.
“Those that wear maroon and gold are disappointed, embarrassed, frustrated, angry and hurt by a 1-6 football team and the lack of being really competitive in the Big Ten for a long time,” athletic director Joel Maturi said.
Maturi said he’s had several conversations with university President Robert Bruininks in the last few weeks about the coach and both agreed on the move. Offensive coordinator Jeff Horton will serve as interim head coach the remainder of the season.
“The fact of the matter is President Bruininks knows, Joel Maturi knows, others know that football is the engine to every athletic program,” Maturi said. “And our engine is sputtering, and we need to find a way to fix it, and we’re committed to doing so.”
The Associated Press left a phone message for Brewster, who will receive a $600,000 buyout.
Brewster was hired to take over the stagnant Minnesota program in 2007, despite never having been a head coach or coordinator in college or the NFL.
Brewster created a monster he couldn’t contain when, with a salesman’s determination and a preacher’s fervor, he started talking about Rose Bowls at his introduction. Known as a successful recruiter under Mack Brown at North Carolina and Texas, Brewster’s classes drew decent reviews from analysts but his players never quite put it together.
Instability on his staff was a problem, with three offensive coordinators and three defensive coordinators in four years.
“We haven’t had enough of that continuity, that collectiveness of a pattern,” quarterback Adam Weber said. “That reflects in our wins and losses.”
Brewster had never been a head coach — beyond Central Catholic High School in Lafayette, Ind. — when he was hired by Maturi to replace Glen Mason and revive the once-proud program.
The Gophers went 1-11 in Brewster’s first season and started 7-1 the following year before losing the last five games. All those losses, including a 55-0 drubbing by Iowa at home and two home defeats to FCS schools, essentially sealed Brewster’s fate.
“It did scare the tar out of me,” Maturi said. “That is an honest answer.”
The school opened TCF Bank Stadium in 2009, but the student section has been half full for many of the games as confidence in Brewster waned. That, as much as anything, prompted Maturi to make the move now rather than wait until the end of the season.
“We’re coming into two home football games, and I don’t think it’s fair for the kids to be booed,” he said. “Quite frankly, it’s why I have my plea out to our fans, don’t boo our kids.”
This time around, Maturi said he is determined to find a high-profile replacement, much the same way he did when he hired Tubby Smith to take over the basketball program in 2007.
He called Tony Dungy about a return to his alma mater, but Dungy said he wasn’t interested. Instead, Dungy will help guide the search.
“I’ve asked Tubby Smith if he wanted to coach football, but he’s declined,” Maturi quipped. “But we’re out here to find a Tubby Smith. We’re out here to find somebody that people can recognize, people have confidence in, and people are going to bring instant credibility and notoriety to the football program.”
Maturi said he will sell opportunity at Minnesota, the chance to play in an impressive stadium in the heart of a vibrant metropolitan area. Most of all, Maturi said, the replacement will have a chance to put his name on a program that hasn’t been to a Rose Bowl since 1962.
“You’re not following Vince Lombardi here,” Maturi said.
For now, they turn to Horton to finish the season, which starts at home on Saturday against Penn State. He was a head coach at Nevada in 1993 and UNLV from 1994-98.
“My job is to instill confidence in them,” Horton said. “Get them to go out and play as hard as they can for as long as they can, and help them try to achieve victory.”
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