MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Athletic director Joel Maturi insists Minnesota has all the resources and amenities to attract a big-time football coach to resurrect a program that hasn’t been to the Rose Bowl in nearly 50 years.
Now that he has fired Tim Brewster, it’s time for Maturi to prove it.
“Minnesota can and should be competitive in the Big Ten,” Maturi said on Sunday after firing Brewster. “We have a great facility here at TCF Bank Stadium. We are a world class academic institution. One of America’s finest cities.
“And contrary to published reports, the resources are available. They are in place. There is a commitment to having a winning football program at the University of Minnesota.”
Maturi is looking for a new football coach for the second time in his tenure at Minnesota after Brewster proved to be a colossal failure. Maturi went out on a limb in 2007 to hire Brewster, a tight ends coach for the Denver Broncos who had never been a head coach or coordinator in college or the pros.
Brewster went 15-30 in three and a half seasons, 0-10 in trophy games and further demoralized an already apathetic fan base despite the exciting move into the new stadium last season.
Brewster made $1 million annually, relative peanuts in the world of big-time college football. But Maturi staunchly defended the school’s spending, saying that he paid the inexperienced Brewster a salary commensurate with his resume.
He’ll need to pony up a lot more cash to get a genuine name in here this time, and Maturi says he’s ready to do just that.
“We were prepared to pay more for the coach when we made this decision four years ago,” he said.
“Now can I pay the dollars that Urban Meyer are making? No. Nick Saban? No. We cannot go down that path. That’s not a path that we can go down. But can we pay more than what we’re paying? Yes, we can.”
Maturi has already had one swing and miss, with one of the school’s most respected alums. Tony Dungy told him on Sunday that he wasn’t interested in coaching, instead offering to help with the search.
Some proven candidates include former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach, Houston’s Kevin Sumlin and Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier.
“I haven’t really given it much thought because it surprised me that they fired Brewster but, you know, I mean it’s a good program,” Leach said on his Sirius XM radio show. “It’s in the Big Ten. And, you know, right now I’m in a position where I’m willing to listen to anybody.”
Former Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer, former Oregon coach Mike Bellotti and Minnesota alum and current Montreal Allouettes coach Marc Trestman are other notable names being mentioned.
So why would an accomplished candidate want to come to a Big Ten doormat that hasn’t been to the Rose Bowl since 1962 and hasn’t won a conference title since 1967?
Maturi points to the beautiful new stadium and, in a moment of unbridled honesty, the low bar that has been set here in recent years.
“I think we have somebody who hopefully will come in and say I can make a mark for myself,” Maturi said. “When was the last time we went to the Rose Bowl? When is the last time we won a Big Ten championship?
“You’re not following Vince Lombardi here. This is a situation where, you know what, somebody can come in and win some games and people are going to feel good about him and they win a few more games and they’re going to feel really good about him. And if we go to the Rose Bowl, we might even put a statue of them outside of TCF Bank Stadium.”
Interim coach Jeff Horton, who has replaced Brewster for the final five games of the season, said he is confident that the school can lure a high-powered football coach, much the same way Maturi hired Kentucky’s Tubby Smith to take over the basketball program.
“There’s not a coach out there that wouldn’t want to be a part of that opportunity coming in and coaching in the Big Ten and have a chance to do the things that you can do,” Horton said. “I think Joel and everybody else involved in the process, they won’t have any trouble attracting highly, highly visible candidates.”
If anybody should be discouraged by the prospects, it’s senior quarterback Adam Weber, who has seen his fair share of losing and tough times while on campus. Weber will be playing for his third coach when Horton takes over, but said the struggles are directly attributable to the players and coaches, not the resources provided by the school.
“The university gives everything a student athlete needs to be successful, not only academically but athletically,” Weber said. “It’s just a matter of time. We will win football games here at the University of Minnesota. It’s too bad that we haven’t had the success, but ultimately, we will. That’s a promise. It will happen here.”
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