Friday, February 26, 2010

Take Off, Eh!

An actual Gopher football post is coming soon, I promise. But first- how freaking cool are the Canadian women's hockey team? I mean really? I don't say this to rub it in the faces of our American readers, I say it only because a good half hour or so after their gold medal win vs. the USA, after all the fans had cleared out, these fine Canadian lasses went back out to the ice with their gold medals- and champagne, cigars and Molson Canadian beer (I've always been more of a Kokanee guy- in fact I have an 18 pack in the fridge at home right now- but I also do enjoy a good Canadian). Check out the pics from Luke Wynn's blog on

Great, great stuff. I particularily like this one where one of the players is driving the zamboni around (maybe she's taking someone to the looney bin on her way to the brewery eh?):

This kind of exuberance and joy is what hockey, and the Olympics are all about...oh what's that? The IOC is saying this is NOT what it's all about?

"If that's the case, that is not good," said Gilbert Felli, the IOC's
executive director of the Olympic Games. "It is not what we want to see. I don't
think it's a good promotion of sport values. If they celebrate in the changing
room, that's one thing, but not in public. We will investigate what

I did not know that Gilbert means "douche bag" in whatever anal country he is from. Um Gil? The crowd had gone. It was just the media and janitors left- this wasn't in public anymore than celebrating in the dressing room would have been!! And really, I'm sure there's never been a team or athlete who has EVER gone out to the bar after the game to celebrate their victory in, you know, public. Nope, that's never happened. But because the Canadian gals bring their Canadians, stoggies and champagne back onto the ice they've committed some kind of crime against society? What would that be exactly- a crime of fun? One of passion? One you'd expect from Canadians?

The best quote came from Steve Keough, a spokesman for the Canadian Olympic Committee, who said the COC had not provided the alcohol nor initiated the party:

"In terms of the actual celebration, it's not exactly something uncommon in Canada," he said, referring to raucous locker-room celebrations that are a tradition in some professional team sports.

Exactly, Steve. This would be a pretty Canadian response to winning a gold medal, and dare I say, a pretty common response from any team or athlete who would win gold at the Olympics. Just more proof the IOC are a bunch of hosers.
Meanwhile, you can bet that wherever the Canada women's hockey team go the rest of the week, they'll be the most popular party-goers in Vancouver, and would be welcome at my Gopher tailgate next fall anytime they want. Especially if they're bringing the Molson, and maybe instead of champagne, some of the Champagne of Beers for Jermo.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Signature Win

I'm going to bring this around to Gopher football: really, I will. But before I get to that I have to start by saying that if you don't know already, let me tell you: I'm Canadian, and therefore, I live and die with Canada's hockey team. All of this crap from the Canadian Olympic Committee about "Owning the Podium"? What a joke. There's been a few polls done of Canadians asking them if they'd rather win the most Olympic medals but no hockey gold OR only hockey gold but no other medals. Well guess which won in a landslide? Yep, over 80% of Canadians would rather win hockey gold and nothing else. So to say our image, our reputation, and everything we live for is at stake in this tournament is like saying NBC tape-delaying Olympic events in the internet age is a bad idea- it's the understatement of understatements.

I watched the USA's 5-3 win over the red and white last Sunday at the ESPNZone in Las Vegas with hundreds of other Canadian fans. The atmoshphere pregame was unbelievable. We showed up about an hour before the game and the waiting list to get in, according to the overwhelmed hostess, was "we don't know. We don't know how long it will be." Apparently they a) had no idea there was going to be a hockey game and b) had no idea every Canadian in Vegas would converge on them to watch it. Lesson learned. Thankfully we got in, and it was nuts to see an entire bar filled with nothing but Canadians.

Of course, as great as that was the USA took the wind out of the sails with the early first goal, and kept it out by always one-upping Canada, outworking them, and outplaying them. It was tough to watch. It was even tougher when four meathead gangster wanna-be d-bags who wouldn't recognize a hockey puck if it hit them in their fat heads rolled in midway through the third period to try and antagonize and start fights. Not exactly classy. Reminded me a lot of Iowa fans.

ANYWAY, as much as that game killed me, after watching Canada dismantle Germany, and then Russia last night, I'm thinking it's the USA loss that was the wake-up call Canada needed. A signature loss, if you will. While I want the USA and Canada to win tomorrow so we can get our sweet, sweet revenge, I'm not naive enough to think we WILL beat Slovakia. I hope we do, and I hope USA beats Finland, but I'm not counting on it. Still, I like our chances much better now than on Sunday. In 2002, Canada lost their opener to Sweden and then barely survived against Germany before Wayne Gretzky's "us against the world" speech rallied the lads and they rolled to Gold. In 2006 they lost...and lost...and were out. I'm hoping the USA loss turns into the rallying point it was in 2002, but we won't know until Friday, but it certainly seems to have changed their intensity and determination: they've been a more confident, more aggressive bunch since Sunday, and instead of worrying about trying to live up to the hype as the team that's supposed to be the best in the world, they're now just going out and playing. And through two knock-out games it's made all the difference.

So what does this have to do with Gopher football? Well I'm wondering when our beloved Gophs will finally get that rallying point game. For Canada, it's a hockey power that is expected by its fan to win every game. It seems like they need a tough loss, a signature loss, to wake them up and to change the momentum. For Gopher football, we know all too well about tough losses, since we've had so many over the years. It seems anytime this program gets some momentum, or we get some hope, it all comes crashing down. So for Minnesota, I'm left to wonder that to make the leap to be the program we all not only want it to be but KNOW it can be, we're going to have to get a signature WIN instead of a loss.

After reading Jer's summation of Minnesota in the Aughts over at TRE (as with everything Jermo writes, it's an excellent, informative, and entertaining read), I was reminded of the loss to Michigan in 2003. You know the game story by now: Minnesota led Michigan 35-7 at the end of the third quarter but lost. What I didn't really know- or perhaps had worked to forget- was just how close Minnesota was to going to the Rose Bowl that year, and how different this program would be today if it had. With the loss Minnesota ended up finishing 9-3 in the regular season and 5-3 in the Big Ten in a three-way tie for fourth place with Iowa and Michigan State. Because the Gophers are the Gophers, they ended up in the Sun Bowl.

But if they had held on against Michigan, if they had played any defense whatsoever in the fourth quarter instead of giving up 38 points, they would have gotten their signature win and been 8-0. And even if the rest of the 2003 regular season had played out exactly as it did- losses to MSU and Iowa, wins against Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin- the Gophs would have finished at 6-2 in the Big Ten in a four-way tie for first with Michigan, Ohio State, and Purdue. The Wolverines played both the Bucks and Boilers and beat both, while Minnesota played neither, but of course would have beaten Michigan. By my calculations, the tie-breaker then goes to Minnesota, especially with the rule that the team with the longest Rose Bowl drought gets to go.

So we were that close. Would Glen Mason still be coach here? Highly doubtful, as he seemed to have one foot out the door the entire time he was here looking for a better job. But I'd bet we'd have a stronger fanbase, and better local coverage because of it, and hopefully a better team and better recruiting. Sure, Rose Bowl seasons don't guarantee lasting success (just ask Purdue or Northwestern) but it certainly helps.

What we need in 2010 is a signature win, a momentum changer, and a program changer. We need something we haven't gotten yet from Tim Brewster: we need a big win against someone we're not supposed to beat. As you've no doubt heard, we have a very tough schedule coming up. I'd count only 3 games as gimmes, all at home in September against Middle Tennessee St, USD, and N. Illinois. There's four more that could go either way: Northwestern at home, then roadies against Purdue, Michigan State and Illinois. That leaves five daunting dates against top 15 foes nobody is going to expect us to beat: four at The Bank against USC, Penn State, Ohio State, and Iowa, and we an early October trip to Camp Randall.

I believe Tim Brewster needs seven wins, if not eight, to save his job. Which means to do that, he has to do something he's never done- not only does he have to beat everyone we're supposed to beat, and then steal the ones that could either way, but he HAS to pull an upset on one of the five teams we have no business beating. He need to delight and shock a packed house at TCF Bank Stadium and get his first signature win. He has never beaten a team ranked in the top 25, and he's going to get a shot at at least five such teams this year- if not more by the time conference play rolls around. While a massive upset won't guarantee a successful and winning season (see Purdue circa 2009) it can be a huge boost to the ego, pride, and confidence of the team and its fans (see Purdue circa 2009).

So far the Tim Brewster Era has left Gopher fans pretty down and wanting more. Like Canada with a "signature loss" I'm hoping 2010 can bring a "signature win" for Minnesota and turn the momentum- and this program- around, and steer us towards the program we all know and want Minnesota football to be.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Wrapping Up the Week

Some musings on the week that was...

Adam Rittenberg reports that the Gophers hired Steve Watson as wide receivers coach. Shockingly, yet another Tim Brewster "nation wide search" to replace a coach led to someone he worked with or who people on his staff has worked with. In this case, probably not a bad thing at all, as Watson should be very familiar with what the Gophers are trying to do on offense, as he's familiar with the Denver Broncos pro-style Mike Shannahan ran that Jedd Fisch failed miserably to emulate last season. Watson worked with some receivers who had very, very good seasons including Rod Smith, Brandon Marshall, and Ashley Lelie. Lelie, who is out of the NFL, certainly sucked since leaving Denver in 2006, but had two pretty solid years with the Broncos, including 2004 when he had 1084 yards and 7 TD's. Hopefully Lelie's success in Denver, and maximum sucktitude the last three seasons, is a testament to Watson's coaching, and it'll translate to our talented youngester with the Gophers. If he can make a 1000 yard receiver out of Lelie, maybe he can teach Troy Stoudermire how to catch?

Andy Staples of says to forget talk of Big Ten and PAC 10 expansion: the top 64 revenue-producing athletic departments need to leave the NCAA and for four 16 team super conferences that play for their own national title. While I don't love this idea, his chart on the second page just reinforces how freaking rich the Big Ten and SEC are compared to everybody else, and why that, above all else, is why you're not going to see his idea happen. Those two conferences have the most control right now because they have BY FAR the most money, and even a 64 team super division doesn't necessarily guarantee them more than they're getting now. Texas is far and away the most profitable athletic department, but after that the Big Ten has Ohio State (2nd), Penn State (6th), Michigan (7th), and Wisconsin (9th) in the top ten, while the SEC has SIX teams in the top 11! This also made me wonder where Minnesota ranked in all of this, and how close we were to being left out of the top 64 (by the way, Iowa State and Mississippi State were the only BCS conference schools NOT in the top 64). The answer? You might be surprised, or maybe you wouldn't: Minnesota finished 27th, as their athletic department reportedly made just over $70 million in 2008-2009 school year. Wow. Definitely doing a lot better than I thought, and while a lot of that is thanks to the ridiculous Big Ten Network contract and the BCS bowl cashouts, the Gophers are still doing quite well thank you very much. And to again speak to the strength of the conference, the Gophers were still the 7th highest earners (Iowa was 15th, and Michigan State 17th).

I'm still surprised at the number of people engaging in the Big Ten expansion debate who do not realize that money and academics are the two most important factors. The conference will NOT accept schools with crappy academics and they will NOT accept schools who aren't going to add a lot of revenue by bringing in a new TV market. It's why Texas and Notre Dame are the only two who make sense to add, and that if you can't get one of those two then it just doesn't make much sense. Any combination of anyone else, even MIssouri by adding the St Louis TV market, likely doesn't increase the total revenues for each school enough for it to make sense. As much as I LOVE the thought of Nebraska joining (their athletic department finished 18th in the NCAA with almost $75 million), and while they would bring a lot of TV viewers, they would not bring many new homes for the BIg Ten Network to be added to. The Huskers have a large following outside of the state, sure, but I'm willing to bet most are already living where they already can get the Big Ten Network. Nebraska's sell job (there's been a lot of speculation that Big 8 homer Tom Osborne won't want to leave because of his loyalty, but he strikes me as a much, much smarter man than that) is going to be to convince the Big Ten that it's national popularity can get the network added to other new markets outside of Nebraska that the BTN is not currently in.

Tiger Woods wants you to know he's really sorry. Sure he is- sorry he got caught! I don't believe Tiger owes me or anyone else an apology, but then again, I'm not someone who uses athletes as role models. He's the world's greatest golfer, and apparently quite the ladies man off of it. Why should I care? Certainly it should cost him the sponsorships it has, but why else should Tiger apologize? He should take Bill Simmons' suggestion and just admit that he got married too young, doesn't want to be tied down because he's so rich and famous that he can apparently sleep with any woman he wants any time anywhere, and that while he's getting divorced he's going to support and love his kids as well as he possibly can. Then he should just concentrate on doing two things he seems to do really, really well: bang golf balls and hot chicks.
If he wants to finish if off with a Shooter McGavin-esque finger point and "let's go play some golf", all the better.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Lights Are On, Somebody's Home

What a day! Pitchers and catchers report AND Canada vs. Switzerland hockey (or for the Americans, the USA gets to annihilate Norway. Although we probably won't get to see either game because NBC will preempt it with either women's curling or the women's hockey team beating the bejeesus out of another country 62-0. But hey, we can't break from either of those to show men's hockey because that, you know, would actually get ratings. And if NBC has proven anything, it's that they do not want ratings. Please, run from your television sets. Change the channel. I love America but I hate NBC and their Olympic coverage. You probably couldn't tell, but I do. I really, really do). Seriously, as our friend Ice Cube said, "today is a good day."

What does this have to do with Gopher football? Well nothing. Nothing at all. But as a Gopher football only website...well what do we have left to talk about? Let's be honest here- Jer and I love Gopher football way, way too much. It's definitely a problem. But that's what we love and what we know (or at least we think we do) so that's what we talk about here. Unlike the boys over at The Daily Gopher, who seem to know anything and everything about all things Gophers, we know Gopher football. Which is great during the season, and the few weeks of spring practice, but in these long, cold, dark months without college football...yeah we have nothing.

In year's past, we've pretty much gone dark during the off-season because while we can pretend to have informed and enlightened opinions on Gopher football, we cannot pretend to know what the heck we're talking about when it comes to Gopher basketball, hockey or baseball. So we don't try.

So where does that leave us during the dark ages of the college football offseason? Good question. I would like for the lights to stay on for this site between now and when spring practice starts, but if so, that means little talk of Gopher football and other talk of well, other stuff. Two things I can guarantee you we will not talk about under any circumstances are politics and religion. Or HGTV. Or Shaun White. Or American Idol. Ok so there's probably a lot of things we won't ever talk about, but there's also plenty of non-Gopher football related stuff we may get into. March Madness? Music? Movies? The Twins (I'm a Mariners fan, but have to say I love what the Twinkies are doing. They are moving dangerously close to no longer being "The Little Engine That Could", the scrappy little piranahs who try really hard but just can't compete with the Big Boys because their own makes no money from the team. Pay no attention to the fact he has more money than God! No, the Twins can't possibly make money! No way no how! Well now they're bordering on a $100 million payroll and one of the best teams in the league. With all sincerity, couldn't happen to a better group of fans after all Carl Pohlad put you through. The summer of 2010 should be fun for baseball fans)?

We could go a number of different directions, or nowhere at all. But we'll try to keep the site from going dark the next few months with some kind of content, as we light the way during the long, long, LONG offseason. Whatever Gopher news there is to report (or the also fun total unsubstantiated rumors) mixed in with other stuff. Stay tuned. We'll leave the lights on for you.

Friday, February 12, 2010

I Like What Jeff Horton Has to Say

To say I wasn't excited about the Gophers hiring Jeff Horton as the new offensive coordinator is like saying I've been disappointed in the final season of Lost thus far: it would be a big understatement. Horton, a coaching retread who has been nothing better than a quarterbacks coach since getting fired as head coach at UNLV back in the late 90's, and a man who has NEVER called plays, wasn't exactly the hire I was hoping for. But after reading his comments in an interview with the Strib's Kent Youngblood, I'm much more intrigued, and much more hopeful, that Horton can get the offense turned around in 2010.

"The college game and the NFL game, they're different," Horton said. "The
NFL's more about matchups. ... The college game is a little different. It's not
all 1-on-1, which is what you see in the NFL all the time. What we want to do is
get some things we can hang our hat on, know we can do well, then we can dress
those things up. My goal coming out of spring practice will be to have an
effective scheme, but one that is simple enough where the players can play

I've never coached football at any level, so you know, take this for what it's worth, but I like hearing this. I think one of the many problems for our offense last year was that Fisch just made it too dang complicated. Too many plays trying to do too many different things. An offense like the spread or the wishbone has some basic plays and formations, and at the college level they work well if they're executed well. Sounds like Horton wants to simplify the playbook, find some things this group of offensive talent does well, and stick with it. While this is easier said than done, it's a better direction that trying to do a thousand different things at once under Fisch.

Of course, what REALLY will make this offense better in all facets is the ability to run the ball. And Horton believes he can make that happen.
"We have to establish ourselves as a physical team that can run," he said. "We
have to. We have to be a team that can run the ball in October and November in
bad-weather games, when we have to do it and [the opponent] knows we are going to do it. That has always been a credo of mine. Off that, I'm a big play-action guy. The better you run the ball, the better you can run the play-action pass. I
was raised on that."

Again, it's one thing to say you're going to commit to the run (how many times last year did we hear Brewster talk about the Gophs being a smash mouth football team despite having the worst rushing attack in the Big Ten?), and quite another to actually do it. But if he's going to simplify the playbook and concentrate on the bread and butter basics of blocking and finally opening some holes, this offense could finally take off. And did he say play-action passing? Did he actually talk about something that's Adam Weber's strength instead of being like Fisch and trying to pigeon-hole him into a drop-back short-read precision passer that he's not? My goodness, could Horton actually want to try to play to the strengths of our quarterbacks instead of forcing them to do things they're not good at? Crazy talk is what that is! Crazy talk! And I like it!
"From the first meeting this spring, we will set those guidelines," Horton said.
"The defense may stuff us 20 times in a row this spring, but we'll keep
hammering until we get it right. Repetition builds confidence."

Ok, maybe that's not the best thing to say, as it seemed last year Fisch stubbornly ran the ball despite having little to no success with it, but I do like the idea that running the ball is going to be a priority from day one. It's going to be not just emphasized, but expected. Hopefully an experienced offensive line improves here in the off-season and in the spring, because without better play from them, it's not going to matter. I'm also hoping that now that Duane Bennett is more than a year removed from knee surgery that we'll see the burst and explosiveness we saw from him in 2008 but did not see last year, and that any one of the three incoming freshmen can make a big splash.

I continue to believe there's talent here, and while we may not be the best offense in the Big Ten in 2010, we can be a helluva lot better than the worst like we were last year. From what Jeff Horton is saying, maybe, just maybe, he's the right guy after all to get the most out of this group.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Texas and Notre Dame: Why the Big Ten Could Add Both

As you've probably heard by now the stodgy and traditional Big Ten is talking expansion, and according to the Lawrence Journal World of Kansas they're now officially talking to Texas. Because of this, the also stodgy and even more traditional Pac 10, who last expanded in 1978, are also talking expansion. The pieces have set in motion for The Big Ten to drastically alter the landscape of college football, and with it perhaps grab two of the biggest fish available to them in Texas and Notre Dame. Both schools are coveted by the conference, and both seemingly have their reasons for joining and not joining. So how is it the Big Ten could get both? Follow along, with me, if you will...

The best place to start this whole discussion is with the TV revenue for each BCS conference and Notre Dame for 2009, which was reported by ESPN's Outside the Lines:

Big Ten: $242 million ($22 million per school)
SEC: $205 million ($17.08 million per school)
Big 12: $78 million ($12.5 million for Texas, $6.5 million per school for the other 11)
ACC: $67 million ($5.58 million per school)
Pac-10: $58 million ($5.8 million per school)
Big East: $13 million for football/$20 million for basketball ($2.8 million per football school)
Notre Dame: $10.25 million (about $9 million from their NBC football deal, and another $1.25 from Big East basketball)

For those scoring at home, the Big Ten made more money in TV revenue last year than Notre Dame, the Big 12, ACC, Pac 10 and Big East COMBINED!!!! Let that sink in for a minute. Got it? Got your head around that figure yet? The Big Ten took an enormous risk by starting their own network, but it's paid off even better than they could have dreamed. Therefore, if they're going to add another school(s) the current members are not going to want to cut into that revenue pie. They're only interested in increasing the value of the conference and increasing the revenue for their current members.

Remember, the conference is currently splitting their revenue 11 ways: While a football conference title game would add a few more millions for the conference, when you add in at least one more school and are then splitting the difference 12 ways, or even 14 ways, your schools are likely to be taking in less revenue. The new member(s) need to make each Big Ten school at least the $22 million per school they're currently receiving now, if not more. Otherwise, what's the point?

Even with a title game, adding someone from the likes of Mizzou, Pitt, Rutgers, Syracuse, UConn or even Nebraska does NOT increase revenues for the other schools. Even if you add three of them, splitting revenues 14 ways does not increase the overall revenue for each member school.

The Big Ten is going to expand only if it gets them a substanial revenue increase, and there's only two available schools that can offer that: Notre Dame and Texas. That's it. That's all. That's the list. If the Big Ten is able to get neither of those two, I don't think they end up expanding. That is unless Nebraska can make a compelling case that they can add the needed value and revenue to the conference, but they're the only ones outside of the Horns and Irish who by themselves could make that case.

I'm not even going to bother with the argument for why the Big Ten would want Notre Dame and Texas. Pretty sure that's been covered, and should be self explanatory. But what hasn't been, or what apparently hasn't been made mainstream enough, is why both of those schools would be crazy NOT to join the Big Ten.

Frank the Tank has an incredibly detailed and compelling argument for why Texas should join the conference. I highly recommend the read (I believe he's also done three follow-up posts which are also excellent), but make sure you carve out about a half hour of your time to digest it all. It's long, but it's really, really good.

Let's summarize Frank the Tank's argument for why Texas would be crazy NOT to join the Big Ten:
- Yes, the Longhorns get more revenue than other Big 12 schools, as they received $12.5 million last year while the other eleven schools got about $6.5 million each.
- But they would get substantially more than that in the Big Ten. Remember, each school last year got $22 million, so even if bringing Texas in and splitting it 12 ways gained the conference no extra revenue, $242 million split 12 ways is still $20.17 million per school. Just that amount alone is much more than Texas receives from the Big 12.
- However, if Texas were to join the Big Ten, the Big Ten Network would then be added to 90+ million homes in the state of Texas that it's not in now. By adding that many new viewers and paying customers, even a conservative projection would have to put the Big Ten Network's payout to 12 schools at somewhere around $25 million each. At least.
- So that means Texas can stay in the Big 12 and make $12.5 million, or move to the Big Ten and make more than double that. Every year.
- Add to that the fact the Big Ten is a much better conference academically and would open a lot of doors for research and academics that Texas simply can't get in the Big 12, and it's hard to see a reason why they wouldn't.

Shooting down two other counter-arguments:
- Rivalries with Texas A&M and Oklahoma. To me, this is minor, and one that's being overblown. Texas and Oklahoma have only been in the same conference for less than two decades. And, as Frank the Tank explained, the Horns were ready to ditch A&M in the early 90's when Texas almost joined the Pac 10 (but instead ended up forming the Big 12). Texas cares about Texas and will- and should- do what's best for them. They can always play the Sooners and Aggies in the non-conference.

- The Texas Legislature: this is the one big hurdle the Longhorns would have to clear. If Texas left, the Big 12, and its many remaining Texas schools, would be in serious trouble. Not hard to envision delegates from the counties and cities in the other Big 12 school areas voting against them leaving. Because Texas is a state-funded university, the legislature does have the right to make them stay put.

So that about covers Texas. Who cares if they're not connected to the other Big Ten teams geographically? The revenue to be gained for everyone involved would be so staggering, it makes too much sense for them not to try it. Another reason is because without Texas, or Colorado, or Nebraska, or Missouri, or whomever ends up leaving the Big 12 for the Big Ten and Pac 10, it means those left behind in the Big 12 will REALLY be left behind.

Ahhh yes, the Pac 10. The conference that is even more stodgy and traditional than the Big Ten. The one who hasn't expanded since 1978, and who wouldn't be looking at expanding unless they absolutely had to. And with the Big Ten expanding, and the dominoes that will start falling because of it, the Pac 10 has quickly realized it has to expand, as much for the survival of the conference than anything else.

You saw the TV revenue figures up at the top, and you saw that the Pac 10 is down near the bottom. The big reason they even got that high in the rankings is because of the television market in southern California, and especially because of USC. The Pac 10 knows that SC is vital to their survival, and keeping them happy, and in the conference, is imparative.

IF the Big 12 is able to keep Texas but loses another member(s) to the Big Ten, there's no reason to think they won't come calling to have the Trojans join them. The Pac 10 is without a lucrative TV deal and has some of the worst bowl partners outside of the Big East (obviously the Rose Bowl is great but that's really all they have). Texas is the one television market that could support a lucrative TV deal for the Big 12, and if you add in southern California and the massive LA market, well, you can see how that one would make a whole lotta sense, and a whole lot more money, for SC.

And if USC goes, why wouldn't UCLA go with them? So that means the PAC 10 has to be proactive, and that's why they're looking at expansion too. Like the Big Ten, they're certainly going to aim for Texas, and because of their history of courting them, they might have a decent chance. Colorado is the second no-brainer school, as the Buffs bring an excellent academic reputation AND the Denver TV market with them. Because Colorado cares so much about academics and the Pac 10 is such a better academic conference, it would not be a tough sell to the folks in Boulder.

IF the Pac 10 can't get Texas, and Texas ends up leaving for the Big Ten, few other schools make sense. First let's eliminate just about all of the other candidates I've been hearing mentioned. The two most important things to remember about Pac 10 expansion are the following:

- the conference requires a unanimous vote to add a school(s)
- the Pac 10 takes their academics just as seriously as the Big Ten, and perhaps even more so. Any school in consideration must be a "research institution."

Therefore, schools like Boise St, Fresno St, San Diego St, Hawaii, and the rest are out because they simply don't meet the academic requirements. They also wouldn't bring enough new viewers in TV revenue.

BYU is an excellent school and has very good athletics, but unless the Pac 10 changes their rules for acceptance they're not getting in either. The reasons are that they are NOT a research institution and because there's no way in hades Cal lets them in because of their religious differences (Frank the Tank explains here). It just would never happen.

That leaves Utah, who is pretty good academically and would bring the 31st largest TV market as well as some good athletics. However, nobody in the Pac 10 is going to be excited to bring in the Utes. The one school other than Texas who would? Oklahoma.

Think about it: If Texas goes to the Big 10 and Colorado bolts for the Pac 10, what is Oklahoma left with? What they're left with is a football conference that's suddenly worse, and would make less money, than even the Big East. Joining the Pac 10 with the Buffs puts them right back in the money. The Sooners as a candidate is a totally unsubstantiated rumor at this point, but I'm just saying if the dominos start falling, it makes sense, and their addition would bring more to the Pac 10 than anyone else besides Texas.

Finally, IF Texas leaves for the Big Ten, then Colorado bolts for the Pac 10, what would that mean for everyone else? Suddenly Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and the rest of the not-so-Big 12 are scrambling to find a life raft. The Big Ten and SEC would have vaunted themselves into another financial stratosphere, leaving everyone else, including Notre Dame, behind. The result? Super conferences.

IF this happens I could see the Big Ten and SEC not stopping at 12 teams, but increasing to 14. The evidence (aka the money) for Notre Dame to join the Big Ten is currently already overwhelming. Even with an exclusive TV deal with NBC, the Irish only made about $10 million last year. They also no longer have their sweetheart BCS deal (Before the addition of a fifth BCS game, it used to be that everyone had to finish in the top 8 to be eligible for an at-large selection. Everyone, that is, except for the Irish, who only had to finish in the top 14. But now, everybody is eligble with a top 14 finish). The Irish are also seeing non-BCS bowl options disappearing, most of which are going to the Big Ten and SEC. So if the Irish don't make a BCS game, their runner up options are...the New York City Bowl? The Sun Bowl? The Champs Sports Bowl? As of now, all of the non-BCS New Year's Day bowl options are gone.

Really, the only thing keeping Notre Dame from joining a conference are their alumni and boosters. Thus far, Irish alums simply do not want to give up the independent status because they like to think they're special. That's it. That's all. And because no school relies more on their alums and boosters than do the Irish, at the moment they're not at a point where they can go against their wishes. But that point in time for a change is coming and its coming soon.

Being an independent no longer gets Notre Dame more revenue, better bowls, and a better shot at a BCS bowl. If I were Irish AD Jack Swarbrick, I'd be sending out pamphlets about the benefits of joining the Big Ten to every alum and booster on the mailing list, because to stay sustainable and viable, Notre Dame is going to need to join a conference.

So what happens if it looks like Texas is going to join and Notre Dame suddenly wakes up and says "Hey!! We were just kidding! We really want to join!" who would the Big Ten take? I think the answer would have to be both, wouldn't it? Adding both the Horns and Irish would make the Big Ten just an obscene amount of money, and since you can't have a conference with 13 schools, they could then add just about anyone (Oklahoma? Nebraska? Mizzou? UConn? Pitt?) for 14 and a real and true Super Conference.

And if that happens, you have to think the SEC counters by adding Texas A&M and another school left behind in the wake of the Big 12's demise so they can also have 14.

While all of this may seem really premature, we do know the Big Ten is talking to Texas, the Pac 10 is talking expansion, and it makes more sense than ever for Notre Dame to join the Big Ten. While it's just discussion now, the rumblings we're hearing could cause an avalanche of change in college football that alters the landscape in a major way.

Patrick Reusse Was a Handsome Man

Thank you to the Strib's Michael Rand for posting this glorious picture. My goodness gracious.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What if the Big Ten (14?!?!) looked like this?

I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.

Brewster's Contract, More Coaching Changes, and Seantrel

Top o' the mornin to you. Sick of winter yet? Tired of 12 feet of snow and icy roads? Yeah me too. Gopher "spring" practices start March 23, with the spring game April 24. So we can count away the day til spring football AND until spring starts. Plenty of Gopher news circulating in the meantime, most of which we haven't had a chance to get to. Better late than never, right? Right?

Let's start with Tim Brewster's contract details, which were released Friday. He will continue to get a base salary of $400k per year through 2013, but can make a lot more if he wins. Before we get to his win and bowl bonuses, the part that matters most to me is the buyout- $200,000 per year through 2013. So let's just say, hypothetically, Brew gets canned in 2010. We'd then be on the hook for three more years at $200k for a total buyout of $600,000. Not great, but it could have been worse I suppose. That certainly won't limit the University from being able to pay good money to Ken Sumlin- or, um a good coach- to replace him.

Onto the bonuses then:
Capital One or Outback Bowl berth- $100,000

Wins Bonus
7- $100,000
8- $150,000
9- $200,000
10- $250,000
11- $300,000
12- $350,000

To me, this looks like a pretty fair contract. IF Brewster is able to finally start winning here, I have no problem paying the guy those totals for wins. But as I said, bottom line is that if things don't work out, then The U is only on the hook for $600K.

The coaching carousel continued to spin in Dinkytown, as receivers coach Richard Hightower left for the NFL, and RB's coach Thomas Hammock was given a new title of co-offensive coordinator, apparently also to keep him from leaving. Frankly, I think Hammock needs to concentrate more on getting better production (or perhaps any production) from his running backs than play calling, but that's just me. As for Hightower's replacement, Brewster uttered one of his favorite phrases, saying a "national search" is already underway. Riiiiiiiiiiiiiight. The same "national search" that landed us Jeff Horton? Let's just cut the BS and tell us you're looking for a former Wisconsin WR's coach, and the first one to take the job wins. Madison West, that's us!!

The "Seantrel Undecided" stories are already becoming almost as annoying as the Brett Favre retirement stories. Wake me when he signs with a school and shows up at practice. Until then, I just don't care. I know he's not coming to Minnesota, so at this point I don't care where he ends up.

Let's talk about players who actually ARE signed to play for the Gophers, shall we? Marcus Fuller had a blog post about Marquise Hill competing for playing time this fall at wide receiver. While I doubt the three star recruit from St Louis is good enough to start right away, I hope he's able to push the guys we have coming back and make them better. I like our talent at wideout heading into 2010, but with the way they performed last year after Decker went out, by no means should anyone be guaranteed a job.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Some great quotes on recruiting from other Big Ten coaches...

Here are a couple of quotes on recruiting that I read today from Bret Bielema and Pat Fitzgerald that I wish would have been said by Tim Brewster. 

Please understand, this is NOT a knock on Tim Brewster, and I sincerely mean that.  I just think that these quotes are so on the money that I wish they came from our guy.

From Adam Rittenberg's ESPN blog:

"I'd rather be ranked at the end of the year than the start of the year, and the same thing holds true in recruiting.  It doesn't really matter, coming in, how many stars you have behind your name. It's about what you do while you're there...
It was brought to my attention today, we're ranked by one recruiting service at 30th and another at 83rd. There's so many factors into this recruiting that are off-the-wall ridiculous."- Bret Bielema

"I don't cohabitate very well with prima donnas. The hat charade and the decommitting and the recommitting, I'm not looking to recruit those kind of young people. Those aren't the things that we believe in and value in our program. ... I don't really care what anybody ranks our class right now. They fit us, we believe in who they are, and more importantly, we trust our evaluation."- Pat Fitzgerald

"I don't want to win signing day. I want to win on Saturdays in the fall." - Pat Fitzgerald

From the Chicago Tribune:

"The spectacle that recruiting has become, I don't think it's very healthy for young men." - Pat Fitzgerald

"It's a very over-hyped process. If you were to re-rank recruiting classes three years down the road, you'd get a truer (sense) of what these young men mean at the collegiate level." - Pat Fitzgerald

From a personal standpoint, I have become very enamored with the recruiting process and rankings in the past couple of years since Tim Brewster has been our coach.  This has more to do with the fact that recruiting was never even talked about before Brewster came here.  But now that talking recruiting at Minnesota is more the norm and we're in the thick of the conversation every year, I see more and more that Bielema and Fitzgerald are right.

Look, I get it.  Recruiting is of huge importance, but the recruiting services, the star rankings, the t.v. shows, narrowing your list down to 6 schools (6 SCHOOLS?!?!?!? Really?!?!  Do you realize how crazy that is?)... now that I've been paying more attention to it, it really is a bit ridiculous.

The problem is, as fans, it's really the only thing that we have to go off of.  Even with the world wide interweb we just can't follow high school football in Florida and Texas very closely, so we have to rely on people who do this for a living, and clearly it's not an exact science. 

Eric Decker was a 2-star WR out of Ricori High School who chose the Gophers over... not OSU, not USC, not Florida... but St. John's University.  Were the star-rankings wrong at the time?  Maybe, maybe not.  But the fact is Eric Decker turned out to be an absolute stud of a WR in major college football.  The stars didn't tell anyone that would happen.

Some National Signing Day Thoughts

Now that the dust has settled and National Signing Day is over (unless you are Seantrel Henderson, for whom yesterday was apparently National Announcing but NOT Signing Day, as The Daily Gopher pointed out), there are certain things we know.

We know...
...that this recruiting class was built to fill some needs.  This class is heavy on RB's, offensive and defensive linemen, and defensive backs... all need areas for the Gophers.

...that this is Tim Brewster's lowest ranked (50th according to Rivals) recruiting class in the three years that he's had full control of the recruiting process. 

...that the recruiting classes, according to Rivals rankings, have gone down in terms of national ranking, each year.  The Gophers had the 39th ranked recruiting class last year, and the 17th ranked class in 2008.

...that Seantrel Henderson will not be a Gopher, and likely never really considered the Gophers a contender.  The only good thing that Seantrel could muster up to say about the Gophers was "...hometown school"...

...that the Minnesota borders are not quite closed when it comes to football recruiting.  While not landing Henderson isn't a huge shock, Brewster did manage to land the next two most highly rated prospects in the state in Jimmy Gjere (the best o-lineman in the state outside of Henderson) and Lamonte Edwards (the best RB in the state).  Unfortunately the rest of the top 10 all went elsewhere... Standford, Wisconsin, Nebraska and... NDSU?  Ouch.  And many of those that went elsewhere play in the trenches, so their services would have been useful at Minnesota.

Overall the most important aspect of this class is that, despite how it is ranked nationally, we filled some needs.

We absolutely MUST find a running game in 2010, which means we need to find a primary running back, and a solid offensive line.  This class helps in both of those areas. 

Additionally, our defense was absolutely decimated by graduation, so finding players on the D-line and D-secondary was also imperative. 

I think the Gophers met both of those need areas and hopefully these players will make an impact sooner, rather than later.

Sid Hartman Just LOVES Him Some Seantrel

On my drive to work this morning (is there anything better than rush hour traffic in freezing rain?) I wanted to hear someone, anyone, talking on the radio about the Gophers recruiting class. I knew KFAN would be talking NFL football (three things KFAN covers well- Vikings, Twins, and non-sports. If there's anybody out there with a boatload of money looking to make even more, please start a REAL all-sports radio station in this town. You know, one of those where not only does every live show actually talk sports, but the hosts actually know about more than just the Vikings and Twins. Please? Pretty please? There are a lot of sports fans in this town and this state who would listen), and I can't stand Pat Reusse (although I do listen to him on my drive home when he's on with Soucheray, mostly because I'd rather hear Soucheray occasionally talk sports on a talk station than Barreiro occasionally talk sports on a sports station), so I took a trip down the dial to WCCO.

Well, what an early morning treat I got! Morning show host, and Gopher play-by-play guy Dave Lee was talking to none other than the greatest sports writer in the history of humanity (at least according to himself), none other than one Mr. Sid Hartman. And not surprisingly, ol' Sid did not have a favorable opinion on Seantrel Henderson choosing USC and NOT choosing the Gophers and making such a tram-shava-mockery of the whole thing. He had many great lines, but my favorite was "I don't mean to sound like sour grapes but" and then went into a five minute rant that sounded exactly like sour grapes.

See Sid thinks all Minnesota football players should play in Minnesota. It's a rough and tumble world out there in college football, and it's just too big and scary of a place for our down home, corn-fed, humble Minnesota boys. He couldn't understand Seantrel choosing USC. Doesn't he know he'll never play there? Doesn't he know he'll just get lost in the shuffle? Doesn't he know they're a bunch of crooks out there in La-la land? Sid backed up his statements by pointing out former Minnesota high school standouts Walker Lee Ashley and Willie Mobley left The Promised Land of Minnesota for USC and Ohio State- which not coincidentally were Seantrel's top two choices- and were never seen or heard from again. Chewed up and spit out by the big mean machine of major college football. Shame on them for leaving, but that's what they get, says Ol' Sid.

Of course, Sid failed to mention guys like James Laurenitis, Michael Floyd, John Carlson, and Larry Fitzgerald, who all left the "PL" and ended doing just fine both in college, and eventually the NFL (Floyd's still in college but after he puts up about a million yards receiving and a thousand TD's in Brian Kelly's passing offense he'll be there soon enough). Ashley and Mobley are certainly good examples of why this whole recruiting class obsession can be over-hyped and over-done, but Sid made it sound like if a kid leaves Minnesota, he's guaranteed to fail.

Barring an injury or off-field incident at USC (like, oh, I don't know, let's say his parents getting a home bought for them by an agent, or an agent buying his girlfriend a Cadillac Escalade. Hypothetically speaking, of course) Seantrel will get drafted and play in the NFL for a long, long time. He's an 18 year old kid that's 6'8 and 340, but moves with agility of a man half his size. He's like a dump truck with the handling of a Porsche. Henderson is the top recruit in the country and whether he plays at USC, Ohio State or Minnesota, he should be a force to be reckoned with.

Sid also gleefully pointed out how Henderson has chosen USC but won't sign until the school's hearing with the NCAA later this month, and might not end up playing there. Sid thinks the NCAA is going to come down hard on the Trojans power house football team. Sid thinks this because Sid always sides with owners/management/administration (never, ever, ever forget he sided with his old buddy Carl Pohlad when Carl tried to contract the Twins. Never forget that) and always wants the best his wealthy and powerful cronies.

While the NCAA- and Sid and a LOT of USC haters out there- would certainly LOVE to put the smack down on USC's juggernaut football program, they're likely to escape this with nary a scratch. They've been trying since Reggie Bush left school four years ago to make a case against him and the school for Bush's parents allegedly accepting a Southern California home from an agent. Of course since Bush is no longer at school, he is under no obligation to talk, and hasn't and won't. Then came the recent Joe McKnight scandal where his girlfriend was allegedly given an SUV by an agent. While they might be able to pin the Trojans with something for what happened with McKnight (who declared for the draft and is also no longer in school and, therefore, also is not obligated to speak with the NCAA), the worst that probably comes out of it would be to vacate wins or something more minor like that. They're not going to have major restrictions put on them or be banned from post season play or anything. The basketball program? Now they're screwed (thank you OJ Mayo!!) but Lane Kiffin and the Trojan Machine will continue to roll on whether the NCAA slaps them on the hand or not.

It's probably a wise move for Henderson to wait for the hearing to play out, but I'd bet he ends up a Trojan, and really, who could blame him? Well besides Sid, and seemingly a lot of Gopher fans. I certainly don't, and I don't blame Tim Brewster for NOT keeping him in Minnesota.

Under Pete Carroll, nobody recruited better and nobody was more aggressive at playing true freshman than USC, and with Kiffin as a Carroll apprentice, I'd expect that to continue. Carroll brought in wave after wave of high school all-Americans (at one time in 2008 they had 10 running backs who were former high school AA's. 10!!! My goodness we'd kill for just one at Minnesota), and while you'd think all that talent would scare away kids who usually want to play early and often, it somehow had the opposite effect, as Carroll preached competition and "may the best man win." And whether the best man was a fifth year senior or a true freshman (Matt Barkley and Taylor Mays are just two guys to start for the Trojans as TF's in recent years), Carroll held his word. Again, I'd expect that to continue under Kiffin (at least for the year he's there until he takes another job. Zing!), and that, even more than the sun, the beach, the lifestyle, and all the winning SC has done, had to be a big factor for Seantrel. Yeah, the Trojans group of backup o-linemen are better than ours, but if Seantrel goes in and works hard in camp, there's every reason to believe he could be a starter by the time the Trojans come to town here in late September. Starter on a perpetually rebuilding Gopher team or on the reloaded Trojans?

Even you can see the logic in that right Sid?

His last words to Dave Lee before signing off: "Mr. Henderson, I hope you go away!"

Ok maybe not.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Brown Down, Seantrel Decision Looms

According to Rivals LB Preston Brown has signed a Letter of Intent with Louisville. Former Florida D-coordinator Charlie Strong adds to a solid first recruiting class, and gives a painful reminder that Minnesota could have hired him instead of Brewster. Oh well.

Seantrel is the only undecided guy remaining who has the Gophers on his list. Well, unless you count Texas HB Josh Huff, who committed to Utah, then Minnesota, then TCU, but is STILL listed as unsigned. While our offense could definitely use a four star HB, considering how many times he's changed his mind, I'm not sure Huff will be worth the trouble. Of course, if he somehow recommits to The U, I could be persuaded to change my opinion.

Seantrel's announcement should be coming in the next few hours.

James Louis Was Just Kidding

Oh that wiley James Louis. The four star wideout from Florida who was committed to Ohio State but then on Facebook started throwing out quotes that maybe he was coming to Minnesota, signed his letter of intent this morning to play for the Buckeyes. So all the Buckeye fans who flooded his Facebook page with pleas to come to Columbus either swayed him, or never had anything to worry about in the first place as this was all some big ruse to by Louis to get some attention. While I was hopeful of the former, it looks more like it was the latter. Not surprising with an 18 year old kid I suppose.

So with Louis signing with OSU, the Gophs do not have an impact wide receiver coming in this class. We're left to hope then that one of the running backs or perhaps Irondale OL Jimmy Gjere can make an immediate impact in 2010 to help our struggling offense. That is, unless some guy named Seantrel announces later today that he's staying home. Would be nice wouldn't it?

All 24 players that were committed have sent in the LOI (look here on the official Gopher site for the list), which is at least good news that we won't lose anyone else from this class.

The only real intrigue left then involves Seantrel (who I think goes to either OSU or USC), and three star linebacker Preston Brown from Cincinnati, who will decide between his hometown Bearcats (who he decommitted from when Brian Kelly took the Notre Dame job), Louisville (new coach Charlie Strong was an awesome defensive coach at Florida) and us.

He and Seantrel will both make announcements sometime this afternoon. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Gophers Steal Recruit from Ohio State?

Wild internet rumors (which, let's be honest, are the best kind) on Gopherhole say that four star wide receiver prospect James Louis of Florida has switched his commitment from Ohio State (where he's listed as being a "soft verbal") to the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Official word of this change of heart from Louis can be found...well absolutely nowhere as of now, but the best we have for evidence is where the rumors started: yep, you guessed it, his Facebook page.

His last two updates as of yesterday were this:
Everybody its offical I have just changed my mind I will be playing my
college football at??????? 9 hours ago

I wanna head out to minnesota with my brother DONNELL KIRKWOOD!!! 8
hours ago

Donnell Kirkwood is the three star running back the Gophers already have as a commit. Again, this could just be a kid wanting to build suspense for his official announcement tomorrow, or maybe, just maybe, Brewster was able to steal someone else's recruit for a change. From what I could find on Louis, he looks like the real deal, and could be an impact guy from day one, a la Michael Carter from a year ago.

We'll have to wait until tomorrow to find out if Louis is coming here or Ohio State, along with some other guy.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Brewster (Finally) Gets His Extension

Congratulations Gopher fans- Tim Brewster is all ours through 2013! Yep, the man who in three glorious seasons is 14-24 overall with a 6-18 record in the Big Ten, 0-9 in trophy games, 0-2 in bowl games, and has not beaten a single team ranked in the top 25 has been locked up!

Ok, ok so I'm not exactly excited about this, but we knew it was coming, and I do still believe a head coach- even Brewster- deserves four full seasons to prove his worth. While I'm slighly pessimistic (I know, what's new right?) about his chances of turning things around, it should be pointed out that Big Ten successes like Barry Alvarez at Wisconsin and Nick Saban at Michigan State each took four seasons to start really winning. Since Brewster is our guy, let's hope his fourth year is the magic season too!

Two questions I have about the extension, the first of which apparently won't be answered until Brewster actually signs it: how much are we on the hook for if things don't work out in 2010 and we have to can him and then hire Ken Sumlin? We know Brew had a base salary of $400,000 on his original deal, but I'm hoping the buyout- or payout- for firing him will be much less. We'll see how shrewd Maturi really is by giving an extension to a coach who did not deserve it.

My other question? What took so long?!? No really, why is he getting this extension done with five days left in the recruiting season instead of in November or early December? I didn't agree with the extension, but if Brewster was going to get it to keep continuity and keep recruits coming here, what good does it do to finally have him sign it now? As you no doubt know, the Gophs have lost nine recruits this year, and four in just the last month (three of which can be blamed on "instability" since James Green didn't qualify academically), and at least two of those three- RB Josh Huff and WR Chris Hawkins, who both incidentally chose TCU- could have been impact guys from day one. While I didn't love the idea of giving Brew an extension, if you were going to give it to him, why the heck did Maturi wait more than two months to do it?!?

I'm again worrying that the guy running our athletic department could be as big a problem as the guy running the football team. We'll have an even clearer answer to that when the contract extension details come out this week.