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November 7, 2004

The Gophers: A once proud football powerhouse

Click on this image of the 1961 Minnesota Golden Gophers:


Depressing, isn't it? I listened to Glen Mason on the Sports Huddle with Sid and Dave this morning. Truthfully I was impressed with the fact that he even lived up to his obligation to call Sid this morning, especially considering how bad the Gophers played yesterday. Mason was not upbeat at all, and he shouldered much of the blame himself. He also admitted to just not knowing at all what is happening to his team. Should Mason be fired? I honestly don't know, and I honestly don't think it would matter if he was.

Consider this: given the choice between playing for the Gophers or another Big Ten team who in their right mind would play for the Gophers (unless they are from Minnesota)? The Gophers play in the heartless Metrodome in front of pathetic crowds with absolutely no tradition. Only between 8,000 - 10,000 students attend the games and they almost always leave early. Contrast this with Wisconsin. Over 83,000 people attended the game yesterday and the crowd was rabidly cheering for the Badgers. It was outdoors, and it was a beautiful atmosphere. Wisconsin puts our program to shame. Why would anyone want to play for the Gophers?

Obviously Wisconsin's superiority wasn't always the case. In fact, it wasn't until UW hired Barry Alvarez that they won their first Rose Bowl. In fact, before Barry Alvarez was hired, Wisconsin had only won one bowl game in their entire history. I think it is apparent that the right coach can make all the difference. However, before we start thinking about coaches there are a couple of other things that need to happen.

Minnesota will not rise to national prominence again until 1) they move back on campus to an outdoor stadium, and 2) the U of M administration makes it a priority to rise back to national prominence. This has happened at Wisconsin, it has happened at Purdue, and the relatively recent success of the University of Miami is a direct result of their administration taking a huge interest in the success of their football program. The U of M's current efforts to build a new, on campus stadium are a step in the right direction towards both of these criteria.

UPDATE: Jim Souhan, the new StarTrib columnist, wrote a great article about the atmosphere at the University of Wisconsin at Saturday's game. Painful. Absolutely painful. The Gophers used to have this atmosphere too. There used to be a parade every fall gameday Saturday that led fans into the Brickhouse. Cheerleading was invented at the U. Ski-U-Mah, the Minnesota Rouser, all 4 of the trophey games. All of this because the U of M used to be the envy of the college football world. I've got to stop before I get too depressed...

Posted by snackeru at November 7, 2004 5:09 PM | Sports


So get out your seats and Jump Around
Jump Around...
Jump Around...
Jump Around...
Jump Up Jump and get down!!!!!

Yes, Shane is correct, it was not until Donna Shalala hired Barry Alvarez that the U of WI football fortunes changed. He got instant credibility for recruiting. He built the team based on defense and a solid running game and also, keeping the instate recruits. Donna knew that a successful football program would bring in the $ to elevate not only the other sports programs, but the university in general. The football program brought the sports department well into the black within 2 years. Now, Camp Randal has added 10,000 seats since that time to get it to 83,000, with more coming next year and is getting a new exterior as well. The $ the football program has brought in helped build the Kohl Center, well, Herb helped on that one quite a bit but the U did not have to worry about it's share to make an awesome, on-campus place for the hockey and basketball teams to play. I give as much credit to Donna as I do Barry. She laid the foundation for this program and school to succeed, Barry just built one hell of a house.

In the midwest, we take pride in being an outdoor people. We boast of our tolerance for snow and cold. Ice fishing, snowmobiling, hunting (deer, duck, pheasant, etc.) and let's not forget hockey are all celebrated here. So why in the world would you want to watch football, whether college or pro in a dome? It goes against all the state stands for. Just being outside brings out the best in people.One thing I will comment on, the Badgers had awesome support before Barry arrived. The student section was rowdy years prior to his arrival. I honestly believe that a major part of it is an outdoor on-campus stadium. It is an event to go to a game. The fan base is there for the Gophers, they just need to get a reason to have them unleashed, and the answer is an on-campus outdoor stadium.

Posted by: Cheesehead Craig at November 8, 2004 9:12 AM

I agree with everything Cheesehead Craig had to say, but I also must mention another required factor for a successful Gopher football program:


Glen seems to think that the grass is always greener at LSU and Ohio State, only two of the universities Mason has sought to go to since he arrived. The U needs a coach who wants to be in Minnesota, and is committed to the program. This person is not Glen Mason.

Curt in Grand Forks

Posted by: Curt Hanson at November 8, 2004 9:45 AM

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