Why Dungy, Not AD, Making Gopher Coach Hire

Tim Brewster, owner of a 15-30 record (6-21 Big 10) as head football coach at the University of Minnesota, was fired over the weekend by school athletic director Joel Maturi.

Tony Dungy at Minnesota

(Dungy was Mayor of Dinkytown in early ’70s)

Maturi, who authorized a $600,000 buyout to make Brewster go away, is the same guy who hired Brewster in 2007 and inexplicably propped up his guy with a generous contract extension before the 2009 season.

Immediately after Brewster’s hire in 2007, Bob Sansevere of the ST. PAUL PIONEER-PRESS wrote of Maturi’s hire:

University of Minnesota athletics director Joel Maturi went the riskier route. He chose Brewster to be the Gophers’ latest football coach. Maturi is gambling Brewster will succeed. He also is gambling his own reputation… as well as his job security. There is no bigger hire a major college athletics director can make than when he brings in a new football coach.

If Brewster doesn’t pan out, Maturi could be out — and should be out.

By listening to Maturi Sunday you’d have never known that Brewster, a virtual unknown hastily hired by the athletic director without normal school protocol despite never having been a head coach or coordinator in college or the NFL, was the same guy Maturi promised would return the downtrodden Gopher football program back to national prominence.

During his press conference to announce Brewster’s firing, Maturi said that before he hired the coach, “To be honest, I’d never heard of Tim Brewster.”

Then there was this flippant quip from Maturi about Brewster:

“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.”

It’s too easy to take cheap shots at an outgoing coach, especially one you’ve hired and staked your reputation to. So let’s look back at what Maturi had to say about the same Coach Brewster earlier this year:

He’s grown into the job. I like the staff [Brewster] has assembled. I like the kids. I’m feeling really optimistic. We’ll evaluate everything at the end, as we always do, but he’s got four years [remaining] on his contract, and I fully expect he will be here for them.

If only Maturi was as good at hiring football coaches as he is at manipulating the school administration and media in order to save his own skin.

By leaking Tony Dungy as a possible candidate for the Gopher coaching job, Maturi forced the school’s most prominent football alum to take notice of the Gopher program.

Speaking on the condition of anonymonity, two current athletic directors at BCS schools and a prominent employee of a coaching search firm told me Monday that Maturi is using Dungy as cover from irate members of the Minnesota administration and prominent donors to the school.

I’ve also been told that Maturi fired Brewster mid-season in an attempt to prevent the Minnesota administration from firing him at the same time. By creating midseason chaos, Maturi has seemingly bought himself time in fighting off the legions of local pitchfork and torch carriers demanding his immediate ouster by attaching himself to Dungy.

That’s precisely why you’ve seen Dungy’s name suddenly popping up so often in the past month as it pertained to the Minnesota job.

Now Maturi is attempting to enlist Dungy’s input on the next coach, again mitigating resistance to his next hire - if Maturi is privileged the ultimate decision at all. If Maturi’s scheme goes as planned, before Minny admins know what hit them, they’ll have a new coach officially christened by Golden Gopher football royalty. (Dungy recommended Leslie Frazier.)

By fomenting the perception that he’s given over control of the football program to Dungy, Maturi, apparently, will live to hire another day.  Though while Dungy’s as astute as they come in the pro game, who’s to say that he knows enough of the current college coaching dynamic to essentially oversee Minnesota’s next football hire?

It’s a legitimate question, especially considering the school’s athletic director’s only motivation at the moment is self-preservation.