The malaise of the Gophers

Submitted by snarling wolverine on November 5th, 2017 at 6:31 PM

Astonishing tidbit I found on this Gopher forum:

"Starting with the year 2000, the Gophers have exactly SEVEN wins over teams that finished the season above .500 in conference play.

Mason (3): Ohio State, Northwestern, Michigan
Brewster (1): Northwestern
Kill (2): Nebraska, Nebraska  
Claeys(1): Northwestern 

None of those teams finished better than 5-3 in conference play, none of those teams finished in the top 3 in the conference. It is truly amazing how consistent Gopher football is: If a team is really good, Minnesota ALWAYS loses, If a team is slightly above average in conference play, Minnesota almost ALWAYS loses."


Minnesota fans' postgame thoughts are here.




snarling wolverine

November 5th, 2017 at 7:11 PM ^

I can't imagine how tough recruiting must have been when they were in the Metrodome.  Other schools are selling the experience of playing in the Big House, Camp Randall, etc. and you're trying to sell playing in a dome off-campus.  Ugh.

They should have kept him around until they opened the new stadium, to see if he could take them to the next level.


November 6th, 2017 at 12:34 PM ^

Miami was the first team to truly benefit from demographic shifts that made Florida schools increasingly good from the 1970s onward. It doesn't really matter if you play in a public park if you can recruit a team of all americans without ever leaving the county.


November 5th, 2017 at 7:05 PM ^

that he's gonna jump 'boat' rather quickly if he succeeds. No way does that dude stick around there either way. He's gonna flame out or use this as a stepping stone to a job at a bigger program. Guys who stick around at programs like Minnesota are guys who've recognized their own ceiling and are happy to have what they have. Fleck does not strike me as that guy or a guy at that stage in his career.


November 5th, 2017 at 7:41 PM ^

Coaching changes are always problematic. Like say you hire Urban Meyer but he's off after two years..well you better be right again with your next hire..and then the one after etc.

I mean MSU had Nick Saban, the god/Demon King of college coaches. That was nice, briefly, but was then followed by a lost decade of Bobby Williams and John L. Smith. Then they landed Dantonio, a too grumpy, too boring coach to attract many powerhouse suitors and he's been there a decade. Who's been better for them as a program - Saban or Dantonio? I think the answer is clear.


November 5th, 2017 at 8:45 PM ^

When Urban left after 2 years, Utah had enjoyed an undefeated season in 2004, won the Fiesta bowl and finished #4, and then they hired Kyle Whittingham which has worked out pretty well. They continued to play well and were basically able to leverage their success into a Power5 conference membership. So yeah, fantastic outcome. 


Either way you have to make a good hire. I'd argue Saban set them up for future success and they were better for it; they just made a terrible hire in Bobby Williams. As far as LSU, they were a non-factor in the 1980s and 1990s until they hired Saban. That's the other side of the argument. LSU hired Saban, who won them a national championship. Then they leverage that to Miles, who wins another national championship and a lot of games for all of his flaws. Now they hired Cajun Hoke, probably won't work out well. Hired Saban, even though he wanted to move on to even bigger things in the NFL, but they got 2 MNCs out of it and the success that Miles capitalized on. Speaking of Miles, he revived OK State a bit and then in turn Gundy has built on that further after Miles moved on to a better job. Ultimately, you're better off if the program wins but you still have to make a good next hire. As always. Also, those safe uninteresting hire that wont move on to bigger and better things, well, usually the reason they wont get that next job is not a positive.


Also, sometimes guys do built up a program too and then wind up staying rather than moving up to bigger jobs as expected, like a Lavell Edwards, or a Mike Bellotti, or Chris Peterson for a long time at BSU, Barry Alvarez, Gary Patterson.




November 5th, 2017 at 9:01 PM ^

that's the key term there. It worked out for Utah because they got a guy to replace Meyer who did stick around and was pretty good. Whittingham has done more for Utah as a program than Meyer did.

But the only reliable judge of hires is hindsight. If you're a B program and you got a B performer at wanna hang onto that guy because next guy might be an A but could also be an F. So every time you have to replace a guy who left after a successful stint, you're rolling that wheel of fortune again. Odds are you won't always luck out.

Look at the MAC where this is just the reality of doing business because of the nature of the programs and their resources. It's a constant up and down of programs with no program able to separate itself from the rest. They all have their occasional good 1-2 years and then typically go back into the pack when that coach leaves. They might disappear there for longer times if they hire poorly, but seldom does a program manage to have more than a couple of really good years in a row.

Minnesota had a B guy in Mason and they thought they could get an A guy, well they rolled the dice and ended up with anything but. Lesson is the B guy you know probably beats the A to F guy you don't have yet, especially if your program couldn't ever keep an A guy around anyway.


November 6th, 2017 at 8:22 AM ^

Non-big-name programs ALWAYS seem willing to look for the up and coming coach who has some kind of juice associated with him.  In the case of Fleck, he had built a winning program and has the enthusiasm that generates buzz.  There was no buzz around the Minnesota program under Kill or Claeys.  Kill was slowly building a program, but couldn't stay upright long enough to see his dream fulfilled.  Claeys was never more than a fill-in.  Can Fleck build a legitimate B1G program?  I don't know, but they need to give him time to try.  They are so obviously undermanned at this point it's not fair to him to even judge him.

Couzen Rick's

November 6th, 2017 at 8:06 AM ^

Keep in mind Dantonio was a Saban assistant at Sparty in the late 90s. If there was no Saban then, there's probably no Dantonio now.

Good coaches bring along good assistants with them.

Edit to add: The key for these programs is to hire someone who'll sustain the winning culture despite coaching turnover. Think Utah (then MWC), Toledo, Boise State, at the mid major level, and OSU, MSU, Stanford, FSU at the power 5 level.


November 6th, 2017 at 12:23 AM ^

but as you mention, it's incredibly difficult to do that because

1) The guy has to be a really, really good coach (hard enough to find even if you're a blue blood)

2) He has to want to stay at your school.

Other than Frank Beamer,  how many guys even fit this category in the last 25 years?

- Joe Tiller (he was good but not sure I'd call them top flight)?

- Phil Fulmer?

- Mark Dantonio (as much as I hate to say it)?

- Mike Gundy?

So you have to hire the most promising guy available, i.e. the one you think can be really, really good.  And then you hope to figure out a way to hold onto him.



November 6th, 2017 at 7:41 AM ^

Coaches seem to be as loyal as their choices.  I don't think a guy like Dantonio has stuck with MSU solely because of his undying devotion to the Spartans, but because nobody came along offering him the bigger, better opportunity. 

The formula these days almost seems to be to A.) hire yourself a coach who's good, but not so good that his program rises quickly and puts him on the radar for other bigger name programs to come lure him away; and B.) hire a coach who's not too young and therefore less prone to settling down.

Jury is still out on Fleck for A.) but the fact that he violates B.) should already be a warning sign to Gopher fans.

Mr Miggle

November 5th, 2017 at 7:55 PM ^

Fleck had one great year in the MAC. He easily out recruited the rest of the league every year. That's a lot harder to do in Power 5. I'm not sure what else he excels at. A year ago, people here were talking about him being in line for a top tier job. That was way premature. I think he's got a lot left to prove before calling him a better than average Power 5 coach.


November 5th, 2017 at 6:43 PM ^

As the prime example of a school firing a guy who’s plateaued but also for whom there’s no reasonable reason to let go. He’d simply gotten them to their ceiling. Kill basically got them back there. We’ll see if Fleck can go beyond it or if he’s Brewster 2.0


November 5th, 2017 at 6:49 PM ^

While Iowa has taken the opposite approach with Ferentz.  Not the most exciting guy but he delivers about eight wins a year, and that's not too bad for a program without really much of a recruiting base.  And he pulls off the occasional shocker.

People joke about his monster buyout but they probably wouldn't do much better with someone else.


November 5th, 2017 at 6:51 PM ^

They shouldn't have fired him but he had a habit of poor defense blowing big leads. He of course lost the huge lead to Michigan for instance and the culmination was blowing an enormous lead to Texas Tech in a bowl game. Like any administration, Minnesota's thought they could do better. The question in Minneapolis is always, why can't we have Wisconsin success.


November 5th, 2017 at 7:02 PM ^

Mason holds the rare distinction of having won as a visiting coach in Ann Arbor, Columbus and State College.  There aren't too many others who have done that.  (Dantonio is another, not sure who else.  Ferentz?  Hayden Fry?)




November 5th, 2017 at 7:55 PM ^

he's sort of a combination of The Weather Channel's Jim Cantore (a man who must seemingly always prove how MACHO he is) and James Franklin (good recruiter, fairly high energy guy as a coach but a lousy tactician).

In retrospect, Illinois should have kept him around.  7-5 seasons with visits to the Foster Farms Bowl (typical at the end of the Zook era) aren't great, but that's better than most have done there.


November 5th, 2017 at 7:57 PM ^

They did have that magical 10-2 season and Big Ten title under Ron Turner in 2001. Of course, their only regular season loss that year occurred in Ann Arbor, but they did beat OSU, PSU and Wisconsin. Still strikes me as one of the flukiest ever seasons in the Big Ten. It was sandwiched by two 5 win seasons and Turner was out soon thereafter.