“OK, well, that’s the University of Minnesota; I hope you enjoyed the tour. I think you’ll agree this is a beautiful campus, even in January. I can tell you, it’s even better once spring rolls around. Now, our stadium is just a couple miles off campus, right downtown actually. We’d love to show you around, but unfortunately, there’s a tractor pull there this afternoon, so we’re not able to give you a tour of the facility.”
Sounds absurd, right? A college football coach telling a recruit the stadium he would be playing in was overtaken by a tractor pull?
Welcome to recruiting for former Minnesota coach Glen Mason . Welcome to recruiting at the Metrodome.
Sometimes it was tractor pulls, other times snowmobile contests, he said. It wasn’t like he didn’t understand why those events were going on — a 64,000 seat indoor arena couldn’t sit idle for the majority of the winter.
But being unable to show potential Gophers where they would play their collegiate games wore on Mason after awhile.
“It became very frustrating that [the stadium] wasn’t on campus,” Mason said.
The atmosphere at the Dome wouldn’t exactly be described as collegiate, either. Off-campus, indoors — not exactly attractive for a recruit.
Ironically, when the decision was made to move from Memorial Stadium to the Dome after the 1981 season, it was expected to help with recruiting.
“One of the selling points was, it’s going to help recruit because we’re going to play indoors and we’re going to get kids from Florida, California and Texas — great football states — who aren’t going to be afraid [to come to Minnesota] because they don’t have to worry about playing in the cold,” Athletics Director Joel Maturi said.
Mason found that logic to be flawed.
“You could show prospects from the south that you play indoors; you don’t have to worry about the weather. But the weather’s still severe here when you have to go to class so that negated it,” he said. “I was always one to adhere to the belief that our weather during football season here in Minnesota isn’t any different than it is Iowa City or Ann Arbor or Columbus or Madison.”
Recruits weighing the Gophers against Iowa, Michigan, Ohio State or Wisconsin had plenty to consider, one factor being: Do I want to play in an on-campus, outdoor stadium that’s packed to the gills every weekend, or do I want to play in an off-campus, climate controlled bubble that might be more packed during a tractor pull than a football game?
But as much as Mason felt football needed to be moved back to campus, there was only so much he could say.
“It’s not something you want to say loudly publicly, because he had to recruit to that place,” Maturi said. “You don’t want to tell recruits, ‘This isn’t a good place to play.’ ”
“At the same time, in the appropriate time and place, say, ‘You know what? We need to move this back to campus.’ Coach [Mason] said that more than once and rightfully so.”
Out with the indoor, in with the outdoor
Mason got his wish, albeit a few days late. On Dec. 31, 2006, two days after the Gophers melted down in the second half of the Insight Bowl against Texas Tech and lost 44-41, Mason was fired.
On Jan. 3, 2007, the schematic design and budget for TCF Bank Stadium were approved by Minnesota’s Board of Regents.
Then on Jan. 17, 2007, it was announced that Tim Brewster would be the head coach recruiting to a brand new, world class outdoor facility on the east edge of campus.
Nearly two years later, Brewster is experiencing the impact TCF Bank Stadium has on Minnesota football.
“I don’t think there’s any way that you can overestimate the good that it’s going to do our program and the good it’s already done our program as far as recruiting is concerned,” Brewster said.
Brewster brought a bold vision to Minnesota — one of elevating the Gophers to Big Ten and national prominence — and he said the stadium is a big step toward that goal.
“Kids want to see a financial commitment. Kids want to see shiny new things when they visit your campus,” Brewster said. “We’re showing them a gorgeous, brand new stadium that’s incredible and kids want to play in [it].”
True freshman Troy Stoudermire, who was recruited from Dallas Skyline High School , said the new outdoor stadium did play a big role in his decision to attend Minnesota.
“I really like the outdoor stadiums better. When we went to Ohio State, that was the best thing ever — going in and seeing all those people,” he said. “I just want something like that for us, so hopefully it will be like that next year.”
It should be — there’s already a waiting list for 2009 season tickets. Add a packed house to the list of things Brewster and his staff can promote when talking to recruits.
“I think coach Brewster will tell you — at least on the front end — because of the newness and the excitement, he feels that [TCF Bank Stadium] is helping us sell the program,” Maturi said. “And I don’t doubt that that’s the case.”
UMN students have traveled to Florida colleges to collaborate with students on various projects.
When UMN students plan for a vacation, having trip cancellation travel insurance is a worthwhile commodity to check out.
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