Just eight days after seeing his record in trophy games fall to 0-10 at the hands of Wisconsin, Minnesota’s fourth-year head football coach Tim Brewster received the ax.
But it wasn’t the one Brewster — who leaves with a 15-30 overall record — hoped to bring to Gopher Nation when he took the job on Jan. 17, 2007.
University of Minnesota athletic director Joel Maturi announced Sunday morning that Brewster has been relieved of his duties, and his contract has been terminated.
"Football is the engine to every athletic program," Maturi said. "And our engine is sputtering, and we need to find a way to fix it and we’re committed to doing so."
In three-plus seasons under Brewster, the Gophers were just 6-21 in Big Ten play. After Saturday’s 28-17 loss at Purdue, Minnesota is just 1-6 (0-3 Big Ten) this season and has dropped six consecutive games.
The Gophers are also 0-4 at TCF Bank Stadium this season and just 4-7 in the two-year-old stadium.
"The fact of the matter is we’ve taken a step backwards, and that’s not what rebuilding programs do is take steps backwards," Maturi said. "We need to take a step forward."
First-year co-offensive coordinator Jeff Horton will serve as interim head coach in Brewster’s place.
Horton has a 20-48 record in six combined seasons as a head coach at Nevada (1993) and UNLV (1994-98). He led the Rebels to a 7-5 season and a Las Vegas Bowl victory in 1994.
"My sole job is to be the calming influence on this team," Horton said, "to help lead us in the right direction and to win a football game starting this Saturday morning at 11 o’clock against Penn State."
Senior quarterback Adam Weber, who sat out former head coach Glen Mason’s final season with a redshirt, will now work with a third head coach. He said he understands the decision to let Brewster go but was clearly upset when he addressed the media Sunday.
"We haven’t won enough games," Weber said. "But, ultimately, the relationships you create are lifelong, and [Brewster will] always be a special person to me."
Maturi told Brewster of the decision at 9 a.m. Sunday. The former coach was supposed to address the team later Sunday and was not available for comment.
"Like he’s done everything else in my presence, he handled it well," Maturi said about his meeting with Brewster. "I’m especially pleased and thankful for how he handled this past weekend."
Beginning Friday, numerous reports said Purdue was a must-win game for Brewster to keep his job. After the loss, Brewster said nobody had talked to him about his job status.
Brewster will receive a $600,000 buyout in line with the terms of the contract extension he signed in January that kept him through the 2013 season.
Maturi’s decision, which he said was ultimately his own, came before the Gophers play two straight home games. The thought of hearing negative chants during the upcoming Penn State and Ohio State games played a factor in the timing of the decision.
"We’re coming into two home football games, and I don’t think it’s fair for the kids to be booed," Brewster said. "Quite frankly, it’s why I have my plea out to our fans: Don’t boo our kids."
As expected, Maturi reached out to former Minnesota player and Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy. Maturi said Dungy was not interested but will help with the replacement process.
Maturi will conduct a national search and look for a coach with cachet similar to men’s basketball coach Tubby Smith. As was the case with Smith, the mid-season move (Dan Monson resigned under pressure from Maturi and others) gives the University time to look for a worthy replacement.
"We’re out here to find somebody that people can recognize, people have confidence in and are going to bring instant credibility and notoriety to the football program," Maturi said.
After hiring Brewster in 2007, Maturi said "his neck was on the line" for hiring someone without experience as a head coach or coordinator at the collegiate level. Brewster, Maturi said, was "the best coach available."
On Sunday, he added that Brewster’s results set a bar low enough that many coaches will relish the opportunity to take the helm.
"You’re not following Vince Lombardi here," Maturi said. "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."
Horton, who Maturi said will be a candidate for the job, said he thinks hundreds of coaches will consider the opening.
Maturi said he has not set a timeline for announcing a new coach and will not address the media until he has made the decision.
"People all over the world know whether you win or lose in football," Maturi said, "and those that wear maroon and gold are disappointed, embarrassed, frustrated, angry and hurt by a 1 6 football team and the lack of being really competitive in the Big Ten for a long time."
- Gophers lose sixth straight (10/16)
- Current status: Brewster still employed (10/16)
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