Interim coach: Brewster “gave his heart and soul to this program”

Tuesday’s Big Ten teleconference included one coach who made it very clear he would have not been on it.

Jeff Horton, Minnesota’s interim coach, took the place of Tim Brewster, who was fired this week after the Golden Gophers’ loss to Purdue dropped them to 1-6 on the year. Horton hasn’t been a head coach since 1998, when he was the head coach at UNLV, but this wasn’t how he wanted to get the job.

“I was obviously disappointed, because I feel like I’m one of the big reason why the change even happened,” Horton said. “We didn’t do a good enough job on our side of the ball as coordinators to prevent this from happening. I felt a great deal of disappointment that I let coach Brewster down. I took full responsibility for that, and I told my staff we needed to and the players, because whatever we’ve given, we haven’t given enough. We have to find a way to give more in order to be successful, because coach Brewster was a great man, he had great passion and great energy. He gave his heart and soul to this program and we need to all be like that.”

With five games still left on the schedule, Horton and the Gophers have to deal with a much longer interim situation than most.

“Usually in a coaching transition, you have one left, maybe two or you have seven months before you play again,” Horton said. “We had five days. But I think the kids have responded to that. I think the best thing we can do as coaches, the first thing you want to do is be professional. There’s obviously uncertainty on the coaching staff with what will happen next year with a new coach coming in. But we owe it to the kids on the team to do our job and prepare them and give them any chance for success and a win.”

Brewster’s early firing led several reporters to ask other coaches questions about the state of college football coaching and the pressure involved in it. Several other coaches threw their support behind Brewster, but a few also said that the added pressure comes with the added money.

“”I think it’s the coaches’ fault themselves,” said Penn State coach Joe Paterno, the longest tenured coach in college football. “We’ve got a lot of guys that are looking around all the time. The pros have gotten involved in it. The money has gotten so elaborate. The emphasis on winning and being successful so that you could make enough money to support all the other sports. Title IX had a great deal to do with all of this, because of the fact that we have a commitment to give the women the same kind of facilities, the same kind of coaching, the same kind of athletic opportunities that we’re giving the men, but there’s very few other sports besides football at most places that make any money. So there’s an awful lot of pressure put on delivering successful football teams so you can go out and  solicit money to handle all the other sports. I think that and the fact that you’ve got coaches making millions of dollars. When I got started, the athletic director called me in. He said, ‘Do you want to be the head coach?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ He said, ‘OK, 20,000 bucks.’ So I got $20,000 without a contract.'”

The fate of coaches was one of several big issue questions asked by reporters on the call Tuesday. Another asked about agents in the wake of a recent Sports Illustrated story about an agent who admitted to paying several college football players to try to sign them up as clients. Most coaches said the NCAA has done a good job, but the issue is hard to police. Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said it won’t get any easier until the NFL gets involved.

“There can’t be a solution until there are some reverberations at the next level for young people who get involved,” Tressel said. “When kids have problems in high school whether it’s academic or whatever, they may lose some chance to have eligibility in college. That really helps the high schools keep kids making good decisions because they know there are some consequences. While they’re in college, there are league and NCAA rules and drug tests and academic requirements that you need to make. We help one another have the kids make good decisions. If not, they lose their chance to compete. There really isn’t a bridge from the college level to the NFL where you struggle in college to follow the rules, you’re going to lose some privileges in the NFL. … Until there are some serious consequences to breaking NCAA rules that happen to you when you’re in the NFL, until we have that, I think we’re going to have a hard time keeping a lid on it.”

Another reporter was asking about some of the violent, concussion causing hits that were especially prevalent in the NFL this past Sunday. Paterno again had a creative idea with how to deal with that problem.

‘I’ve been saying for 15 years, we oughta get rid of the face mask,” Paterno said. “I think you go back to shoulder blocking, shoulder tackling. You wouldn’t have all those heroes out there. You get that big facemask on. Two things about the face mask, No. 1 it’s a weapon. Guys are fearless because they don’t have to worry about broken noses and knocked out teeth, and all those kinds of things, which obviously we’d like to prevent. But those helmets are so heavy. Kids are in the weight room building up their necks. The game has changed, because what used to be shoulders are now heads. … The old days, very few people had face masks, if you had a face mask because you had some kind of broken teeth, it was a single bar, one single bar. Now we have a weapon.”

7 comments

  1. Sad to see him go. He dragged down the Gophers to the point Indiana could beat them. Too bad IU had the past two years off against them or we could have padded our win total more.

  2. Welcome to the Big 10 Mr. Horton, you are the next Bill Lynch. Hope the AD over there isn’t dumb enough to extend your contract.

  3. From the sounds of it, Minn is willing to pay big bucks to get a coach. Spend millions on new stadium facilities, then hire a coach that can win and fill the seats every game. What a great idea!

  4. Re: JoePa’s idea. I’ve thought for a long time that the answer to the problem of players using their heads as weapons is to go back to the soft helmet. Without facemasks of course. The helmets could be made of some leather-like material that protected against cuts and bruises. I know that the invention of plastic helmets was intended to reduce the number of head injuries to players wearing leather helmets, but it seems that the technological advances possible in “soft helmet” design might be a better option now, rather than the weapons that players now wear on their heads.

  5. I like Paterno’s thinking but how do you avoid the occasional unavoidable knee to the face? A concussion can be received by that blow also.

  6. It is good to see a legend like Joe Paterno say: “Another reporter was asking about some of the violent, concussion causing hits that were especially prevalent in the NFL this past Sunday. Paterno again had a creative idea with how to deal with that problem.‘I’ve been saying for 15 years, we oughta get rid of the face mask,” Paterno said. “I think you go back to shoulder blocking, shoulder tackling. You wouldn’t have all those heroes out there. You get that big facemask on. Two things about the face mask, No. 1 it’s a weapon. Guys are fearless because they don’t have to worry about broken noses and knocked out teeth, and all those kinds of things, which obviously we’d like to prevent. But those helmets are so heavy. Kids are in the weight room building up their necks. The game has changed, because what used to be shoulders are now heads. … The old days, very few people had face masks, if you had a face mask because you had some kind of broken teeth, it was a single bar, one single bar. Now we have a weapon.” I remember back in the late 1950’s or early 1960’s when Woody Hayes, YES, that Woody Hayes, had a big article in Sports Illustrated, with a design for a football helmet that was “soft”, multiple layers of leather and padding, with no face-guard, for this exact reason. Watch a rugby game sometime. It is physical, tough, combat with almost Zero concussions, because the padding is minimal and there is no headgear. You do not use your head as a weapon if everyone KNOWS that You have BRAIN damage, every time, as a result!

  7. Husky Tom, Joel Maturi, AD @ Minnesota, is 1 for 2 in big hires. He completely whiffed on Tim Brewster. He hit what I would call so far as a triple with Tubby Smith, who instantly has brought credibility and stability back to a Minnesota BB program that has been irrelevant since the mid to late 90’s. Many Minnesota fans do not trust Maturi to make the right choice, and I don’t think Maturi trusts himself as much either. He is going to use a search committee that includes Tony Dungy on it to find a quality replacement. Some of the names thrown around include Mike Leach, Kevin Sumlin (Houston Cougars head coach), Leslize Frazier (Minnesota Vikings ‘D’ coordinator if he doesn’t take an NFL head coaching job), and Mark Trestman, a head coach in the CFL who is a Minnesota alum.

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