By Charles Hallman
I, for one, am disappointed that Tim Brewster lost his job as Gopher football coach when he was fired on Sunday.
It’s not just the head coach who was fired, but also his family. Soon it will be his assistants and their families — six of them Black — since usually the new head coach hires their own assistants. The players are affected as well, especially those who chose the University of Minnesota solely because Brewster and his staff recruited them on the promise of coaching them throughout their collegiate years.
I know this wasn’t even in the thinking of those who started calling for Brewster’s head immediately after the team lost at home to South Dakota Sept. 11. It was definitely not on the mind of one Minneapolis columnist who acted like Carly Simon, vainly writing a step-by-step approach to firing Brewster.
It’s another sad example of the Mister Know-It-Alls Stevie Wonder once sang about who believe they are experts in everything.
None of us in the media has ever hired a college coach, devised a game plan, or coached 18-to-22-year-olds. The only thing local columnists in particular are experts in is asking “we know the answers already” questions, then scurrying back to their high-and-mighty towers like Rapunzel to let down their hair, if they have any, in the form of critical edicts on stone tablets.
It’s so easy to criticize from the cheap seats or the press box. “A lot of it is so uninformed criticism,” Brewster told me last week in what would be my last time speaking to him.
“We loved to have our fans come spend a day with us and watch how hard we work, a 100-hour work week, helping our football team prepare,” Brewster said, talking about “the good things that we are doing with our young men, teaching them how to be good husbands and good fathers.”
I really don’t think this town’s columnists, especially those who wanted Brewster out of here so bad, ever asked to watch practice or sit in on coaches’ meetings or team meetings. But again, even if they had they probably still would be critical.
It’s because the columnists in this town practice a love-hate philosophy: If they hate you, nothing you do is right and their “hate you” clock immediately starts counting down to zero when their subject finally is gone. But if they love you, no matter what you do these scribes hand out unlimited passes.
Cases in point: It took a long time before former Wolves czar Kevin McHale lost his “love him” card. The Minnesota Vikings are also losing this season, but thus far no “get outta here” columns have been pinned on Coach Brad Childress and quarterback Brett Favre.
Please understand that these columnists had nothing to do with Brewster’s ultimate demise. Winning only 15 games in less than four years was more responsible than anything else. “I understand it’s all about winning; it’s all about wins and losses,” Brewster duly noted.
Nonetheless, I asked Brewster last week if all the criticism had affected his family. “It can be hard on your family,” admitted the then-Gopher coach.
“I really insulate myself here at the [football] compound, and I don’t get caught reading newspapers or listening to radio. I’m able to block out outside perceptions.
“Sometimes it’s a lot harder on a wife who’s out in the community and some things are said. But my wife has been in this profession with me for a long time — we’ve been married 26 years, and all of it has been involved with football. She doesn’t always like it. She sometimes has a hard time biting her lip,” said Brewster, who added it’s probably the same for his assistants’ family members as well.
Throughout this season, I refused to speculate about Brewster’s job status — I had wanted to wait until season’s end to offer my analysis.
What I did like about him, however, was the fact that he was the only Gopher football coach in my two-decades-plus of coverage to sit down with this newspaper and this columnist on more than one occasion for one-on-one interviews.
I also liked the fact that Brewster was the only coach to have Blacks make up almost half of his coaching staff. He named Tim Cross his associate head coach, the only Black to hold such a role in recent U of M football history, if not ever.
Now that Brewster is gone, the speculation on his successor is underway.
I’m wondering if our local columnists will push for a Black man, and not Tony Dungy, to be hired as the next Gopher coach. I did when Gopher Athletics Director Joel Maturi conducted his last football coaching search in 2007.
Don’t worry, I’ll dust off that list and update it. Stay tuned.