Selling over, coaching begins

by Tyler Rushmeyer

In his first appearance before a collection of Big Ten and national media, first-year head coach Tim Brewster made it clear Tuesday he is excited to be leading Minnesota football in its 2007 campaign.

After being hired in January, Brewster’s selling of the program over the last six months has included his staff visiting all 392 high schools throughout the state, including over 100 personal visits.

But selling will soon give way to fall practice, which begins in an unorthodox way. The Gophers are heading to St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minn. to open camp.

Brewster said it is an honor to be coaching in what he calls the “best conference in America,” and that he is excited to meet the winningest coach in collegiate history, John Gagliardi of St. John’s.

“We’re going to head there and come together as a team Ö as a family,” he said. “I love selling this program, but it’s time to do what I love best and that’s coaching.”

The Gophers will open play Sept. 1 against Bowling Green with 18 returning starters, a new offense titled “Spread Coast” and a battle for the starting quarterback slot.

Brewster said there are still things that will need to be sorted out in the next month before he begins his inaugural campaign, but he made his aspirations clear.

“A Big Ten Championship,” he said. “That’s our goal. … That’s our ambition.”

Conference State

The popularity of Big Ten football continues to rise – five million fans flocked to the conference’s 11 stadiums last season.

The 112th season of Big Ten play will kick off in a matter of weeks and Tuesday, Commissioner Jim Delany took time to address the conference’s state at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Chicago.

Last season saw the conference finish with three top-10 teams in Ohio State, Wisconsin and Michigan, along with seven teams making bowl visits.

With another successful season in the rearview, Delany said he is confident the conference can compete with the nation’s best as the next approaches.

“We’ve had teams competing at the highest level on a consistent basis,” he said, referring to the Big Ten’s two national titles in the last decade. “I expect this year to be no different.”

The biggest offseason news in the conference is perhaps the launching of the national Big Ten Network in August, which will broadcast six of its teams’ openers.

Delany said the network was created in 2006 in response to ESPN’s movement of conference games to its more obscure channels in ESPNU and the online-exclusive ESPN360, and Big Ten officials wanted to bring more content to the conference’s fans.

Coach Jim Tressel, who led Ohio State to its third conference title under his leadership last season, echoed Delany’s sentiment that the fans deserve it.

“It’s a great opportunity to be exposed to all the great schools that make up our league,” he said. “Our fans should have the opportunity to see as much Big Ten as they want to see.”

Another issue that seems to come up annually is the idea of expanding the conference.

Delany said he and his colleagues take a look at the idea every three to five years but nothing has been seriously discussed since the possibility of adding Notre Dame in the late 1990s.

“It’s not a front-burner issue for us,” he said. “The main thing is to make the conference stronger within. Nothing’s on the table right now.”