Fans: ‘Say it ain’t so Mr. Woog’

When Gophers hockey coach Doug Woog was busted for giving a former Gophers defenseman $500 to finish his schooling, it was hard to look at the coach as anything more than a sympathetic guy who chose to overlook the rules to help out one of his recruits.
After all, this wasn’t a gift on par with cars or jewelry. It was tuition money, and Woog just wanted to see the kid graduate, right?
Maybe. I hope so. But it’s entirely possible that this was something more, the start of something that could shake the Gophers famed hockey program to its foundation.
The Gophers are routinely a stockpile of NHL-caliber talent. The best player on the Gophers during any given year is routinely a prime candidate for the Hobey Baker award, presented annually to college hockey’s most outstanding player. And the team is routinely in the hunt for the league, if not the national, championship. Success itself has become routine for the Gophers, and more often than not, they’ve met some lofty expectations.
But perhaps Woog has read too much of his own press, and he started to realize that this really is one hell of a hockey program. Perhaps he had begun to believe that different rules apply to the best teams. On the other hand, maybe Woog has succumbed to the pressure of being coach of one of the finest programs in the land, hell-bent on winning and maintaining the loyalty of a slew of fans.
Fact is, this story has just begun. There are rumors that more transgressions have been or are about to be uncovered — transgressions most people wouldn’t expect from a guy with Woog’s reputation. He’s not giving away cars, mind you, but he may be doing more than just making a good-faith mistake like he did with Chris McAlpine. Time will tell.
What would happen if Woog was caught with his breezers down? It’s hard to say. His career victories make him the winningest coach in the history of the Gophers’ program, and his sense of humor and rapport with the press have made him a local favorite.
After the ‘Woog Story’ broke, some of us in the newsroom wondered how people would react if the powers-that-be had decided Woog’s mistake was big enough to cost him his job.
One person predicted a massive, statewide riot. Another said that people who don’t even care about hockey would probably be upset.
But come on, it’s the Wooger. How could someone fire the Wooger? Nah, couldn’t happen. No way. He’s awesome, the team’s awesome. All that stuff.
But heroes fall. People get knocked off their high horse, often for no particular reason. Sports history is full of them, but I’ll refrain from mentioning Woog’s name in association with any of them … yet.
Woog, of course, is arguably on the highest horse around, though a few Packer fans may disagree. And maybe there are a few people looking to knock him off, for whatever reason.
Those who get knocked often have more than enough to do with their own demise, however. If any of the rumors surrounding Woog are proven true, those who may have protested Woog’s dismissal may now stand up and cheer, or at least bow their heads in quiet disappointment. I know I would.
I really hope it doesn’t come down this way. I’m sick and tired of hearing about recruiting violations, lost scholarships and the rest. The situation early this year with NBA stud Marcus Camby — who actually did get the jewelry and the cash — and his coach at Massachusetts, John Calipari, made me sick.
I don’t want to see that at Minnesota. The Gophers have good teams in a variety of sports, but the hockey team clearly stands out. And they do so without task forces and a bunch of gibberish about how this is going to be “the year.” They just go out and win. Enough said.
If it’s revealed that some of that success came as a result of breaking the rules, the statewide pride in the Gophers would understandably fade. And that’s the last thing we need.
I hope Woog has the good sense to reveal anything and everything that could raise even a single eyebrow in an NCAA boardroom, if indeed there’s anything to share.
And if any and all forthcoming accusations are proven groundless, I offer Woog my apologies for doubting the man and his intentions. I’m a sportswriter, sure, but I’m still a fan, and I don’t like to see my teams — especially the good ones — get caught up against the boards, waiting for that one big check that could break the bank.