Losing not Wacker’s fault, nobody wins in Minnesota

What did someone say about that Golden Gopher football tradition?
It’s a tradition alright — of losing. Minnesota football outlasted another losing era Tuesday with the news that Jim Wacker decided to step down.
In doing so, Wacker did what many people wanted him to do almost a year ago. So where does that leave the football program?
Take a look at the history books. Minnesota is in the same place it has been since the early 1970s. Those Gophers coaches could write the book on how to be unsuccessful at winning.
Sorry folks, there is little tradition.
And once again, the Gophers end their season with a coach exiting with more losses than wins.
Been there. Done that.
“We didn’t get it done with W’s and L’s,” Wacker admitted Tuesday at the teary-eyed press gathering. “That’s what you’re hired to do. That’s the way it is and the way it’s supposed to be. It’s the head coach’s responsibility to make sure (the victories happen), and I was not able to do that. I failed at that. It’s that simple. I wasn’t good enough.”
Don’t feel bad, Jimbo.
Ever since Cal Stoll left in 1978 with a .500 record after seven seasons at the helm, no Gophers football coach has left a winner. Not Joe Salem. Not Lou Holtz. Not John Gutekunst. And not Wacker.
Can we really fault Wacker?
No other man in recent history has been able to do it, either. Why should we have thought Wacker could?
Wacker’s won everywhere else, said the University bigwigs. Everyone said Wacker won at other schools and could win at Minnesota, too.
For some reason — and this isn’t Wacker’s problem — Minnesota can’t be included in with those other schools.
There have been a number of excuses behind Minnesota’s inability to get a winner on the field. No support from the administration. A small in-state recruiting pool. The Metrodome. Those are all fine excuses for a losing team.
But are they true? The recruits in Minnesota aren’t as bad as people are led to believe. Look at Minnesota native Jay Foreman, son of former Minnesota Viking Chuck Foreman, who defected to Nebraska and is now a starting linebacker for the Cornhuskers. Or Michigan quarterback Jason Kapsner, who also passed on the chance to be a Gopher.
And the administration has shown they will support the team, as witnessed in Wacker’s contract extension last season.
It must be that darn Humpty Dome.
During his farewell speech, Wacker’s opinion was the school is not to blame.
“It isn’t because of budget,” Wacker said. “That had nothing to do with anything. We’ve got great facilities. You can win at Minnesota. I’m going to believe the next guy is going to win at Minnesota.”
Who that next guy will be is a mystery. Who can win here?
“I firmly believe we’re a better program now because of Jim,” Dienhart said. “I think we’re ready to take the (next) step. It’s been made a better job because of Jim.”
“I think the next guy will get it done. There are plenty of guys out there that are smarter than me,” Wacker said.
Problem is, Wacker may be right. So far, the big names have been smart enough to stay away.
That’s the confusing part of this equation. Minnesota’s coaching vacancy has a lot to offer its next coach. High visibility. Good pay. Finally, it’s a team with an institution that looks to back its success.
No one has done it in a long time. Are there any Murray Warmath’s, Bernie Bierman’s or Gary Barnett’s out there? Those guys have tradition.
The University is banking there are.
“It’s close,” Wacker said. “It’s very close to turning the corner.”

— Kristian Pope’s column appears Wednesdays in the Daily. He can be reached at Kristian [email protected]