Tubby will have chance to revitalize

Paul Cordes

After a rough start of the semester for the majority of Minnesota athletic teams, (at least the most popular ones), coach Tubby Smith’s role this year has become even more important.

Since coming to Minnesota my freshman year, I’m confident in saying last weekend was the worst I’ve seen as far as Gophers athletics are concerned.

Three of the biggest collegiate programs, football, men’s hockey and volleyball, all found themselves down and out over the weekend, sending the Gopher Nation further and deeper into athletic depression.

The volleyball team, a team that was expected to be one of the only shining beacons of hope this fall, has dropped five straight games, including two that should have been easy wins for a top-ranked team like the Gophers.

The men’s hockey team was swept on the road for the first time since 2004 and though it is early and Colorado College is certainly not a bunch of pushovers, a run for a National Championship this season is looking relatively bleak.

And football, well, let’s just say things haven’t changed since game one.

And what, do you ask, does that have to do with Tubby Smith?

In my opinion, a lot.

It is not a fun time to be following, or a fan of, sports here at the ‘U.’

With teams “rebuilding” or simply just struggling, you have to dig pretty deep to find a lot of positives this year.

And unfortunately, a solid start to the cross country season for both the men and women, the biggest upset in the history of the program for the soccer team and the play of senior golfer Clayton Rask and senior tennis player Raul Schwark just don’t have the wow factor of an Ohio State upset at the Metrodome (which, just for the record, did not happen this year).

And not taking away anything from the smaller sports that are having successful seasons, but it takes a big dog to really put the spark back into bewildered and disheartened Gophers fans.

Hence the importance of Smith and his team’s performance this winter.

Fans, journalists and the University all need a little revival right now and Smith might have the ability to give that to the fans who are begging for a winner, journalists who would much rather cover an exciting team and the University who needs butts in seats.

And it doesn’t even have to be a lot.

I don’t think anyone is asking for a Big Ten or National Championship team. Folks here aren’t extraordinarily unreasonable.

At this point I’m guessing all that fans want to do is show up at Williams Arena and truly believe there is actually a chance that every game they attend they could see Minnesota win.

A competitive team that has the potential to upset a top-ranked team, beat teams they should and play excitingly could be enough to restore a little vitality and hope in the hearts of the Gopher faithful.

And it’s my belief that this is certainly possible this year.

The Gophers are returning a more experienced group of players this year and I have no doubt Smith will have his team ready to go on day one.

So far, Smith’s impact on the University has been positive and after Maroon and Gold Madness at Williams Arena a couple of weeks ago I’m already sensing a renewed spirit in the world of Minnesota athletics as basketball season approaches. But it could quickly be relinquished if success is limited or non-existent.

But a solid season could change the current course of Gophers athletics and the attitudes of a state and community deprived of victories all year.

And on a personal note, I just don’t think I can bear to watch any more depressing performances and am ready for a little bit of Tubby magic. And I don’t think I’m speaking only for myself.

-Paul Cordes welcomes comments at [email protected]