Wacker treads through highs, lows

by Matthew Cross

A timeline of some of the important events in Wacker’s tenure as the Gophers football coach:

Dec. 23, 1991 — Jim Wacker is hired as Minnesota’s 23rd football coach. He comes into the program following six-year coach John Gutekunst, who is 28-36-2 in his Gophers career, including four winning seasons. Gutekunst took Minnesota to the Liberty Bowl in his first year in 1986 but suffered through a 2-7-2 season in 1988 and a 2-9 record in 1991. Wacker is hired for his clean record running the program at Texas Christian University.
Oct. 3, 1992 — Wacker gets his first win as Minnesota’s head coach in an 18-17 triumph over Illinois. Wacker started the season with three straight losses to San Jose State, Colorado and Pittsburgh. Later, Wacker enjoys a Big Ten win over Iowa, but the team ends the season 2-9.
Oct. 23, 1993 — The Gophers beat eventual Rose Bowl champion Wisconsin at the Metrodome 28-21 in what probably is Wacker’s biggest victory as Minnesota’s coach. The Gophers go 4-7 this season, including three straight Big Ten wins over Purdue, Northwestern and the Badgers.
Nov. 19, 1994 — In the last game of the year, running back Chris Darkins sets the Gophers’ single-season rushing record (1,443 yards) in the team’s final game at the Metrodome against Iowa. Darkins is considered Wacker’s best recruit at Minnesota.
Oct. 14, 1995 — With a 27-17 loss to Rose Bowl-bound Northwestern, the Gophers start a 13-game Big Ten losing streak that still stands. In five years as Minnesota’s coach, Wacker’s record against conference opponents is 5-31. By comparison, Gutekunst’s Big Ten record was 18-28.
Nov. 24, 1995 — Just before the last game of the season — a 45-3 blowout loss at Iowa — Wacker announces he will sign a two-year contract extension, despite going 1-7 in the Big Ten both of the previous two years. Since agreeing to the extension, he has been under constant scrutiny by the media for his players’ actions on and off the field.
Nov. 28, 1995 — Defensive coordinator Marc Dove, linebackers coach Scott Brown and defensive backs coach Chip Garber are fired immediately following a season in which the Gophers are ranked last in the Big Ten in both total defense and scoring defense. The decision to fire the coaches comes after Wacker told University men’s athletics director Mark Dienhart what he plans to do to turn the program around defensively, and before being offered a contract extension.
Dec. 8. 1995 — Wacker hires defensive coordinator Tim Rose to take over for the departed Marc Dove. Rose is considered one of the top defensive coaches in the country for his successful stints as the defensive coordinator at Cincinnati and Memphis. But the Gophers still have the worst total defense in the Big Ten and are 10th in scoring defense.
May 1, 1996 — Running back Raphael Cooper is kicked off the team after violating various team rules. Cooper, the projected starter at running back for 1996, is dismissed for hitting somebody during a pick-up basketball game at the Recreation Center and for taking money from a woman’s purse, among other things.
Sept. 21, 1996 — The Gophers win their last game 35-33 over No. 23 Syracuse at the Metrodome. Since the victory, Minnesota has dropped six straight games — all of which came against Big Ten opponents.
Nov. 12, 1996 — Wacker, 59, resigns as Gophers football coach and says he will retire from coaching altogether. His overall record with the team is 15-38, and he hasn’t won more than four games in a season during his stay.