If character means anything, Coach Wacker has my vote

For the MTV buzz-word generation, character has become as important as family values and integrity. Families are supposed to teach character and schools are supposed to build it.
Our personal past, family history, workplace and hobbies are often used as signs of character.
Lately, it’s become fun to question character. President Clinton has spent a lifetime in public office defending his. In this election, issues of character have been discussed side by side with issues of domestic policy, drug use and the budget.
It’s likely that America’s votes cast yesterday were made with issues of character in mind.
But is character really that important? Gophers hockey coach Doug Woog seems to think so. The Wooger recently gave former Gopher Chris McAlpine $500 to finish classes at the University. While the NCAA frowned, Woog clearly thought he was doing the right thing.
It’s said that adversity breeds its share of character. The Gophers football team has seen its share of adversity in the recent years. And no one person has faced that adversity first-hand more than Coach Jim Wacker.
Wacker came to Minnesota from Texas Christian University five years ago with a strange vocabulary and a reputation for winning. He was considered the right man for a job that few people around the country dared to take.
Wacker jumped into the fire head first. Months after taking the Gophers job he went on a whirlwind tour of Maw and Paw towns around Minnesota to sell his team and program. He brought smiles and a sense of hope to a team that hadn’t seen his type in Lord knows how many years.
At first, the faithful were willing to give this crazy guy with weird sayings and phrases a chance. Over the last five years, Wacker’s teams haven’t won the number of games he projected, but the hope and smiles remain.
Not all of the Gopher’s recent woes are Wacker’s fault. At times the team has been ugly when it should just step up and play. The team has been competitive during games in which it should be competitive. The team has never been dull.
Recently, it was learned that Wacker negotiated a deal with the University athletics department that he must win five games this season or resign. With three games left and two wins to go, winning those five games remains a possibility.
At this level, Wacker will be the first to admit that the demand to win is warranted. Despite this pressure to win, he has been the same old Jim Wacker.
If you read the story just a few weeks ago about Noah Reedy — the 14-year-old Gophers football fan who suffers from health and learning disabilities — you know what I mean. Wacker showed emotional support and compassion for Reedy.
No one takes the losses harder than Wacker. On the verge of tears several times this year following tough losses, there is no question that Wacker still has the qualities that got him the job here: passion for the game and love for his players and coaches.
Wacker has been shouldering the blame this season, characteristic of a coach who has tried his best but come up short. But it’s indicative of Wacker’s personality.
Even after losses that would demoralize other coaches around the Big Ten, Wacker has shown class and professionalism to a program that hasn’t had any in ages.
If Wacker’s career winds up hanging on the fifth and final game this season — a home game against Iowa — his story will become national in scope. It may also bring criticism to the University. That’s bad news this program doesn’t need.
Whatever the outcome, Wacker has stuck to his guns and done what he thought was right. And that’s the stuff of which character is made.