Mason meets with LSU to discuss coaching position

Michael Dougherty

Moving a step beyond his previous stance that he would listen to job offers from other schools, Gophers football coach Glen Mason met with Louisiana State officials in Chicago on Tuesday to discuss the school’s job opening, according to several media sources.
Mason flew to Chicago early Tuesday morning and returned in the afternoon where he was met by reporters.
“The speculation because of what’s happened at the University is all of a sudden I’m very unhappy and I’m unhappy about the departure of Mark Dienhart and that I’m going out and looking for a job,” Mason told a reporter at the airport. “That is not true. That’s all I’ll say at this point.”
In response, University President Mark Yudof issued a statement Tuesday that he is “demonstrating his support for, and commitment to retaining football coach Glen Mason.”
“I’ve had numerous conversations with coach Mason over the past week, and it is my intention to keep him here in Minnesota,” Yudof said. “Coach Mason has consistently said that he is willing to listen to offers from other programs. Last week, I made coach Mason an offer of a significant salary increase, and I expect to be finalizing those details with him next week.”
WCCO-TV reported Yudof offered Mason a base salary increase close to $100,000. Mason is in the third year of a seven-year contract that pays him just over $500,000 a year. His salary ranks near the bottom among Big Ten coaches.
Yudof is out of town on vacation, and his chief of staff, Tonya Moten Brown left the office early Tuesday because of an illness and could not comment.
When Mason was asked on Sunday whether he would seek a renegotiation of his contract, he said, “It’s not my style to initiate those.”
“That’s not my decision to judge, that’s an administrative decision,” he said. “If they want to open those discussions up, I’d be more than willing to listen.”
After leading the 13th-ranked Gophers to an 8-3 record — their best finish since 1967 — the team is heading to its first bowl game since 1986. But with that success came rumors that Mason was on a wish list for LSU after former coach Gerry DiNardo was fired Nov. 15.
Mason was also rumored to be a candidate for the North Carolina job, but reports that coach Carl Torbush would be fired were proven wrong, thanks to an outpouring of support from fans, the school retained him.
If Mason were to resign before Jan. 1, 2000, his contract stipulates he must pay the University about $105,000. However, if he were to resign after the first of the year, he would not have to repay anything.
Gophers strong safety Tyrone Carter said he heard about the meeting while watching ESPN. He said he wants to find out more today before he comments on the situation. He said most of the players and coaches have left for the Thanksgiving break.
“Tomorrow I’ll go over there (to Mason’s office) and see what happened,” Carter said.
Teammate Ben Hamilton said the reports of Mason’s meeting were just speculation. He said he’d like to talk to Mason before passing judgment.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a distraction right now, not until we know what’s going on and find out the facts,” the junior center said.
Men’s Athletics Director Mark Dienhart attended the Minnesota-Marquette basketball game last night and said he couldn’t confirm or deny that Mason was meeting with the LSU officials.
“I don’t know anything about that,” Dienhart said. “I haven’t heard about it.”
LSU Athletics Director Herb Vincent was out of town Tuesday and could not be reached for comment, a member of the LSU athletics department said. She said she could neither confirm nor deny that Vincent was meeting with Mason.
In 1995, when Mason was at Kansas, he led the Jayhawks to a 10-2 record and a trip to the Aloha Bowl in Hawaii. Mason accepted the head coaching job at Georgia and held a press conference on Dec. 18 in Athens to announce his hiring.
However, a week later on Christmas Eve, Mason reconsidered the move while on the beach in Hawaii before the game. Kansas beat UCLA in the Aloha Bowl and finished the season ranked ninth. He stayed at Kansas one more season and the team went 4-7. Then he left for Minnesota.
Tuesday’s news overshadowed the fact that Mason was named one of five finalists for the Football News’ coach of the year award. Mason joins Frank Beamer of Virginia Tech, June Jones of Hawaii, Steve Logan of East Carolina and Ty Willingham of Stanford.

Michael Dougherty covers football and basketball and welcomes comments at [email protected]