Brewster faces a new challenge trying to sell Minnesota

C.J. Spang

One of the first things I thought of when I heard about Tim Brewster’s great recruiting abilities was a quote from the movie “Tommy Boy” where Richard was talking about Tommy’s dad as a salesman.

“He could sell a ketchup Popsicle to a woman in white gloves.”

In all seriousness, that’s pretty much what Minnesota’s new football coach will have to do to sell the football program to potential players.

I don’t doubt Brewster is a great recruiter, especially in the state of Texas. But think about it. He was persuading Texas natives to play football at the University of Texas. It’s going to be a whole new ball game trying to get Texas kids to play in the City of (frozen) Lakes.

What is his sales pitch right now? The Gophers haven’t competed for a Big Ten title in almost 40 years, they have a permanent reservation in Nashville for the Music City Bowl, and they will have their own stadium in 2009?

I’ve talked to enough coaches in multiple sports here at Minnesota to know most recruits choose other schools because of the weather.

I might be going out on a limb here, but I’m thinking that includes people from Texas – where the average temperature in Austin is 69 degrees Fahrenheit with 19 days below freezing each year – aren’t in a rush to come to Minneapolis, where the average temperature is 45 degrees with 156 days below freezing.

What Brewster should do is close the door to the state of Minnesota so coaches like Wisconsin’s Bret Bielema can’t say they treat Minnesota like it’s in-state recruiting.

But Bob Lichtenfels, a regional manager for the national recruiting Web site Scout.com, disagrees. He says the state of Minnesota doesn’t have enough talent to make the Gophers a Big Ten competitor.

“(Brewster) having ties with Texas is probably going to help them get some kids,” Lichtenfels said. “They might not take the kids maybe a Texas or an Oklahoma would get, but even that second and third-tier kid in Texas might be as good as the first- or second-tier kid in Minnesota.”

The Gophers do not need leftovers from Texas to go along with their leftovers from Ohio. Last year’s team had 16 kids from Ohio, and I’ve been told only Minnesota linebacker Alex Daniels received a scholarship offer from Ohio State.

If you’re going to argue the state of Minnesota doesn’t have enough talent to compete at the Big Ten level, let me refer you to North Dakota State.

The Bison lost to the Gophers 10-9 at the Metrodome on Oct. 21, 2006, but most people, including former coach Glen Mason, said North Dakota State should have won the game.

“It kind of puts a smile on your face when you’ve been out-coached and been out-played, but you win the football game,” Mason said after the game.

That shows you what a team made up of leftovers – 33 from Minnesota, 17 from North Dakota and 14 from Wisconsin – can do when it plays with heart.

Obviously, taking only Minnesota kids won’t allow the Gophers to compete with the Big Ten’s elite, but it’s where they need to start.

Then, when the team starts to show more consistent success or manages to upset a few teams instead of blowing late leads, Brewster can compete for the best kids in those recruiting hot beds.

I’m not saying he should completely ignore his areas of expertise; I’m just saying fans are delusional if they think anyone of Vince Young’s caliber is going to leave the state of Texas to play football at Minnesota in the next few years.

Now, if you’ve read this far, you’re probably thinking I’m writing off Brewster less than a week after he was announced as coach.

I’m not.

In fact, I disagree with many experts, including Lichtenfels, by thinking the Gophers can become a player in the Big Ten.

“I don’t know if they’re ever going to be a year-in, year-out competitor with Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, Iowa,” Lichtenfels said. “But you know they’re still a team that can be a middle-of-the-pack type team that’s always in a bowl game and can upset one of those teams once in awhile.”

Quite honestly, I’m excited to see what Brewster can do with this team. It’s exciting for this University, the fans and me as a journalist. I truly believe this football program can compete with the best in the conference year in and year out.

Is Brewster the guy who’s going to take this program to that level? I have no idea. But if he does, you can bet I’ll be eating those ketchup Popsicles.

-C.J. Spang welcomes comments at [email protected]