So… Did We Pull A Glen Mason? August 17, 2012
I listened to The Solid Verbal’s Big Ten preview podcast yesterday. What’s that? You don’t listen to The Solid Verbal? And you consider yourself a college football fan?
(Story time! I was helping a friend promote this little coffee concert series 10 years ago. There was another girl who volunteered to produce flyers because she had just taken a community college class in sales and marketing. Her flyers were so fantastically awful. She had, apparently, learned that shame was the way to promote a cafe coffee concert with some dude on a guitar that no one had ever heard of. I wish I still had a flyer somewhere. “WHAAT? YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF MARTIN SIMPSON?? He’s only the dopest guitar player in the midwest. I can’t believe you were going to miss this concert. EVERYONE will be there.” If “everyone” = 13 people, it totally worked.)
My point: Listen to The Solid Verbal. EVERYONE does.
So Mike Hall from the Big Ten Network is their guest, and they’re going through every Big Ten team, and when they get to Illinois, Mike makes the “are we sure Illinois didn’t pull a Glen Mason?” point that I’ve seen floating around. As in, fire a coach who was doing OK and risk being awful again. So, did we?
Mason’s numbers are pretty stunning when you look at them. Minnesota went to 5 consecutive bowl games from 2002 to 2006… and then they fired him. They’ve won 10 Big Ten games in the five years since (I don’t want to look it up, but off the top of my head, I’m guessing 3 of those 10 wins were against us. OK, fine, lets go through this. 2008 debacle that cost us a bowl. 2010 meltdown in Champaign where they scored with less than 30 seconds left. 2011 rollover in Minneapolis. Yep – 3 of the 10 against us.)
Mike Hall was right – Minnesota got greedy, figured that 7-4 seasons weren’t good enough, so they fired Mason and brought in Tim Brewster to get them over the hump. Except it went the other way, and now Jerry Kill has a full-scale rebuilding job in Minneapolis. So… did we pull a Glen Mason when we fired Zook? Did we get greedy after two bowl wins? That’s the talking point this August. Let’s break it down.
Mason’s last five years at Minnesota: 8-5, 10-3, 7-5, 7-5, 6-7. 38-25 overall.
Zook’s last five years at Illinois: 9-4, 5-7, 3-9, 7-6, 7-6. 31-32 overall.
Certainly looks like our firing was much more justified. But what about Big Ten records?
Mason was 18-22 in the Big Ten over those last five years, and Zook was 17-23. That makes more sense. Minnesota’s schedules during the Mason years were notoriously light. Schedule no one and go undefeated in the non-conference, go 3-5 in the Big Ten, go to a bowl. The Pat Fitzgerald Way. So I’m guessing that Minnesota’s thinking was this: five straight bowls is nice, but sub-.500 in the Big Ten is unacceptable.
Except it backfired. Brewster proved to be a fine recruiter but a poor coach, and Mason hadn’t exactly left the cupboard stocked, and they got greedy and started scheduling series’ with USC, and it all fell apart quickly. To make matters worse, they had perhaps the luckiest start to a college football season ever in 2008 (started 7-0 by being a ridiculous +17 in turnover ratio, earning Brewster some “he’s rebuilt this team” cred before losing their final six games in spectacular fashion when the turnovers dried up), which bought him more years.
Wait. Six game losing streak? Started out undefeated and then imploded? Recruited but couldn’t coach? This sounds familiar. And it sounds like I don’t have to take this any further.
It’s not Mason we should be comparing Zook to – it’s Brewster. Mike Thomas didn’t get greedy and fire a perfectly capable coach in order to bring in a recruiter – he fired the recruiter who couldn’t coach. He fired our Brewster. And he did it before the program could implode.
Yep – that’s it. Minnesota’s AD stuck with Brewster after his lucky start/trainwreck finish in 2008, and then they won three Big Ten games under him the next two seasons before he was fired. Mike Thomas fired Zook after our lucky start/trainwreck finish in 2011, and I think we’ll likely win more than three Big Ten games the next two seasons because of it.
So there you go, Mike Hall. We didn’t pull a Glen Mason. We fired a Tim Brewster. EVERYONE knows that.