Minnesota shocked the football world when it fired Glen Mason on New Year's Eve. It was just one year after (literally to the day) that Mason had been given a contract extension. A new on-campus facility was on the way and the future looked bright for the head coach who won his last three regular season games with a young team to get to a bowl game. Then he got the out-of-the-blue call that he was fired.
It appears that Mason would have been better off losing one of his final three games, as athletic director Joel Maturi didn't deny that the meltdown against Texas Tech, where they blew a 38-7 third quarter lead played a key role in the decision. The new stadium that Mason had worked to get was the other factor. Discontent has been rumbling among Gopher fans who are not happy with their team not reaching a New Year's Day bowl game. Apparently the university thought that opening a new facility with a face that a lot of people have gotten tired of was too big a financial risk.
This move is going to come back and bite Minnesota in a big way, for it is an absolutely atrocious decison. The Golden Gopher program was nothing when Mason got there. It's an area that lacks good high school talent. There is little reason for out-of-state recruits to come and play in a sterile atmosphere. But Mason made it work. It can be argued that Barry Alvarez had the same disadvantages when he arrived at Wisconsin in 1990, but still managed to scale heights that Mason has not hit. But this ignores the fact that UW at least has an enthusiastic college environment to play in that can be attractive. It also ignores the fact that Alvarez is one of the greatest coaches in the history of the game, and simply saying Mason isn't at his level is a far cry from saying he should be fired.
There's been rumblings at the bottom of the Big Ten lately. Indiana's on the move. Ron Zook's getting the recruits at Illinois. The unanswered question was this--who's going to slide down if these programs are moving up? Joel Maturi and the Minnesota administration gave us the answer.