The Minnesota Golden Gophers athletic department fired men’s basketball coach Tubby Smith on Monday, following his team’s NCAA tournament Round of 32 loss to the Florida Gators. Smith leaves with three NCAA tournament appearances, an NIT runner-up and five seasons of at least 20 wins in his six at the helm.
With Tubby Smith fired, does that mean the pressure is higher on Minnesota football coach Jerry Kill?
Kill is entering just his third season as the Golden Gophers head coach, and is coming off a bowl game appearance in 2012. Once upon a time, coaches were afforded, at minimum, one recruiting class to turn around a program.
The raised stakes on winning football has dramatically cut back on leeway. For all BCS conference programs, success on the football field is a business proposition. For Minnesota specifically, the university invested well over $300 million in the construction of TCF Bank Stadium, which opened at the start of the 2009 season.
Major success has long eluded Minnesota football, well before TCF Bank Stadium was christened — the program made the last of its only two Rose Bowl appearances in January 1962. Two-thirds of Minnesota’s all-time postseason appearances have been since 1999.
With the Golden Gophers not competing for Big Ten Conference championships, one measure the university has taken to boost revenue is selling beer at Gopher games. But a report released last week says alcohol sales at TCF Bank Stadium lost money.
Winning cures most ills, especially financial, and it’s the only way to assauge the growing impatience of athletic administrators and boosters.
Jerry Kill is a great coach. He set the foundation for Northern Illinois’ run to the Orange Bowl last season. Kill restored Minnesota to respectability in short order, taking over a difficult situation left after the dismissal for Tim Brewster.
Kill returns contributors from last year’s Meineke Car Care of Texas Bowl teams, including Philip Nelson and Ra’Shede Hageman. The 2013 Gophers open spring practices on Tuesday.
The sting of letting a late lead to Texas Tech slip, and the difference between 7-6 and 6-7 are the last memories from Minnesota’s 2012.
Respectable is not seen as an acceptable milestone in FBS circles, so merely making a bowl game is not necessarily enough for Minnesota. After all, the program made nine between 1999 and 2009, but that wasn’t enough to spare either Brewster, nor Glen Mason.
And with Tubby Smith fired, Minnesota athletics is really setting a higher standard for its expectations.