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Gopher Sports Character
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I saw the firing of Glen Mason with mixed feelings. I didn't feel he was a competent coach, nor was Monson, who was fired by the basketball program. My mixed feelings are for a reason.

Minnesota has been hit by scandals in the past on academic and player behavior issues. I found those very embarassing.

Clearly big time NCAA athletics is a money driven, crooked business. It's very obvious that the super programs are recruiting athletically talented people who are often sub par in academics, and have character issues, but are fantastic sports talents.

If the U of M is determined to be a major player in athletic competition, obviously they will have to adopt the ethical standards of their competition- phony academic programs, under the table money, hush hush and cover up. It's essentially a paid minor league system for the pro leagues.

If the U of M publicly stated their dedication to high academic and behavioral standards for athetes, and to run honest and ethical programs- win or lose- I would respect that position. We would likely have teams of smart, well behaved athletes that were rarely competitive in their division.

The question is- what program do we want here? What program and approach would you endorse?

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I disagree with your basic assumption that successful programs can only be crooked and ethical programs can only produce substandard results. I know you're generalizing a bit, but saying that you've made your generalizations too broad and sweeping deserves mention.

Notre Dame, for example, has very high academic standards and yet has had great runs.

Stanford was very good under some coaches, at least in streaks.

Sure, high academic standards do keep some talented athletes away, so maintaining a consistently winning program while also maintaining high academic standards is challenging. But it can be done, and Notre Dame/Stanford aren't the only examples. Consider Boston College. Consider Duke in basketball.

I think U of M history is getting in the way, here. When Gophers hoops was a top program under Clem, they had problems with academics. When they had solid academics under Monson, they didn't win. But Monson's period at the U was hampered by the lingering consequences of Clem's misdeeds.

Meanwhile, there are plenty of other schools where things have gone better, both on the court and off the court.

I think it's reasonable to expect that a football coach at the U of M can at least recruit 75 percent of Minnesota's top prospects and recruit well throughout the five-state area, occasionally landing a top recruit outside of our region. This can be done while maintaining reasonably high academic standards, while still landing solid talent.

I am not sure Minnesota can become a top-flight bowl contender, vying for a national championship year-in and year-out. But I do think it's reasonable to expect performance at a similar level as Wisconsin achieved under Barry Alverez, where the Gophers could have a run for a Top-3 spot in the Big 10 for 2-3 years in a row, perhaps landing in a top bowl one of those time, then drop off to a second- or third-tier bowl for a year or two, before rebounding back into top-flight bowl contention.

With Mason, there was never any of those highs. It was one Music City Bowl after another. So there's room for improvement without sacrificing academic standards.

As for hoops, the key difference one is looking for is to land more of the state's top recruits. Monson has consistently failed to land top recruits, and missing out on Isaiah Dahlman was one of the most egregious misses in recent memory. And Dahlman is a huge talent with high academic marks, by the way. He should be maroon and gold, not Michigan State green-and-white.

If the U of M can land a high-profile coach - not even necessarily Flip Saunders, although that would be ideal - I think Gophers hoops can achieve a lot more on the hardwood while also maintaining solid academic results and avoid Haskins-style abuses. I mean, I sincerely doubt Saunders would stand for any cheating.

I think with the right coach in place, it's reasonable to expect the Gophers can always stay above .500, make the NCAA tourney about 2/3rds of the time, make the NIT the rest of the time, and advance to at least the Elite Eight a couple times every five years or so, if we have a coach who can keep Minnesota's best at Minnesota, while also landing the occasional five-state area/region recruit, or a JUCO prospect to fill a hole from a national scale on occasion.

So, that's my two cents. I don't think the NCAA is as corrupt as you seem to feel it is. I think that corruption can happen, but it doesn't have to, if the right coach is put in place and he/she gets the proper level of support from the U.

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