Column: Is Mason doing a million dollar job?

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 4, 2006

Jeff Budlong, Sports Editor

Let’s look at some of the facts:

– A nine-year record of 58-50.

– Bowl trips to the Sun Bowl and Music City Bowl (twice) the last three years.

– Big Ten finishes of fourth, seventh and eighth the last three years.

– A growing number of coulda, shoulda and wouldas.

Nothing in that list looks sparkling to me, but it was good enough to earn Minnesota Gopher head football coach Glen Mason a 5-year contract extension that will pay him at least $1.65 million a season.

The Gophers have been an average team at best when seasons come to a close under Mason, but looking at the talent on the roster it looks like Minnesota should have to be able to challenge for Big Ten supremacy.

After the U of M lost to Virginia in the Music City Bowl last week I asked someone if that was the nail in Mason’s coffin.

The response shocked me a little.

&8220;Nah, Minnesota fans accept mediocrity.&8221;

Is this really true?

But then I started thinking and I realized something.

I come from a state with exactly zero professional sports teams, and I think that is why I look at this situation differently.

Regardless of what the Gophers do on Saturdays the Vikings, Wild or Timberwolves will always be the dominant story on Sunday.

For me college football has always been the big story but in a land of pro sports it is just another story.

Maybe it is the fact that the Gophers have never experienced a lot of success that people feel this past season was par for the course.

I don’t know about that.

Coming from Iowa I have watched the Hawkeyes turn in three consecutive seasons of New Year’s bowl worthy performances, and I honestly don’t think they were better than the Gophers of &8216;05 at many positions.

Laurence Maroney, although injured, was still a stud and was more than complemented by the addition and talent of Gary Russell.

The offensive line was dominant but the one big difference was on the sideline.

Mason has improved the Gophers, but I don’t believe anyone would think that he has gotten all he could out of his teams.

Football recruiting in a cold weather state is never easy and yet Mason has done a solid job bringing in some very talented players but the results have not translated.

Any coach will tell you a strong running game will win them a lot of games, but that hasn’t been the case for the Gophers who have trotted out one of the most potent rushing attacks in the nation the last several years.

Mason may get things going in Minnesota but I hope he wasn’t

given an extension just because people figured that is the best we can expect.

Luring a &8220;big name&8221; coach to Minneapolis may not be feasible right now, but sticking with a coach that has produced mediocre results at best seems a little shaky.

The Gopher athletic department didn’t seem to be in a major rush to give him a new contract and only in the 11th hour decided it was the best possible situation.

Only time will tell but Mason just got a lot more of it for not producing a lot of what is usually necessary to get that kind of contract.