If there was one good thing that happened regarding Nebraska's game against Minnesota last Sunday, it was that Minnesota's staff came away from Lincoln, Nebraska blown away by their tour of the Hendricks Training Complex. The Star Tribune had an article about it, and Tubby Smith headed back north insisting that the Gophers need to upgrade their facilities. I guess it's nice that they were impressed with the facilities because they sure weren't with the Husker basketball team.
I suppose it's a fair trade with Minnesota. It's not like there are a lot of Husker football fans that would be impressed with Golden Gopher football. The football team has been bad for years, seeing some success under Glen Mason, but dropping below ground in the Tim Brewster era.
If you ask, Minnesota would say they've made a commitment to having a good football team. Facilities are no longer the excuse they once were. Minnesota just built itself a shiny new stadium, and if you went to the Nebraska game this year, you know it's a pretty nice place to watch football. It sure as hell beats the old Metrodome, which was like watching football at a rest home, or inside a toilet, whichever comparison you like best.
You might respond with wondering about the Jerry Kill hiring. He wasn't a name coach, a big money "splash" hire, but he worked his way through his first year despite suffering health issues and made some improvement along the way. Time will tell if he can turn their program around.
So why didn't Minnesota spend the money on a big name hire? It may because they don't have it, but it may also be that nagging excuse that Minnesota is just a stop on the way to somewhere else, so what's the point with hiring a big name that's going to build something then leave in three or four years?
I'd say the biggest obstacle facing Minnesota is lack of fan support. Gopher football fans aren't hard to find, but getting them to admit they're Gopher football fans is another story altogether. Minnesota has to get people into the mode that they're going to have some patience and let things work, but mostly, they're going to have to get over the fickle nature of "I'll go when they're good enough". The real question is - "What is good enough?". Is it good enough to be average, finishing in the middle of the conference all of the time, or do you expect to build a program that contends for conference titles? If you're goal is to be average, then, really, what's the point?
Fan support is key. If you don't' support the team you're not going to sway the recruits you need to consistently have a winner. Look at Nebraska - the Huskers stole Lydon Murtha and Nate Swift from Minnesota largely because of the Lincoln Game Day environment. There is NOTHING like fan support. Minnesota doesn't have that, and compared to Nebraska, probably never will.
If you made it this far, you're probably wondering why I'm spending all this time talking about Gopher football. Take everything I've just said about Minnesota football and apply it to Husker men's basketball.
Now tell me, what is Nebraska going to do to build a winning men's basketball team?