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Things are looking up

Maturi sees better days ahead, especially for Brewster’s football team

By Pat Ruff

pruff@postbulletin.com

BYRON — Joel Maturi was asked Monday whether he likes the status of the University of Minnesota football team.

The Gophers athletic director wasn’t going to spin this one. Not even Maturi, known for his positive soundbites, could get past that Minnesota won just one game last year.

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"No, I don’t like where we’re at," Maturi said. "I’m not happy when you’re coming off a season where you finished 1-11. Nobody likes that."

Still, Maturi followed his rebuke with a sense that better — he hopes much better — days are ahead for Gophers football. He was interviewed before he, men’s basketball coach Tubby Smith, and a handful of other Gophers delegates addressed a lunch crowd Monday at the 35th annual Williams Fund Rochester Invitational at Somerby Golf Club.

Maturi’s guarded optimism regarding Gophers football stemmed from a few things. Among them were the closeness of many of those 11 losses, that last year was coach Tim Brewster’s first with the program, that Brewster has brought in a top-20-in-the-country recruiting class, and that Gophers football is just one season away from opening its new outdoor, on-campus stadium.

The stadium, it’s obvious, has Maturi as roused as anything.

"There is just a tremendous amount of excitement about that stadium," Maturi said. "There is just one momentous event after another as it goes up."

New director of football operations Dan O’Brien and defensive back Marcus Sherels (2006 Rochester John Marshall graduate) also were on hand Monday supporting Brewster.

O’Brien, who came to the Gophers from Hamline University in St. Paul, where he was director of athletics, started his new job in March.

While he is not expecting a massive turnaround in the team’s win-loss record next year with so many newcomers being depended upon, he does like Brewster.

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It’s the coach’s work ethic that stands out most.

"He doesn’t sleep much," O’Brien said with a smile. "Plus, he’s got great communications skills. The (players and recruits) really respond to him."

Sherels, who will be a junior this fall and started the Gophers spring football game at defensive back only weeks after being moving from wide receiver, appreciates Brewster’s candor.

"He’s honest," said Sherels, who at 170 is 10 pounds heavier than last fall. "He tells you honestly what you need to do to get playing time. What he wants are playmakers. I’ve been doing that. If you play well enough in practice, they can’t not play you."

• On a day when good feelings predictably reigned, Maturi also spoke with optimism about the very real chance that Gophers football and basketball games will be available on television this coming year.

For the first time last year, Big Ten Conference games were televised by the newly constructed Big Ten Network. However, no deal was struck by several cable providers to include that network, meaning viewers were shutout.

On Monday, cable provider Comcast was reported to be close to a deal with the BTN.

Maturi believes that once one cable provider signs on, others, such as Rochester’s Charter Communications, won’t be far behind.

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