With the coaching carousel about to heat up, Glen Mason would like to hop on and get a job.
"But I am kind of a realist," he said. "When I got let go after 2006, people told me I did a great job at Minnesota and would get another chance to coach. You think someone would offer up a chance to coach, and more often than not it doesn't happen.
"I wasn't overly optimistic after 2006. And now I am more of a realist and I don't think it's going to happen."
Minnesota's decision to fire Mason after the Gophers blew a 38-7 lead in the 2006 Insight Bowl and lost 44-41 in overtime to Texas Tech led to the hiring of Tim Brewster. Brewster was fired in October after going 15-30 overall and 6-21 in the Big Ten.
"I think I was a 'surprise fire,' " Mason said. "We won our last three Big Ten games to get bowl-eligible [that year] and then lose to a good Texas Tech team. Then, they hire Tim Brewster. And three and a half years later, he's out. You can't keep making those type of decisions and accomplish what you want to accomplish."
Mason, 60, a former Ohio State player and assistant, was one of the most successful coaches in Minnesota history. From 1997-2006, he forged a 64-57 record and went to seven bowls. He led the Golden Gophers to 10 wins in 2003, notched victories at Penn State, Ohio State and Michigan and beat Arkansas, Oregon and Alabama in bowls. But school officials thought the program had gone stale and needed a new vision as it made a push toward the opening of an on-campus stadium.
"A coaches' won-loss record can be misleading because it's harder to win at some places than others," said Mason, who is 123-121-1 in 21 seasons as a coach. "I won at three places that were perennial losers. When I left, they were consistent winners. And I did it the right way. I didn't break any rules and I had the respect of my colleagues."
Since leaving, Mason has worked for a financial company in the Twin Cities and as an analyst for the Big Ten Network. But he'd like to get back on the sideline.
"I have had a couple of inquires," Mason said. "But I have a pretty good thing going now. All of my kids live in Minnesota, so I wasn't just willing to go anywhere. After 21 years as a head coach, I'm not willing to go just any place to be a head coach."
Who does Mason think Minnesota should hire?
"There are a couple ways to look at it," he said. "I used to tell our coaches that there are two different kind of coaches: fundamentalists and schemers. I said we are going to be fundamentalists. We are going to coach football and take the best players we can get and improve them. It didn't matter how well we recruited at Minnesota, we weren't going to out-recruit Ohio State, Michigan or Penn State. They have a lot of built-in advantages. But we could recruit ... good, hard-nosed, hard-working kids who may have been a step slow or an inch short ... and we were going to develop them. That's what we did.
"That's what I believe Minnesota needs. You need someone who can go out and sell the school and get the best talent you can. But then you better have a guy who can really develop them."
Minnesota often is viewed as a difficult job. Indeed, the school has the longest Rose Bowl drought of any Big Ten school, last playing in Pasadena after the 1961 season. Getting to the Rose Bowl will be more difficult starting in 2011 with Nebraska joining the Big Ten.
"It's a lot better now because they have a stadium, which I never had," Mason said. "I always thought the biggest drawback we had was we played in the [Metro]dome. It wasn't on campus, it wasn't a collegiate atmosphere, we didn't control it. We had to compete for time with the Twins and Vikings.
"When we brought kids in for recruiting, it seldom was set up as a football field. It was set up for tractor pulls, snowmobile contests, they had a mum festival every year. We had to take prospects in there in that atmosphere. It was horrible. ... As far as I am concerned, it's a lot better situation now than when I was there."
Can Minnesota ever win the Big Ten title?
"Sure," Mason said. "I came close. We were positioned a couple times and we only have ourselves to blame. You just had to hang in there and believe. They need to make a thoughtful and educated decision on what needs to take place. Find that individual, and have everyone hang in there and go for it."