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Minnesota Football: How Do Coaches Affect Culture?

How do Jerry Kill's words and actions affect the culture that is being built in the University of Minnesota football program?

Jesse Johnson-US PRESSWIRE

For the last couple of weeks I've been thinking a lot about how culture permeates a college football program. My thinking about this began when the APR scores were announced and the football team posted the highest score in the history of the program. How did that happen? And how did it happen so quickly?

The easy answer is that Coach Kill changed the culture. But we hear about coaches changing the culture of a team all the time. What does that mean?

How does a coach change and/or create culture? Is it conscious, or is it simply a by-product of who they are? What does what a coach says and does communicate about his overall program? Do those things rub off on players?

Journey with me, won't you?

Glen Mason

Mase was a program builder. Kent State, Kansas. He came to Minnesota to do the same. He was brought in to bring the Gophers back to their glory days.

But Glan Mason never believed Minnesota could be a top-of-the-B1G program. He made no bones about saying that the Gophers couldn't compete with Michigan & Ohio State for recruits. As a result, we have the following comment from TDG Community member Rencito, in response to a comment that someone made about Mason losing recruit James Laurenitis. I thought this statement summed Mason and his teams up well.


Glen Mason spoke openly about not being able to compete with the top-tier schools for recruits. He rarely went after top-tier recruits, and when he did, he didn't know how to handle them.

If you don't believe that you are capable of prosperity, how will you hang onto it when it's in your grasp?

Tim Brewster

Brew had no head coaching experience, but was a guy who came into Dinkytown as the anti-Glen Mason, talking about Rose Bowls and B1G Championships from Day 1. It seemed like he was really going to change the culture and some people (/points emphatically at self) were really excited about this new attitude.

Brewster landed some impressive recruits, the kind of recruits that typically only gave Minnesota a passing glance. He did this despite a 1-11 campaign in his first season. In year 2 Brew's squad came out 7-1, and things were on the rise!

Then the season fell apart. Meanwhile, those highly touted recruits were having trouble becoming eligible to play for Minnesota, and even the ones who did make it to Minneapolis weren't making an impact on the field.

It turned out Brewster could shoot the bear, but he had no idea what to do with the bear once it was in the cabin. (To add insult to injury (and to further destroy this analogy), Brewster couldn't even figure out how to get the bear to go to class.)

If you talk about success and how badly you want it, but you have no plan to get it, can you possibly reach it?

Jerry Kill

Coach Kill immediately tempered the expectations of Gopher fans. He told us they'd need to start getting kids to go to class. He told us they'd need to start getting kids into the weight room. He told us they'd need to start recruiting kids to fit their schemes. He told us they needed to increase the team speed. He told us these things would take time.

Year 1 was difficult as the Gophers went 3-9. The team improved from week to week, and as they began to believe in the process, they began to believe they could win. That belief led to bringing keeping Floyd back to in Dinkytown and to beating Illinois to end the season.

The foundation that Coach Kill began building from Day 1 has lead to a record APR score for the football program and has lead the program, for the time being, out of any concern of academic sanctions. Kill preaches education, fundamentals, patience, speed and strength on a daily basis.

If you have a proven plan for success, a belief in that plan, and the discipline to stick to that plan, despite the people who doubt you, can you possibly fail?


The saying goes "a fish rots from the head down." If leadership is rotten, regardless of the make-up of those in the organization itself, the organization will also likely become rotten.

But the converse of this saying is also true. When the leader of a program is exceptional, regardless of the make-up of those in the organization itself, the organization has a chance to become exceptional as well. Exceptional leaders do this by bringing in people who share their make-up, or molding people who don't into sharing their beliefs.

Glen Mason didn't talk about the culture he was trying to create, but he wasn't shy in what his beliefs were about the culture at the University of Minnesota.

Tim Brewster talked constantly about the type of culture he was trying to create at Minnesota, but he didn't have a real plan to build the program into that culture.

How do Jerry Kill's words and actions affect the culture that is being built in the University of Minnesota football program?