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Minnesota Football: The Tracy Claeys - John Gutekunst Comparison #TBT

Gopher’s head man Tracy Claeys has been unfavorably compared to former Minnesota Coach John Gutekunst.

Gutey in 1986

I wasn’t alive when John Gutekunst was around so reading message board posts about how Tracy Claeys is or isn’t similar means almost nothing to me. So first let’s find out who the hell Gutekunst sometimes called Gutey is.

Gutey came to Dinkytown as a Defensive Coordinator in 1984 with Lou Holtz. When Lou left John took over and coached the team to a 1985 Independence Bowl victory over Clemson. Replacing Lou Holtz when there seems to have been better options seems to be the main comparison. It was written in most of the papers that winter that the U of M was considering Maryland Coach Bobby Ross. Ross withdrew his name early on in the search to stay at College Park (he would leave for Georgia Tech in 1987).

John Gutekunst on the sidelines in 1986

The other comparison is Gutey’s personality difference compared to whom he replaced. Just as Tracy, a quite guy, replaced an outspoken charismatic guy, the same thing happened about 31 years ago. Lou Holtz, if he is known for anything, it’s being able to spin a yarn, while a Star Tribune reporter once called Gutekunst “butter-knife-dull”.

Head coach Gutey somewhere in the middle, ready to lead his boys onto the field at the Metrodome.

So if these guys are doppelgangers can we tell what’s going to happen based off of Gutey’s tenure? Well in Gutekunst’s 6 seasons here he went 6-5 (or 6-6) 4 times. So pretty mediocre. What got him fired though was the two abysmal years he only winning 2 games. After 1991’s 2-9 season, the Gophers had led the Big Ten in penalties and turnovers, and with attendance low a change finally had to be made. Minnesota’s brand new Athletic Director McKinley Boston hired a media friendly offensive minded coach, Jim Wacker. And we all know how Wacker turned out.

So there are some real similarities between the two, you could also see Mark Coyle making the same mistake McKinley Boston made. And who knows maybe Tracy Claeys has much more success than Gutey.