Sadly this is the second time I’ve had to write this type of post in the past year. First it was Jerry Kill having to step down for health reasons, now it’s for Tracy Claeys being dismissed. If you take a step back and look at the big picture it is pretty shocking how quickly the Kill/Claeys era came crashing down. They put in so much time and effort over the course of a number of years to rebuild this program and make it respectable again after the Tim Brewster “era” that it is kind of mind boggling that it all came to a screeching halt in basically a year. It seems like only yesterday the program was riding high coming off its first New Year’s Day bowl game in forever and the sky appeared to be the limit. How quickly things change.
I admit I’m conflicted on a number of different levels about this move. On a purely football and running a program standpoint, I do believe this was the correct decision. I came into the season with high hopes for Tracy Claeys. I had really liked what I had seen and heard from him during his time as acting head coach. Yet, he had lost me for good by the Rutgers game. Without going into all the details and turning this into a 10,000 word diatribe, I will just say I was really disappointed in things I was seeing on and off the field. I know the final record was 9-4, but admit it, that was an amazingly frustrating 9-4.
On a personal level, I am disheartened by the fact, despite what Mark Coyle said, it appears on the surface that Claeys is the one taking the fall for the mess before the Holiday Bowl. This does go deeper than just the boycott though, but to the average person who doesn’t follow the program that is all they are going to see and that troubles me. I’ve basically kept my mouth shut about the boycott and I’m not going to go into it now either, but I will say I think the entire situation could have been handled better by everyone involved.
Yet on another level, I sit here and think about how often over the years we have all said it’s time for the U to start acting like a big boy school. Stop being so passive aggressive. Stop being so cheap. It’s a conversation we’ve all had hundreds of times over the years. Well friends, this was a big time power play move. This wasn’t Joel Maturi firing Glen Mason after ten years, then using a search firm to somehow land on a coach no one had ever heard of before. This was an AD who saw things that troubled him and he made a bold move when the easy decision would have been to bring Claeys back. Ok, this was a big time power play move if they end up with who we all think they are going to end up with. If they don’t and they end up with Option #8, that would be bad. That would be very, very bad.
Now with that said, I’m also deeply bothered by how this was all handled. You can’t tell me Coyle couldn’t have made this move right after the Wisconsin game. It shouldn’t have taken this long to make this move. If Coyle was as bothered by what he saw during the season, as he said he was, he should have made this move right away. I don’t think it was right for him to string Claeys and the staff along for an extra six weeks. That’s why on the surface this has the feel of Claeys being the one to take the fall for everything that transpired in the ensuing weeks after the regular season ended.
Final thoughts. I want to thank Tracy Claeys and the staff for all they did here. This program was at rock bottom at best when they first arrived. They built this program up and made it respectable again. They took us to within 30 minutes of winning the B1G West and playing for the B1G Championship. I will always look back on the Kill/Claeys era with fond memories but I will also always wonder what might have been. This isn’t a complete rebuild though like many are making out. There is a solid foundation in place, new/er facilities, B1G money, and a winnable West division. It’s not always easy being a Gopher football fan, but we have been through this before and we’ll get through this together again.
Onto the Stroll Through Twitterland. Since this is a fanbase divided, I’m going to mix in all types of reactions but I’m not going to lie, it’s been difficult reading a lot of the reactions. I enjoy Twitter for a number of different reasons, but some of the tweets I have seen have been a big reminder of what I don’t like about Twitter and social media in general. Agree or disagree with the move, let’s all remember to be civil.
So here we go...
Honestly @NotSoAwesumRyan that reason alone is part of why we are where we are today
I'm confused, did people like Tracy Claeys? I didn't like him as a coach, but I didn't hate him either. My feelings for him were meh.— Uh-oh,it's (@NotSoAwesumRyan) January 4, 2017
That’s a fair assessment @timmaertens
Given the U of M administration's track record, firing Tracy Claeys is almost certainly the wrong decision. #GophersFootball— Tim Maertens (@timmaertens) January 4, 2017
I’d be lying @georgedohrmann if I said I wasn’t disappointed in this statement from Claeys as well
Get Tracy Claeys is upset, but exiting with "I won't be up here freezing my ass off" (while true) spikes any sympathy U fans might have had— George Dohrmann (@georgedohrmann) January 4, 2017
As I mentioned above @joavitorxc this goes deeper than just a single tweet
I think Tracy Claeys made a mistake supporting the suspended players, but that's NOT a reason to fire him after a successful season.— Holiday Appreciator (@joavitorxc) January 4, 2017
There is definitely a case to be made for this @stephen_robb007
Minnesota fires Tracy Claeys. Do they not realize a good thing when they have it. That's why they're Minnesota— Stephen Robb (@stephen_robb007) January 4, 2017
There is also definitely a case to be made for this as well @AlanArlt
100% support Coyle's decision. Culture should precede all, including wins. https://t.co/NkbiMxrMEt— Alan Arlt (@AlanArlt) January 4, 2017
Can’t disagree with this @Phunnsie
Tracy Claeys will be just another name in the media guide if Coyle hires the right coach. This too shall pass.— Phunnsie at Phiphty (@Phunnsie) January 4, 2017
Very strong take @DavidMcCoyWCCO
Common thread in Coyle firings of Tracy Claeys/J Robinson: Coaches who chose loyalty to players above being the adult in the room.— David McCoy (@DavidMcCoyWCCO) January 3, 2017
Hmmm, interesting... @B1Gfootballdude
Proof you can't fix stupid. Some fans are upset due to poor leadership at the U, yet Tracy Claeys was fired for poor leadership.— Nick Stelzner (@B1Gfootballdude) January 4, 2017
I can’t stress this enough @GobieMN
Right or wrong; people are aware this wasn't over a tweet tho, right?— Kyle Goblirsch (@GobieMN) January 3, 2017
So there you have it, just a sampling of some of the tweets that are out there but there are plenty more that aren’t exactly family friendly.
What are your thoughts on all of this? Are you as conflicted as I am? Do you feel the firing was just or do you feel this was a mistake? Who do you think they hire?