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Bernie Bierman’s First Game #TBT

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Now that we know how the PJ Fleck era has begun, we can compare him to the best, Bernie Bierman

Bernie Bierman with Herman Glander, university policeman, 1936
MNHS

Bernie Bierman first played football for the U of M in 1913-1915, went away and learned his coaching chops, and came back to coach for the Gophers in 1932. Similar to the transition from Tracy Claeys to PJ Fleck, Minnesota was coming off a fairly successful season. In 1931 the Gophers won 7 games, but the fans hated Coach Fritz Crisler and he hated living here. Exit Fritz, and enter Bernie Bierman. Comparing the 1931-2 coaching switch to the present day has its limits. PJ Fleck’s personality is the polar opposite of the shy Bierman. There was a ton of hype around the 1932 Gophers but it was the local press building up Minnesota as a conference favorite.

Bernie Bierman coaching the 1932 team in the gym.
MNHS

Bierman’s first game as Gopher coach kicked off on October 1, 1932 against South Dakota State. Minnesota won the game 12 - 0, but the victory failed to live up to everyone's expectations.

From the Associated Press October 2, 1932

Bierman Disappointed

It was Bernie Bierman's debut as head coach at his alma mater, but the game left him viewing with disappointment the ragged play of his squad, which next Saturday plunges into Big Ten play against Purdue.

Although playing out of their class. the South Dakota team outclassed the Gophers in every department except power play. It was a recourse to pure power which en-abi.ed the Gophers to score two touchdowns.

After a scoreless first period In which the Gopher offense contributed principally fumbles, ragged interference, and weak punting. Minnesota advanced the ball in the second to within seven yards of the goal...

We all know that Bierman’s tenure at Minnesota would be the pinnacle of Minnesota football, but in October of 1932 that wasn’t clear. The Gophers would lose to Purdue in Bierman’s second game 0-7, on the way to a 5-3 season. While it was a winning record, losing to rivals like Wisconsin and Michigan, 1932 had a worse record than the previous year.

Minnesota Gophers 1932 season results

The good news? Bierman had all of 1932 to get his players used to his system and young players like Pug Lund got valuable experience. In 1933, Pug would lead Minnesota to an undefeated season (with 4 ties, lol) and a share of the Big Ten title.