As any good math instructor will teach, you have to go through the order of operations when trying to solve a problem. The University of Minnesota has a problem to solve within the football program and GopherIllustrated.com has the game plan for the steps needed to solve the problem.
The first thing Minnesota needs to do is to get on the phone with Jim Harbaugh's representatives and gauge his interest in returning to the Big Ten. Try to sell Harbaugh on the idea of being able to return to the conference and most importantly the ability to play Michigan every year. Then hit him with a contract offer he can't refuse. If Harbaugh politely declines and indicates he is headed to the NFL in a couple of seasons you move on. You made your attempt but he's ultimately not your guy if he has NFL aspirations.
I return to my office and find the nearest quarter. I flip the quarter...heads I call the agent of Gary Patterson next and continue the negotiations from 2007. Tails? The phone call goes to Chris Petersen's "reps" out in Boise, Idaho. Both coaches have had opportunities to take more money at BCS conferences but have elected to stay put. Would Minnesota and their fat contract be enough to lure them to the upper midwest? It would be nice for Minnesota but both could be headed for BCS bowl games and wouldn't take the chance. If both say thanks but no thanks you move on.
Minnesota has just struck out in their attempt to add a big name and a grand slam hire to the football program. Is it time to give up and head to the MAC or Conference USA in search for Brewster's successor? Nope. Remember that guy who orchestrated the giant comeback against Glen Mason and his Golden Gophers back in 2006? Well, that guy is Mike Leach and due to a little trouble with a high profile family he just happens to be available. That is a phone call that needs to be made. Minnesota may just have to take a chance on a guy with a little baggage. However, if you land Leach you land a guy that won 84 games in 10 seasons and took Texas Tech to the No. 2 national ranking following an upset of Texas just two seasons ago.
Would Leach decline Minnesota's advances? He could as there are sure to be other schools looking his way come December. However, it is still only October and Minnesota could strike a deal with Leach now and postpone the start date until November 28th. Ultimately if Leach declines and decides to remain a free agent you move on.
Where to go next? Head to the desert and check in with Mike Stoops and his friends. They should know if Stoops would like to return to the Big Ten and the midwest. Stoops grew up in Ohio, went to college at Iowa and started his coaching career at Kansas State. Add in his coaching experience at Oklahoma and head coaching experience at Arizona and you have a guy who has coaching and recruiting contacts all over the country. He currently makes in the neighborhood of $1.5 in Tucson, but he may take a peek at a total package of $2.5. You get Stoops on the phone but just before he tells you he is happy in Arizona you hear his wife screaming in the background for him to set up an interview for the day after Thanksgiving. Quickly Minnesota would have to hang up the phone because they already flipped the transportaion bill for his older brother's wife to do her holiday shopping here in town and it's time to move on...again.
Who's left? The flavor of the month. Any of these four would be solid hires. Troy Calhoun has Air Force flying high this year, but many say he is going to be a lifer at his alma mater unless the NFL calls. Kevin Sumlin is hot at Houston but his teams don't play defense and his offenses look a little too much like Jim Wacker's at Minnesota. Al Golden would provide a nice play on words but what has he really done to prove he could win at Minnesota? Taking a MAC team from garbage to mediocrity isn't enough. Dan Mullen has Mississippi State back to respectability and has Big Ten geographic ties as he is a Pennsylvania native and coached at Notre Dame.
If all four decide to stay at their current positions it is time to move on to the final step in the problem solving process. It will be tempting for Minnesota to move off the path. Minnesota may be determined to hire a current head coach or someone with head coaching experience. This should not be part of the process and they should stay committed to the GI.com Order of Operations. They might look in the direction of Randy Edsall, Jerry Kill, Dale Lennon or Craig Bohl. Don't do it. Just move on to the next step.
The last time around Minnesota ended up picking Brewster over a slew of coordinators from power schools. Guys like Lane Kiffin and Charlie Strong appeared to be the runner ups. If Minnesota ultimately went back in that direction they would have to make calls to the following three offensive coordinators. In order I would call Gus Malzahn. He might be just a few years removed from high school football in Arkansas but he is an offensive genius and would designed balanced offenses that would give Big Ten coordinators headaches. If he were to decide to stay south I would take the quarter back out…heads and I go with Jim McElwain of Alabama. Tails and I call Kevin Wilson of Oklahoma.
When solving this problem you might not have to go through every step as the problem could be solved at any time in the process. In the end if Minnesota just sticks with the GI.com Order of Operations they will have their problem solved as any of the coaches listed above would be solid choices to move Golden Gopher football into the future.