Mason contract speculation begins

Gophers football coach Glen Mason has entertained leaving the ‘U' before, and now his athletic director is talking about another extension to a contract that still has some time remaining. See what Joel Maturi has to say.

Head coach Glen Mason has raised the bar at Minnesota.

After losing the regular-season finale at Iowa, Minnesota finished the regular season with a 9-3 mark. While the victory total matched the Gophers' all-time high, there was a tinge of disappointment after the loss.

Still, athletic director Joel Maturi understands the big picture and wants to make sure that Mason will stay with the Gophers for the foreseeable future. The coach has three years left on a seven-year deal, but Maturi is ready to discuss another extension.

"I need to know what are his thoughts," Maturi told the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

"What does he believe can be accomplished here? What does he think that he needs to accomplish what he wants to accomplish? There are some limitations. I can't make our budget No. 5 [in the Big Ten] tomorrow.

"I don't feel there's a lack of commitment on our part. But we do have some limitations that some other people don't have. He knows what they are, but are they so significant that we can't overcome them? That's the discussion we have to have."

If Mason does sign a contract extension, it might not include a buyout clause should another school make him a better offer.

"We have never had the need to put one of those clauses in around here and I don't know that I want to," Maturi said. "What's the point. If your coach wants to be somewhere else, it's probably not a good idea to force him to stay."

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: QB Asad Abdul-Khaliq showed plenty of heart in rebounding from a left shoulder injury to throw for 388 yards in the loss at Iowa. With a month to rest and prepare, look for Abdul-Khaliq to be in top form when the Gophers play in their bowl game.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The Gopher defense plays with great effort, but is not good enough to overcome a bad day by the offense. Defensive backs Eli Ward and Justin Isom can make a few key plays, but they can't do it series after series.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Yes and no. I know that the outcome of our season should be better. I wanted more for this team ... knowing we were capable of it." — Minnesota QB Asad Abdul-Khaliq on whether the team's 9-3 record was disappointing.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: RB Laurence Maroney — The freshman is an absolute burner who sits at 990 rushing yards with a bowl game to play. Once he gets 10 yards, Minnesota will have five players on their active roster who have run for 1,000 yards or more. Terry Jackson, Marion Barber, Thomas Tapeh and Asad Abdul-Khaliq have already done it. No team has ever had more than three active 1,000-yard rushers prior to the Gophers.

RB Marion Barber — The team's No. 1 running back has been sensational most of the season. He has 17 rushing TDs and has continuously rewarded head coach Glen Mason for making him the top running back in the deep stable.

INJURY IMPACT: TE Ben Utecht should be fine when the Gophers line up to play their bowl game. ... RB Marion Barber suffered a pulled muscle in the stomach-groin area in the regular season finale.

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