Is there a football version of Dick Bennett?

WITH THE FABLED case of Dick Bennett serving as the guidepost, one question looms: Are there unforeseen candidates Jim Sterk might pull into his search to replace Bill Doba? If you look at Bennett's reputation for building programs, his Midwestern bent and the fact he was retired at the time of his WSU hiring, there's one name that stands out when scanning the college football landscape.

Glen Mason, who took a mess at the University of Minnesota and built it into a program that earned seven bowl invitations in eight seasons, is the nearest thing to Dick Bennett that you'll find in the college coaching world. John L. Smith probably qualifies as a close second.

Mason offers particular intrigue, however, because he was able to win at two BCS conference schools where the Ws haven't traditionally been easy to come by.

A call to Mason to gauge his interest in the Washington State job wasn't returned as of press time.

The 57-year-old Mason spent this season as a Big Ten color commentator.

He is known nationally as a rebuilder who puts tough, well-coached teams on the field. His offenses are tailored around the talent he has, but staples over the years have tended to be a balance between the run and pass, emphasis on play-action, some one-back schemes, and creative trick plays.

In addition to his 10 seasons at Minnesota, Mason spent nine campaigns at Kansas, taking three seasons to rebuild a Jayhawks program that, when he arrived, was 0-for-its-last-15 in conference games and had just 50 players on scholarship.

From 1991-95 he guided Kansas to an unprecedented four winning seasons and two bowl games. In 1995 he led the Jayhawks to their best season in 90 years, going 10-2 and finishing No. 9 in the country. He was then hired away by Georgia but had a change of heart after accepting the post and returned to Kansas for one more year before heading to Minnesota.

When Mason arrived in Minneapolis, the Golden Gophers were coming off their sixth consecutive losing season. He won three games his first season, five his second and then eight in his third. The Gophers were a post-season fixture from that point on, and won 10 games in 2003.

While Minnesota was in the upper tier of the Big Ten for much of his tenure there, the pressure was on to beat Michigan and his alma mater, Ohio State. To compete with those programs year-in and year-out, he told administrators, would require a major investment in facilities – most notably a stadium on or near campus. The Gophers play their games at the Metrodome.

Mason was fired by Minnesota last season after losing in overtime to Texas Tech in the Insight.com Bowl.

His lifetime record, which also includes two seasons as head coach at Kent State, is 123-121-1.

Before becoming a head coach, he spent eight seasons as an assistant at Ohio State, first under Woody Hayes and then Earle Bruce. He was offensive coordinator for six seasons – four of which the Buckeyes led the Big Ten in scoring.

THE LONG ARM OF BALL U:
Mason received his bachelor's degree at Ohio State, but earned a master's at Ball State. Ball State is Doba's alma mater, as well as the alma mater of another guy whose name has been mentioned as a candidate for the Cougar coaching position: Brady Hoke, head coach of -- you guessed it, Ball State.


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