University of Minnesota

Gophers 1979-85
(Authentic Reproduction)





There was a minor alteration to the existing helmet and a major change in the head coaching chair of the Gophers. For 1979 the maroon helmet that had been introduced in 1977 was improved, this time with yellow facemasks that contrasted well with the maroon shells, replacing the time-honored gray ones. “Smoky” Joe Salem, the back-up QB to Sandy Stephens on the 1960 National Championship team, and successful head coach at South Dakota and Northern Arizona Universities, took the head job. Notable on his staff was offensive coordinator Mike Shanahan who would go on to the head coaching job at the Raiders and Broncos. Salem cranked up the offense and QB Mark Carlson finished his senior season with 2188 passing yards. Garry White became the backfield’s big gun, contributing 1021 all-purpose yards while Marion Barber swung out of the backfield to catch twenty-five passes. All Big Ten receiver Elmer Bailey continued his development and then played with the Dolphins in ’80-1981 and the Colts in ’82. The 264 offensive points was a new school record in this 4-6-1 season, but the defense came apart late in the year. 1980 was scuttled as the Golden Gophers led the conference in fumbles and penalties and the team finished at 5-6-1. RB’s Barber and White completed their careers as Minnesota’s number-one and two all time rushers and both were All Conference picks, Barber for the third time. His career mark was 3087 yards and he had a number of good seasons with the Jets. His son later came to Minnesota and starred as a RB before turning pro. Chester Cooper was a top target for QB Tim Salem, the coach’s son who competed for the starting spot. Salem later transferred to Arizona State and followed in the coaching footsteps of his father as a QB coach and offensive coordinator at a number of major college programs. Currently he is the offensive coordinator at Central Florida. DE Jeff Schuh anchored an improved defense and then played LB for the Bengals for five seasons.


1981 saw JC transfer QB Mike Hohensee throw for 444 yards in a huge upset over Ohio State and he finished the season with 2412 passing yards and new school records of 182 completions and twenty TD throws. WR Cooper became the first Minnesota receiver to top 1000 receiving yards and the protection up front was provided by tough guard Randy Rasmussen and All Conference OT Ken Dallafoir who had a lengthy NFL career with the Steelers, Chargers, and Lions. The 6-5 record could have been better if injuries hadn’t weakened the defense although Augustana College transfer DT Karl Mecklenberg and All Big Ten choice LB Jim Fahnhorst played well. QB Hohensee completed his career in ‘82 on a high note, setting a number of records and then became the QB of the USFL Washington Federals before heading to the CFL with Ottawa and Toronto. He gained notoriety among trivia buffs after filling in as a Bears’ replacement player in ’87, when he joined the Arena League Pittsburgh Gladiators and threw the first TD pass in Arena history! Hohensee served as the very successful head coach of the AFL Chicago Rush. Though Hohensee did well, the squad could do no better than 3-8. They moved into the newly built indoor Metrodome and opened at 3-0 but then dropped eight in a row. Despite the play of DT Mecklenberg who became an outstanding member of the Denver Broncos defense for twelve seasons, LB’s Fahnhorst and Peter Najarian, and a secondary that led the Big Ten in pass defense, the defensive yield was thirty-plus points in five of their contests.


1983 saw the introduction of seven new assistant coaches to try to turn things around, but the post-spring ball period found numerous injuries and defections plaguing the team. The season was a disaster as the defense allowed 4951 yards and the offense gave up thirty lost fumbles and twenty-five interceptions. Rasmussen continued to play well and had a four year pro career with the Steelers and Vikings. Fahnhorst was steady and became a valued LB on the great Forty Niner teams of the mid and late-‘80’s but little else was positive and after finishing at 1-10, Salem was fired. Salem went into private business in his native South Dakota. The dynamic Lou Holtz was brought in from Arkansas and had an immediate rejuvenating effect on the entire program, bringing them a winning record and an invitation to the Independence Bowl in 1985 but he then bolted for Notre Dame. Eventually Glen Mason would be hired in 1997 and the Gophers became a consistent bowl team and turned out many NFL stars. In 2007, Tim Brewer was hired and with his positive and enthusiastic approach, great things are expected in the new era of Minnesota football despite a rocky beginning.

If interested in any of these Minnesota helmets please click on the photos below.