The University of Minnesota announced that J Robinson will no longer be the coach of the Minnesota Gophers. The Hall of Fame member and winningest active coach is not going to get a parade or a farewell retirement party. No, he is leaving under a dark cloud. I have known J for 26 years and he had a lasting impact on my life. Having read a lot of things about him online and hearing other perspectives it is disheartening to see a person like J go out the way he is. There was no buyout, which means this could get real ugly, real fast. J now will have subpoena power if he chooses to move forward with a wrongful termination suit.
I could list all the accolades and accomplishments that JRob had while at Minnesota, but you can find that elsewhere. I would rather share my perspective on his impact as a coach and mentor to many and his impact on Minnesota wrestling as a whole.
One thing I do believe is that J always tried to have the best interest of his athletes in mind. He was a tough love kind of guy and believed that people make mistakes and that people can learn from those and become better for them. I also do not want to spout rainbows and unicorns and say J was the best human to ever walk the earth. Nobody is.
J the coach was tough and ornery at times. There was no easy way when it came to his approach and methods. He was hard on us but supportive. His military background clearly played a role in his wrestling philosophy and mental toughness was something he always tried to instill. He was the kind of coach you were not sure you liked at the time, but as you matured you could look back and realize what you learned from the man. The more people bought into what he was doing the more success the team started to find.
The success of his teams filtered down to the high school and youth levels and helped Minnesota become a “wrestling” state, so to speak. No, it is not Pennsylvania or Ohio but it is a top five state when it comes to the sport and is competitive at all levels nationally. Is J directly responsible for that? No of course not, he coached one team. But the pride he brought to the state trickled down to the other levels.
Why did J hang on for so long? That is a good question and one I am sure is being asked by many people. Many thought he would have retired after his last big class graduated in 2015. Minnesota is now coming off a terrible season, by Minnesota standards, and they are in search of new leadership. Leadership that will have to rebuild a program. A program J worked so hard to build. Some have said that this could become an Iowa State like situation and could take years to rebuild. Maybe, maybe not.
Where does Minnesota go from here? That is a good question. One I have no answer for.
J believed in accountability, in his last interview with WCCO he points out that he does not believe the school, athletics department or administration has any.
I would personally like to say “thank you” to J for what you taught me about life, wrestling and for your support over the years. I am sure where ever you go from here, you will be just as successful as you have been in the past.