I have gone a couple of weeks without mentioning much about the Minnesota Gophers. The football team managed to lose twice in that period, but it was the first of the two losses - a disastrous, blow-it-at-the-end loss to Illinois - that really was the one that did it.

That day was the end. By the time the Gophers had Illinois down to their backup quarterback, and fourth down, with the Illini’s backs entirely up against the wall, you could almost have argued that Minnesota was the favorite to win the Big Ten West. Every other West team (save Iowa) had lost that day, and the Gophers seemingly had things under control: finish off the Illini, beat a bad Purdue team the following week, and later beat Wisconsin, and - assuming the awful Hawkeyes lost once more - the Gophers were going to the Big Ten title game!

Where they’d get utterly stomped, where they’d be at the mercy of Michigan or Ohio State, but at least they’d be there. At least the Gophers might, finally, have an accomplishment, in the Big Ten.

I’ve waited my entire lifetime for the Gophers to get their name on any list of Big Ten football accomplishments. They haven’t won a conference title since 1967, haven’t played in the Rose Bowl since 1961, haven’t had any sort of national-title ambitions since Lyndon Johnson was in the White House.

Even after the conference split into two divisions, starting in 2011, the Gophers haven’t even been able to rise to the top of a much smaller heap; they’ve played 13 seasons in the Legends or West division, but have never managed to earn the consolation prize of a division title, and a considerable beating in the conference title game.

And when they blew that game against Illinois, in classic Minnesota Gophers fashion, it felt like the perfect way to sum up the end of an era.

For nearly 60 years, the Gophers haven’t won anything in the Big Ten Conference. Now they have no chance to ever do so again.

As much as I’ve put into following Gopher football over my lifetime, I think I’m being realistic, rather than negative, to say that there is now a 0% chance of Minnesota winning the Big Ten in football.

Not with Michigan, Ohio State, USC, Washington, and Penn State in the conference, not to mention the lesser brands that the TV executives have been forced to accept in their quest to dismantle college football. Not with the ability for players to switch schools without penalty; not with more money flowing to players than ever before.

I have seen what this looks like, in the form of European soccer, which has long been similar to college football from a historical and logistical perspective. There is simply no chance for an also-ran team to suddenly get things together and win the title; it does not happen.

If you are currently thinking about Leicester City in 2016, then this just proves that you know how rare it is for a non-superclub to break through, in European soccer. You might as well wait for a meteor strike.

The lucky thing, I suppose, is that college football is already full of consolation prizes. Minnesota won’t ever lift a conference or national trophy again, but that doesn’t mean they won’t play for trophies: the Axe and the Pig and perhaps even the Jug or the Bell (or the Broken Chair?). Maybe even add another Insight Bowl trophy. So many trophies! I can’t believe that European soccer hasn’t thought of this yet.

But ultimately, that’s what Gopher football is now: rivalry games and bowl eligibility, and finishing in the top half of the conference. Ninth! Ninth is the new trophy!

If that seems hopeless to you, well, it kind of does to me too. The Gophers have always had little hope, but now they have none, and I’m not sure I’m ready for it - or, frankly, interested in it.

I’m sure, for fans of the top teams in college football, that this new era is going to be fun. With an expanded playoff, there will be more big games than ever, more chances to not only claim regional supremacy but play in - and win - what’s now the College Football Champions League.

But for Gopher fans, and plenty of other fans around college football, this is the end. It hasn’t been successful, and now it’s over.