The Vikings are going through Organized Team Activities at Winter Park this week and head coach Mike Zimmer has a message for the team this spring. The Vikings won their first NFC North title in six years last fall, and the football world is predicting more success in 2016, but today Zimmer cautioned “let’s not try to be someone else.”
Zimmer has stressed work ethic and toughness since he was hired as Vikings head coach after the 2013 season. His first team was 7-9 and often inconsistent in multiple ways including effort. Last fall the Vikings took a major step, earning an 11-5 regular season record and that division title before losing a first-round playoff game to the Seahawks.
Zimmer knows his players hear during the off-season how the team is “going to be good” but the words he spoke today while meeting with the media were to remind everyone the Vikings are expected to play hard and not be their own worst enemy with miscues. “We’re a blue-collar team that works hard and doesn’t make a lot of mistakes,” he said. …
Representatives of multiple organizations, including the Vikings, scored “points” yesterday with a knockout preview of the culinary scene planned for the new U.S. Bank Stadium opening this summer. In a presentation to the media, speakers promoted concepts and offerings that emphasize local partners and quality food.
TV personality Andrew Zimmern said U.S. Bank Stadium is going to “serve the best food” in a facility he predicted will be the “single greatest on the planet.” Andrew Zimmern’s Canteen and his AZC Rotisserie will be on the roster of U.S. Bank Stadium offerings as will Minneapolis-based purveyors such as Ike’s, Revival, and Spoon and Stable.
Michele Kelm-Helgen, chair of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, told Sports Headliners pricing hasn’t been determined but predicted it will be similar to food sold at Target Field and Target Center. “It will stay in line (with those facilities),” she predicted.
Interestingly, the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium opening in Atlanta in 2017 has already announced concession prices that will be a hit with Falcons fans. According to a May 23 story on Falcons.com, offerings will include $2 hot dogs, popcorn and bottled water; $3 nachos, peanuts, and pizza; and $5 12-ounce domestic beer. …
The Vikings have about 2,000 seats remaining in their personal seat licenses inventory for the new stadium, team executive Lester Bagley told Sports Headliners. They have sold approximately 47,000 seat licenses.
Single game ticket sales for 2016 begin in mid-June for the 66,200 seat U.S. Bank Stadium. …
The Twins announced today they have selected the contract of left-handed pitcher Buddy Boshers from Triple-A Rochester. Boshers, who was signed by the Twins as a minor league free agent last December, was 1-0 with a 1.42 ERA in 15 relief appearances for the Red Wings this season.
The Twins have placed outfielder Darin Mastroianni on the 15-day disabled list with a left oblique strain (retro to May 22). The club has transferred left-handed pitcher Glen Perkins to the 60-day disabled list. He was placed on the disabled list April 13 (retro to April 11) with a left posterior shoulder strain. …
It’s still not confirmed whether Apple Valley High School star shooting guard Gary Trent Jr. will return to the program for his senior season. Sources have said Trent and his father have been considering other schools. The goal might be that during 2016-2017 he could be more challenged in practice playing against elite players. National prep power Findlay Prep in Henderson, Nevada has a reputation for rosters with highly recruited players and has been rumored as a preferred place for Trent.
“It does seem like Trent Jr. and Sr. want to find a situation that works for them but I have no confirmation if they have found it,” Jadee Jones told Sports Headliners.
Jones is an assistant on the Apple Valley varsity and he expects a decision by the Trents in June after school is finished. He said with or without Trent, the Eagles expect to have a strong team next season. “I do think we have what it takes to be competitive in the state tournament,” he said.
Jones is the older brother of Apple Valley point guard Tre Jones and also Tyus Jones who plays the same position for the Timberwolves. Tre will be a junior at Apple Valley next season and is regarded as one of the better point guard prospects in the national class of 2018.
Jadee said Tre has shown progress in his game even since Apple Valley’s season ended in March, and he has added about eight pounds to increase his strength. Tre is now 6-2 and about 175 pounds. Jadee said he sees a “noticeable difference” in his brother’s ball handling and physicality this spring.
Tre, however, is inactive for awhile after breaking the thumb on his right hand. He will wear a cast for almost four more weeks.
Tyus is spending the month in Anaheim where training and medical professionals are helping him to improve, Jadee said. Evaluations and training are focused on helping the 20-year-old move better and be more explosive. Jadee said Tyus cancelled off-season leisure travel plans to improve his physical development. …
The Gophers’ opening Big Ten Tournament baseball game in Omaha against Iowa is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. tonight and will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network. Regular season champion Minnesota is the No. 1 seed in the tourney, while the Hawkeyes are No. 8.
In Big Ten games the Gophers finished 16-7 and led the conference in hitting with a .304 batting average, and also in home runs with 21. Minnesota was third in team ERA at 2.99. …
Gophers fans can follow the progress of the Athletes Village construction project at NothingShortOfGreatness.com. …
Former Gopher football player Mark Smith and his Presnap Training Academy is now in its eighth year. Counselors include ex-Gophers Lewis Garrison, Rickey Foggie, and Jay Thomas. Academy sessions are at Eastview High School in Apple Valley. More at Presnapfootball.com. …
Minnesota Wild players Erik Haula, Zach Parise, Jason Pominville, Nate Prosser, Jared Spurgeon and Jason Zucker will sign autographs tomorrow at the BMO Harris Bank at 5050 France Ave. South in Edina. They will be available from 3 to 4 p.m. to raise money for people affected by the devastating spring wildfires around Fort McMurray in Alberta, Canada.
Starting at 2 p.m. tomorrow, the first 300 fans donating $50 (only cash or credit card) will receive a ticket for one autograph from each of the six players. All proceeds from the event will go to the Red Cross to support those affected by the wildfires.
Spurgeon’s wife, Danielle, is one of thousands impacted by the fires in Alberta. Her parents lost their home to a fire in west Edmonton earlier this month. …
For the ninth consecutive school year the St. Thomas men and women are the MIAC’s All-Sports champions. During 2015-2016, St. Thomas won 15 conference championships—nine women’s titles and six men’s—and finished as the runner-up in three other sports. This is the 30th all-sports championship for the St. Thomas men, and 25th for the women. …
The Lynx, 3-0 this season, play the Mercury, 0-3, in Phoenix tonight in the first of eight televised games by Fox Sports North. Although the Lynx is the defending league champ, WNBA general managers predicted in a poll this month the Mercury will win the 2016 title.
There has been no more vocal critic of University of Minnesota athletics than Jim Carter, but the former Gophers football captain acknowledged that school president Eric Kaler and new athletic director Mark Coyle have reached out to him.
Carter was unhappy about Kaler not placing him on the search committee to select the athletic director, despite having a landslide number of nominations from friends and contacts. An advocate for excellence, Carter has criticized University administrators for not creating a winning culture, and has been angry with a series of embarrassments in the athletic department including the job performances of departed athletic director Norwood Teague and men’s basketball coach Richard Pitino.
About two weeks ago Kaler announced Coyle as his choice to succeed interim AD Beth Goetz. The day of the announcement, and prior to holding the news conference, Kaler called Carter. “(Kaler) said they hired a superstar,” Carter told Sports Headliners. “Those are his words, and (he) asked me to greet the new man warmly.
“Then a couple days after Coyle got the job he was nice enough to call, which I was impressed with. I would expect it if a guy was good…he would call the people like me that have voiced lots of disagreement with Kaler and with the way the athletic department is being run. …
“So he did reach out to say let’s get together for a cup of coffee. Wanted to introduce himself over the phone. I congratulated him on getting the job, and I would guess that we’ll get together and get a chance to meet in person.”
The Coyle hire has been applauded by fans, media and others. The 47-year-old Iowa native has an impressive background in athletics administration that includes stops at Boise State, Kentucky and Syracuse. He was the AD at both Boise and Syracuse, and while at Kentucky reportedly helped raise more than $140 million. Before going to those schools Coyle worked in the Gophers athletic department with responsibilities that included marketing, licensing and sponsorships.
“I am sure he is a talented guy,” Carter said. “As you know, I was favoring hiring a person not in the (college athletic director) ranks, or working their way up as assistant AD. I would have much preferred an M man (U letter winner) …somebody that has been in (private) business.
“Having said all that, this looks like a good candidate. We’ll see. It’s still early on. What he (Coyle) does with that Pitino thing, I think we’ll know right away.”
Pitino is under intense scrutiny because of off-court incidents involving his players, and a school worst ever Big Ten record last season of 2-16. Before Kaler introduced Coyle at the news conference he spoke about how “profoundly disappointed” he is with the basketball program.
Don’t Expect Kill to Replace K-State Coach
Former Gophers football coach Jerry Kill starts his new job as an administrator, assisting with the Kansas State football program in July. As associate athletic director, Kill’s job will be to help the program any way he can including directly for legendary head coach Bill Snyder.
Snyder will be 77 in October. Could Kill some day replace him?
“I don’t want to coach (again),” Kill told Sports Headliners on Friday. “It’s not worth the risk.”
The risk, of course, is Kill’s health including his fight with epilepsy. Health issues prematurely ended his era (2011-2015) as Gophers coach last fall. He rebuilt the Gophers into a respected Big Ten program that had various highlights including taking his 2014 team to its first New Year’s Day Bowl game since 1962.
Asked about Power Five Conference offers to coach elsewhere when he was with Minnesota, Kill said there were “one or two” jobs he could have had. Kill didn’t identify those schools but one might have been Nebraska after coach Bo Pelini was let go following the 2014 season.
Carter is among those who believe Nebraska did have conversations with the Gophers coach. If true, Kill turned down the Cornhuskers out of loyalty to Minnesota. That loyalty remains in place toward new Gophers head coach Tracy Claeys, his assistants and players. Kill refers to them as “my guys” and said it will be a “passion” for him to help the program whenever he can.
Carter knows Kill well and while voicing his own perspective didn’t dismiss the possibility the 54-year-old Kansas native might one day find circumstances different than now and want to coach. “…Kill hasn’t indicated any different to me than he has (said) publicly and to the press. He said the same thing, that he is done coaching.
“It’s my personal opinion that Kill is through and through a head football coach. It would not surprise me to see him coach again, and even at the Power Five Conference level because he is a young man and he’s got a lot of energy. If his health keeps continuing to be good, it would not surprise me to see him be a head coach again.”
These days Kill is enjoying a more relaxed schedule than the nearly 24-7 grind he had as Gophers coach and fundraiser for the athletic department. He pays close attention to his diet and exercise routine. He is even playing golf for the first time in 14 years.
Kill is keeping his office open in Minneapolis for the Chasing Dreams Fund through the Epilepsy Foundation, and will return to Minnesota in a few months to promote a new book about his life. Kill’s daughter Krystal lives in the metro area so there are multiple reasons for him to come up this way. “It’s only a seven hour drive from Manhattan to the Twin Cities,” he said.
Kill will keep a connection to Minnesota, and that’s good news for his many friends and admirers.
Dr. Bill McGuire isn’t sure he wants to pursue a new soccer stadium for Minnesota if state lawmakers don’t help with his plan. He also told Sports Headliners Wednesday Major League Soccer (MLS) may not allow him to start and operate a franchise in 2017 without the promise of a new stadium within a couple of years.
McGuire and St. Paul officials want to see the construction of a soccer stadium in the city’s Midway district. The facility could be the home for a MLS franchise by 2018 if the Minnesota Legislature approves an ongoing exemption from property taxes and a one-year exemption on sales tax for stadium construction materials. The stadium is to be privately financed but McGuire and St. Paul officials insist tax exemptions are necessary to make the facility a reality. Speculation has been the best chance for legislative approval will come by including the initiative in an omnibus tax bill but even that is uncertain so late in the session.
McGuire owns the Minnesota United franchise that currently operates in the (lower level) North American Soccer League. McGuire has invested considerable time and money working on a stadium and a move to the MLS. With no legislative approval yet and lawmakers adjourning Monday, McGuire was asked what happens to his aspirations if the St. Paul stadium deal isn’t approved.
“That would become very problematic on retaining the franchise for Minnesota,” he answered. “I think there would be a significant issue on that …”
The MLS, operating with 20 teams this season, has plans to add Atlanta and Minnesota in 2017. If the league sees no action from Minnesota for a new stadium, that could open the way for Sacramento to join the MLS with Atlanta next year, McGuire said.
The former UnitedHealth Group executive who bought the United soccer franchise in 2012 said the MLS “wants to bring teams in in pairs” and believes the league could drop Minnesota. McGuire said “I don’t know about that” when asked if he would pursue a stadium in the Twin Cities if no approval comes from the state before adjournment Monday.
If Minnesota does have a MLS franchise next year, McGuire will decide whether to have the team play at TCF Bank Stadium or Target Field. Because of so many Twins games, he said it’s more likely his club will play at TCF Bank Stadium, the home of Gophers football.
But that temporary home in 2017 is tied to the future of a new soccer stadium in St. Paul. McGuire said if the MLS isn’t in his future, he will continue with the NASL. The United plays its games this year at the National Sports Center in Blaine.
Congratulations to Jay Pfaender who was honored at a Recognition Reception Tuesday at Drake Bank in St. Paul. The banking executive and former Mankato State tennis player has been a booster of volunteer organizations and a strong advocate for the city of St. Paul. The city proclaimed Tuesday “Jay Pfaender Mr. St. Paul Day.”
Timberwolves president Chris Wright said the franchise has sold about 350 full season tickets since announcing last month Tom Thibodeau will be the new head coach. The .647 winning percentage he compiled when he was the Bulls head coach ranks seventh in NBA history (minimum 200 games).
You can be sure a lot of University of Minnesota loyalists are upset that administrators at the school didn’t offer Jerry Kill a high-level position in the Athletic Department mentoring coaches and student-athletes. Instead, it was announced this week Kill will be working for the Kansas State Athletic Department as an associate athletic director. Former Gophers football captain Jim Carter emailed friends with critical words for the U including this: “Jerry Kill took a job with Kansas State. … The best thing that happened to Gopher football since Murray Warmath just headed off to Kansas!”
Joe Christensen reported in the Star Tribune Monday that Gophers redshirt junior Ryan Santoso will replace the departed Peter Mortell as the team’s punter. Santoso averaged 39.26 yards per punt as a high school senior in Pace, Florida. The 6-6, 245-pound Santoso was Minnesota’s field goal specialist last season.
Pete Najarian, the CNBC TV personality and former Gophers linebacker from Minneapolis who still makes his home in Minnesota, rearranged his schedule to speak to the CORES group last week in Bloomington. Among those in attendance were his parents and daughter Alexis who is on the track team at Nebraska.
CORES emcee Dick Jonckowski and wife Arlene celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary April 30.
Although the final date hasn’t previously been announced, a high school all-star football game featuring some of the state’s best seniors will start at 3 p.m. December 3 in U.S. Bank Stadium. A youth football clinic will precede the game. The game will be the first of its kind in the new stadium and is organized by the Minnesota Football Coaches Association. The group is also sponsoring its annual all-star game in St. Cloud June 25, with participants who were prep football seniors last fall.
WCHA men’s commissioner Bill Robertson, whose career experiences include working for teams in Major League Baseball, the NBA and NHL, is someone new Gophers athletic director Mark Coyle should consider for a staff leadership position. Robertson, a St. Paul native, not only has an exceptional communications and marketing skill-set, but he also has extensive relationships in this area.
The 36th annual Hobey Baker banquet will be June 2 in St. Paul at 317 on Rice Park. The event will recognize 2016 Hobey Baker winner Jimmy Vesey of Harvard, and Legend of College Hockey award recipient Bill Selman. The banquet date was moved from May 26 to June 2 because the May date conflicted with Vesey’s graduation from Harvard.
Vesey has scored more goals, 56, than anyone in college hockey during the last two years. Selman is the only man to coach four different Division I college hockey programs (North Dakota, Minnesota-Duluth, St. Louis University and Lake Superior State).
Several past Hobey Baker winners will attend the June 2 banquet including past Harvard winners Mark Fusco,1983; Scott Fusco, 1986; and Lane MacDonald, 1989. Also attending will be former winners Brian Bonin, 1996; Jack Eichel, 2015; Jordan Leopold, 2002; Andy Miele, 2011; Marty Sertich, 2005; and Bill Watson, 1985.
Birthdays: Ex-Vikings coach Bud Grant is 89 today. Former Twin Justin Morneau was 35 last Sunday and current Twins second baseman Brian Dozier turned 29 that day. John Anderson, who won his 1,200th game as Gophers coach earlier this month, was 61 Monday.
Canterbury Park’s live horse racing season begins tonight with an estimated $14.2 million in purses at stake this year, the most ever for horsemen at the Shakopee track. The live meet, 69 days in total, runs through September 17.
The Tapemark Charity Pro-Am June 10-12 at Southview Country Club in West St. Paul expects several past champions to compete next month. The field includes last year’s champion Ryan Helminen who three times has won the tournament. Seven-time champ Don Berry and four-time winner Dave Tentis will also play. Other past champions expected to participate are Craig Brischke, Gophers golf coach John Carlson, and Jeff Sorenson. Sammy Schmitz, who played in the Masters last month, will also be at Southview for the tournament. (See the ad on the right-hand side of this page for a link to more Tapemark information including the women’s event where two-time titlist Martha Nause is playing.)