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No Home Sellouts for Gophers in 2014

November 21, 2014 - (0) comments


In six seasons at TCF Bank Stadium the Gophers are averaging about the same per game attendance they had in the last half dozen years at the Metrodome.

The stadium opened in 2009 as the new on-campus home for Gophers football.  During six years playing in the $288.5 million outdoor facility, the Gophers are averaging 48,389 fans per game.  From 2003-2008 the average at the dome was 48,950.

The lure of a new stadium and sitting outdoors boosted attendance in 2009 with all seven games selling out in the 50,805 seat facility.  During the five years since, the per game averages starting with 2010 are 49,513, 47,714, 46,637, 47,797 and 47,865.

This year stadium capacity was increased to 52,525 to accommodate the Vikings who are using the facility for home games in 2014 and 2015.  The Gophers didn’t sell out a single game this fall, although the announced crowd of 51,241 for Purdue came close.  Minnesota has sold out only four games since 2009.

Annual attendance is impacted by several factors including the box office appeal of the Gophers and their opponents.  Also factoring in are the number of tickets sold in the off-season including public and student season tickets.  Other variables are ticket prices, weather and times of day for kickoffs, with mid-afternoon and evening games more popular than 11 a.m. starts.

When cold and snow arrive on game week it’s an easy decision for fence-sitting fans to stay home and watch the Gophers on high definition television.  Last Saturday’s game against No. 8 ranked Ohio State might have attracted 55,000 to 60,000 at the dome but an announced crowd of 45,778 was the lowest for a Gophers’ Big Ten home game this year.

Nice weather in September and October is when TCF Bank Stadium is most attractive to fans who can not only sit outside but also enjoy the tailgating experience in nearby areas.  The Gophers drew their largest consecutive crowds this year on October 11 and 18 when 49,051 watched the Northwestern game and 51,241 saw Purdue.

The Gophers played on campus and outdoors at Memorial Stadium from 1924 through 1981.  The first six seasons at the dome saw a big jump in attendance with the Gophers averaging 54,898 fans.  In the six prior years at Memorial Stadium the average was 40,872.

The Metrodome capacity for Gophers football was 64,172 from 1991-2008. Capacity at Memorial Stadium was 56,652 from 1970-1981.

Worth Noting 

Fans concerned about cold temperatures and outdoor seating during the Prep Bowl today and tomorrow at TCF Bank Stadium have an indoor option.  For $50 there is admission to the stadium’s indoor club.  More at

The Prep Bowl has four games today and three tomorrow in various classes.  Among the matchups is tonight’s 7 p.m. Class 6A state title game between defending champion Eden Prairie and Totino-Grace.  All games are televised on KSTC.

Among those cheering for the Gophers at Saturday’s game in Lincoln against the Cornhuskers will be University of Minnesota president Eric Kaler who is a major supporter of athletics.

Cameron Botticelli

Cameron Botticelli

The Gophers, despite their loss last Saturday to Ohio State, are still in contention to win the Big Ten’s West Division with two games remaining on their schedule. Senior defensive tackle Cameron Botticelli said the Gophers’ loss to OSU, 9-1 overall and 6-0 in the Big Ten, isn’t quickly forgotten as Minnesota prepared this week for Nebraska.

“There’s going to be a special fervor in practice this week in getting ready because of falling short on Saturday, and because of where this program can go still in the season,” he said.

The Gophers, 7-3 overall and 4-2 in the Big Ten, play a Nebraska team and West Division rival that is 8-2 and 4-2.  It will be Nebraska’s last home game and the Cornhuskers will recognize their seniors as they did two years ago when they beat up on the Gophers in Lincoln by a score of 38-14.

Botticelli said the fans can be loud at Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium and he remembers the noise of two years ago.  He described the energy as “electric.”

“You can feel the vibrations in your body,” he said.  “That makes communication a little difficult for offenses and defenses alike.  But nonetheless I feed off that energy. …”

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer on whether he learned anything about Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers earlier this season when Green Bay won 42-10:  “No, I’ve played him a few times in the past. …He’s pretty steady doing what he does.  He’s pretty good.”

Rodgers is the face of the Packers’ franchise and that’s a role rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater wants to play for the Vikings.  Zimmer, whose team plays the Packers at TCF Bank Stadium on Sunday, was asked if that’s something Bridgewater can potentially achieve in his first season.

“Well, I’d be glad to let him do it instead of me,” Zimmer said.  “…It’s hard for a young guy when you come in the middle of the year and you start playing but I believe he will be the face of the franchise.  He can actually do all of these press conferences from now on.  I’d be ecstatic to let him do them instead of me.”

Glenn Caruso

Glenn Caruso

St. Thomas coach Glenn Caruso has the Tommies in the Division III playoffs for the fifth time in six years.  But the 8-2 Tommies will need to stage an upset in Waverly, Iowa, tomorrow to defeat 10-0 Wartburg—a team that is 2-0 against the MIAC this season with wins over both Augsburg and Bethel.

Saint John’s (9-1), the other MIAC team in the football playoffs, hosts St. Scholastica (10-0) in Collegeville tomorrow and the Johnnies are likely to win.  Victories by the two MIAC schools will match them against one another on November 29.  Earlier this season the Johnnies defeated St. Thomas 24-14 in front of a UST-record crowd of 12,483.  This fall Saint John’s won the school’s 32nd MIAC football championship and first since 2009.

Former Gophers basketball player Austin Hollins plays for a pro team in France but is sidelined with a fractured toe, according to Mo Walker.  Hollins and Walker, a Gophers senior this season, text each other.

Ex-Gopher and Minneapolis native Al Nolen is operating basketball camps and giving private lessons in the metro area, according to a Tuesday story in the Minnesota Daily.  His company is the Al Nolen Elite Basketball Skills Training.

The Division III St. Thomas men’s basketball team will pursue a record 10th consecutive MIAC title this season.  The Tommies are already 2-0 in nonconference games and have a 74-52 exhibition win over Division II nationally-ranked Minnesota State.  Coach John Tauer’s Tommies open league play against Gustavus on December 3.

The WCHA has four men’s teams ranked in the top 20 poll of including No. 1 Michigan Tech.  The Gophers, No. 1 before the season started, have slipped to No. 4 and are the only Big Ten team in this week’s rankings.

Tom Lynn was among the first employees of the Wild’s operations staff when the Minnesota NHL franchise started.  Passionate fans of the franchise will be interested in his book, The Inside Story of the First Nine Years of the Minnesota Wild.  The book is available in paperback, Nook and Kindle formats.


Listen Up: It’s Bud Grant Talking

November 19, 2014 - 1 Comment


At age 87 Bud Grant is still making news.  The Hall of Fame coach and outdoorsman was honored with a statue in Winnipeg this fall and there are plans to name a street after him near the new downtown Vikings stadium.  Sports Headliners caught up with Grant between hunting trips and put some seldom asked questions in front of him.  Known for his common sense and dry wit, the Minnesota legend talked about various subjects including new Vikings coach Mike Zimmer, NFL rule changes, heroes and stars, and what he wants for Christmas.

Grant grew up in Superior, Wisconsin and went into the Navy out of high school.  He was an All-American end for the Gophers in 1949 when coach Bernie Bierman had a great team.  Grant later played both pro football and basketball.  In 1957, at age 30, he became head coach of the CFL’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers and made them champions.  He took over as Vikings head coach in 1967, leading the franchise to 11 division titles and four Super Bowls in 18 seasons.

Here is an edited version of last week’s interview with Grant.

My first impression of new Vikings coach Mike Zimmer:  “He’s very intense.  He’s very organized and very demanding, I am sure.  I think the players have seconded that.  You better give him your full attention.”

My thoughts about cold and windy weather and outdoor football this time of year:  “Weather is a great equalizer.  You can have certain skills either in the kicking game, in the passing game, the catching game, and running game, but wind, cold, rain or snow can reduce any advantages you may have in those departments because the ball takes funny bounces…(and) what not.  I always felt that if the other team was better, we wanted bad weather.  If we felt we were better than they were, we wanted good weather.”

Bud Grant in coaching days.

Bud Grant in coaching days.

If there was a secret to my coaching success it was:  “Well, I was born with a horseshoe in my back pocket.  You gotta be lucky.  The football is not shaped round.  It takes funny bounces. I’ve always said I’d rather be lucky than good anytime.”

A couple of coaches I have long admired:  “Paul Brown, of course, because I happened to play for him when I was in the Navy at Great Lakes (training station).  That was the first time I had been in that kind of an organization where we had notebooks and we studied—organized football at a degree that I hadn’t seen done before.  Paul Brown was an innovator of football, and there aren’t many innovators anymore.  There are a lot of copiers.  The innovators were the Paul Browns and George Halases and people like that.  I think one of the modern day most successful coaches was Chuck Noll, who just passed away recently.  I thought he did a great job with a lot of great players and kept that team together for years in Pittsburgh—always a power when Chuck Knoll was coaching.”

My lasting memory of former Gophers football coach Bernie Bierman: “He was a Marine.  He brought Marine-type training to the Gophers (late 1940s).  We were in great shape, I will say that.  He was a more endearing person after you played for him than when you were playing for him.  We (the Vikings) played in San Diego one day and he came over to the game…and he was a warmer, more endearing person at that time than he ever was when he was coaching—very, very demanding.”

Maybe the two or three greatest players I ever saw: “One of the things that you have to be careful about if you’ve been in this business, you’re beholding to so many great players that played with you or for you, that it’s hard to single them out.  On the other hand on the opposing side, I think Walter Payton was probably as good a player as we had in this league.”

The one thing I would like to change about the NFL rules:  “How much time you got?  There are a lot of things I’d like to change in the rules.  One of the things is that victory formation.  Just to down the ball with two minutes to go and under is nothing.  People pay money to come see you play.  They don’t want to see you take a knee.  If you want to run out the clock, you should have to run a play, and if you don’t gain a yard, then time stops.  I think that would increase the entertainment value of any game.  (And) the fair catch, that’s a nothing play.  No entertainment value there.  They could copy the Canadian rule (fair catch not allowed).  The other thing is…kickoffs I think should have to be run (from the end zone).  You have to run the ball out, or you forfeit yardage.  If you down it in the end zone you get it on the five-yard line, otherwise you can run it out and gain whatever you can.”

My sports heroes: “Well, growing up Joe Louis was one of my first sports heroes because boxing was big in my younger days.  Then the Green Bay Packers were (heroes) as a team and Don Hutson, the great receiver for the Packers, was a hero of mine.  You didn’t have television.  So we had to read about these people.  I remember when Louis knocked out Max Schmeling…that was a highlight of my life at that time.”

Five famous people I would invite dinner:  “Teddy Roosevelt (for one).  He was an environmentalist and a great American.  It stumps me a little bit (who to invite) because I am not particularly a hero-worshipper other than early sports heroes.  There is a difference between a star and a hero.  Stars fade, heroes live forever.  Heroes are people who have done something heroic and their deeds go on forever.  I am more impressed with them than I am with athletic stars, movie stars and things like that.  They’re not heroes, they’re just stars.  I wish I could have known some of my early heroes like during the war.”

My favorite date activity with my girlfriend: “Probably companionship is the main thing at this stage of life.  You sit down and read the paper and have a good time together.  It isn’t like you gotta go dancing.”

I think I read once you’re not a very good dancer:  “Not only am I not good, I’ve never danced in my life.  I always was very shy (as a youth) and I never learned to dance.  I was too self-conscious and I was taller than most of the girls so I never learned how to dance—much to the chagrin of my wife.”

My favorite TV shows:  “I think they’d probably be like biographies and documentaries.  I am more interested in real things rather than fabricated or fantasy entertainment things.  I look more for things that are historical or biographical, or something that is real.  Certainly not all this shoot’em up stuff.  I don’t ever watch TV where there are murders involved.  I don’t think killing people is anything I can relate to.  I don’t find any entertainment in that at all.”

My worst personal habit:  “It used to be chewing gum but it’s not anymore.  After I saw myself on television chewing gum hard, I quit chewing.  That was my worst habit.  Oh, procrastination probably.  I don’t always make decisions—put it off as much as I can to make the right decisions.  That’s probably not a good habit, I don’t know.”

My favorite ice cream:  “Something with chocolate.  I eat ice cream any opportunity I get. When I was in high school they opened a Bridgeman’s in Superior, Wisconsin.  I couldn’t wait for them to open that store.”

My weight would go crazy if:  “I eat mostly fruits and vegetables. I am not a night eater. I am not a big eater.  As you get older, you eat less.  I don’t have a weight problem so I don’t know if I can answer that.”

All I want for Christmas:  “At my age, I want another year.  I am 87 now.  It’s a very enjoyable time.  Just give me another year.  I’ll take that.”


Vikings Offense: Frozen in Snowy Chicago

November 17, 2014 - (0) comments


The Vikings and Gophers lost games over the weekend.  Here’s what was learned:

Sunday’s loss to the Bears in snowy and cold Chicago on Sunday is a momentum changer for the Vikings, now 4-6, but doesn’t mean this team can’t hope to finish near .500 at season’s end.  However, it is time to write the obit about the fantasy of optimistic fans that the Purple can make the playoffs after the Vikings two-game winning streak ended against a struggling Bears team.

Playing the Packers, 7-3, next Sunday at TCF Bank Stadium will be a backbreaking challenge—and likely loss for the Vikings.  In “round one” in Green Bay on October 2, the Packers embarrassed the Vikings 42-10.  After next Sunday, the Vikings continue a three-game homestand against the Panthers (3-7-1) and Jets (2-8).

Those two games are certainly possible wins.  The Vikings could play competitively too in their last three games of the season—at the Lions (7-3) and Dolphins (6-4), and then home against the Bears (4-6).

But the offense can’t be missing-in-action like yesterday.  The Vikings had only 10 first downs and 243 total yards.  Their only touchdown in the 21-13 loss was set up by a 48-yard Andrew Sendejo run on a fake punt in the first half.

Trailing by eight points in the game’s closing minute, rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater couldn’t make enough big plays to tie the game.  Bridgewater, who led the Vikings to three come-from-behind wins earlier this season, threw a pass in the end zone that was intercepted to end the attempted comeback.

“Teddy Bridgewater is just simply trying to make a play that’s not there,” TV game analyst Rich Gannon said on CBS.  “Throwing the ball away would have been the answer. …A young player just making a rookie mistake.”

Bridgewater, though, played okay yesterday and needed more help from teammates.  His receivers often weren’t open and the offensive line was hardly at its best protecting him.

Miinnesota’s top receivers, Greg Jennings, Cordarrelle Patterson and Kyle Rudolph, combined for a total of four receptions.  The trio had 28 yards, with 24 coming from Patterson on two catches.

The Bears had two sacks, including one by former Vikings defense end Jared Allen who at times whizzed by offensive left tackle Matt Kalil.  It wasn’t a good day for Kalil who has been struggling all season and came into the game giving up more sacks than any left tackle in the NFL.

Kalil and his line mates need to improve their blocking if the drive for .500 is to become reality.  The Vikings gained only 96 yards rushing and the offense’s time of possession was a meager 21:22.

Adrian Peterson

Adrian Peterson

Obviously the Vikings miss All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson, and a hearing with the NFL this afternoon may lead to new developments regarding when he will play again.  But for now Peterson’s status remains in limbo and while his teammates want him back on the team it’s anyone’s guess whether ownership and franchise executives hold the same position.

The Bears’ time of possession was 38:38 and that number reflected Chicago’s offensive domination of 468 total yards.  If not for their own penalties and other mistakes, the Bears could have won by a bigger score.

Just like Kalil has been a recurring personnel problem, so too is 5-10 cornerback Josh Robinson.  Bears 6-4 wide receiver Brandon Marshall had two touchdown receptions over Robinson and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, 6-3, had another score against him.  But in fairness to Robinson, the Vikings might have provided more help for him with other pass defenders.

Bears quarterback Jay Cutler was 31 of 43 for 330 yards and used his tall receivers to exploit the Vikings.  Cutler threw often without pressure, consistently hurting the Vikings with short, timing passes on the perimeter and some long throws.  The Vikings had zero sacks.

And what about the Gophers?

After 10 games, including six in the Big Ten, the Golden Gophers have earned “membership” among the top five teams in the 14-team league.  Following a 51-14 domination of Iowa and competitive 31-24 loss last Saturday to No. 8 ranked Ohio State, the Gophers players and coaches deserve heartfelt props.

Ohio State, Michigan State, Wisconsin—and perhaps Nebraska—are better teams but the Gophers rate at least a solid No. 5 in the Big Ten.  This is a good program—built on defense and special teams—and the best Gophers’ product since the 2003 team that was 10-3 overall, 5-3 in league games.

Ohio State is the gold standard in the Big Ten and the Buckeyes brought superior personnel to TCF Bank Stadium, but the Gophers kept the game close and might have won if not for their errors.  “We don’t make those mistakes, it’s a different ball game,” Gophers head coach Jerry Kill said on the KFAN-FM postgame show.

Kill suggested on the radio that “three-quarters” of the Buckeyes key players will play in the NFL.  The OSU win streak in regular season Big Ten games is now 22 and the team has a national best 13 consecutive road victories.

Jerry Kill

Jerry Kill

Kill is 8-4 in his last 12 Big Ten games.  He’s picking up converts and believers in his program all the time—and he should.  Admittedly, the Gophers still have “warts” including a passing game that can’t go on indefinitely performing as it did last Saturday (7 of 19 completions, 85 yards) but there’s no reason to believe that by next season Kill won’t fix that problem, too.

The Gophers, 7-3 overall and 4-2 in the Big Ten, are contending for the West Division championship.  Minnesota will play its last two games on the road—against division rivals Nebraska, 4-2, and Wisconsin, 5-1.  If the Gophers could surprise their doubters and win both those games they will become West Division champions and advance to the Big Ten Championship Game on December 6 in Indianapolis.  “I’ll tell you what, who knows what’s going to happen?” said Kill on the radio.  “Everybody’s gotta play each other.”

Iowa, 4-2, is also in the division race and the Hawkeyes’ remaining home games are with Wisconsin and Nebraska.  Wisconsin must play at Iowa before having the Gophers come to Madison, and so four teams are in contention to determine the division champion during the next two Saturdays.  If  Iowa and Minnesota were to win their remaining games, the two teams would be division co-champs but the Gophers will advance to Indy because they have a tiebreaker win over the Hawkeyes.

Announced attendance at the game last Saturday was 45,778.  Capacity at TCF Bank Stadium is 52,525 and there were thousands of empty seats on a day when it was snowing and the temp at kickoff was 15 degrees.  With a top 10 opponent and the Gophers coming off the big win over Iowa on November 8, this game could have attracted 55,000 to 60,000 fans in the old Metrodome.

There’s just no shaking road work season in the metro area.  Highway 100 was closed north and south between I-394 and Highway 62 on Saturday.  Traffic piled up on I-35W and Highway 169, partially because of the closure and also the snow.

Bah Humbug!


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