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Gopher Great Given National Honor

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March 4, 2018


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Jerry Noyce, the retired Minneapolis business executive and former Gophers tennis coach who years ago should have been named the University of Minnesota’s athletic director, was honored recently when the The National Fitness Foundation announced its inaugural Honorary Board.

The Foundation is the official charity of the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness & Nutrition. The Honorary Board that was announced last week honors Noyce and 26 other former members of the Council—spanning the administrations of eight American presidents. Other honorees include track great Jackie Joyner-Kersee and legendary college wrestling coach Dan Gable. The Foundation said in a statement that “the new Honorary Board is designed to commemorate the dedicated service of proven health and fitness leaders.”

Noyce is humbled by the recognition. “It is really a wonderful honor and caps off my career in sports, health, fitness and athletics,” he said in an email.

Jerry Noyce

Noyce served on the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sport from 2006-2008. He was named to the volunteer organization by then President George W. Bush while heading up a nonprofit promoting health and wellness. Noyce was the first health and fitness industry representative appointed to the Council. In his Council membership role, he appeared at events and spoke on behalf of the President and Department of Health and Human Services.

An Illinois native, Noyce was an outstanding tennis player for the Gophers in the 1960s. As Minnesota’s men’s tennis coach from 1973-1988, he directed a program from last to first place in the Big Ten and saw all but three of his players earn degrees from the University. He established the Gophers as a conference power and in 1986 was recognized as Division I college tennis coach of the year.

Through the years Noyce had various business experiences including CEO and President of the Northwest Health Clubs. The clubs were founded by former Timberwolves owners Marv Wolfenson and Harvey Ratner. Noyce helped turn those Minneapolis-area facilities into one of the largest health club chains in the country.

With a resume of excellence in athletics and business, Noyce was a favorite more than once of Gopher loyalists to become Minnesota’s athletic director. He not only had career skills but also the charisma and personal relationships to become a power broker AD who saw the potential in Gopher athletics including the long floundering high profile sports of football and basketball.

Back in the 1990s it looked like Noyce would be hired as his alma mater’s athletic department boss. He had big plans for the department including resurrecting the football program that slumped badly after the departure of miracle-worker coach Lou Holtz in 1985. Noyce was planning to make a great coaching hire in football and he had the downtown Minneapolis business connections to help with any money that was needed to run a championship program. Although Noyce was a finalist for the AD job back then, he wasn’t hired.

In 2011 University regent Dave Larson was promoting Noyce’s name as the successor to athletic director Joel Maturi who was retiring. Instead, the U administration hired Norwood Teague who made questionable hires in the department, clashed with head football coach Jerry Kill, struggled with fundraising and resigned in 2015 amid sexual harassment complaints.

A favorite slogan in the athletic department these days is “Row the Boat,” but those that know will tell you the Gophers missed the boat when they didn’t hire Noyce who might have become the school’s best AD ever.

Worth Noting

Renewal notices have been sent out for Gopher basketball season tickets. It seems likely that even with some new sales, the public season total will be down next fall after the team’s disastrous 4-14 Big Ten record in 2017-2018. The athletic department sold about 7,100 public season tickets for this last season, including over 950 new tickets.

The Gophers averaged 11,850 fans per game in 17 home dates in 2017-2018, ranking 10th among 14 schools in the Big Ten. The prior season Minnesota averaged 10,308 and ranked 11th in Big Ten attendance. Minnesota’s Williams Arena has a capacity of 14,625.

Minneapolis-based Jostens, or Tiffany & Co., are expected to make the Super Bowl rings for the Eagles who defeated the Patriots last month at U.S. Bank Stadium. Jostens has produced most of the past rings including all of the Super Bowls won by the Patriots. “It’s a beauty contest,” an industry source said about the competition to design the most attractive ring and win the bid for production.

Jostens produced the new Jeff Sauer WCHA Championship Trophy to be awarded annually to the league’s postseason tournament winner starting this month. The trophy replaces the Broadmoor Cup and is named for Sauer, a Minnesota native and USA Hockey Hall of Fame coach. Sauer coached at two WCHA schools, Colorado College and Wisconsin, and is the league’s all-time winningest coach with 665 wins. Anderson’s Pure Maple Syrup is the corporate sponsor of the trophy that is more than three feet tall when on its base.

The roster for the Vegas Golden Knights, who early last month set an NHL expansion team record for wins, has been put together by general manager George McPhee who won the Hobey Baker Award in 1982. At that time the award was presented by the Decathlon Athletic Club in Bloomington and McPhee, a forward from Bowling Green, was recognized as the nation’s best college hockey player.

“One of the smartest hockey players I have ever been around,” said John Justice, a longtime local hockey enthusiast and in 1982 director of operations for the Hobey Baker Award.

Star Tribune columnist and WCCO Radio personality Sid Hartman will be 98 years old March 15.

Ervin Santana’s injured right finger has him out indefinitely, but with a lot of open dates in the first part of April the Twins might get away with using a four-man starting rotation for awhile.

Among the Twins’ promotions at Target Field this season will be June 8 Prince Night. Co-branded Prince-Twins caps will be given away in recognition of the Minneapolis entertainer who died in 2016.

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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