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Ex-Gopher Was U President Candidate

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December 7, 2018

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Although it hasn’t been reported, Minneapolis native and former Gophers linebacker Pete Najarian was a candidate to be the next President of the University of Minnesota. Najarian, who was co-captain of the 1985 Gophers, confirmed his candidacy to Sports Headliners during a telephone interview this week.

Najarian, who found success and fame nationally as an options trader, financial markets analyst and TV personality, didn’t seek the position that now has a sole finalist in University of South Carolina Provost Joan Gabel. “The fact that I was nominated was very flattering,” Najarian said.

Najarian loves the University and pursued the school’s athletic director’s position before it was filled in 2016 by Mark Coyle. Unlike that process when he was given a formal interview, there was no such sit down for the President’s position, although he had conversations with selection committee members.

To some observers of the Presidential selection process that could raise the question of whether a business person with an accomplished background like Najarian was treated as a serious candidate. “You know, I think it’s a tough thing, quite frankly. I think they were legitimately considering (alternative) folks but I think also they’re looking for somebody…within the educational system already,” Najarian said. “I am sure there are many, many highly qualified candidates out there…who have great résumés from different universities.”

Najarian has an easy going personality, and that along with his professional background, could have made him a strong leader and uniter of the many factions at the University. He said that while the President’s position “was not something I had sat back and dreamed about like I did the AD position,” he envisioned things where he could make the University better.

A source told Sports Headliners the final three candidates to become President were all females and high level administrators at other schools. Cabal would be the first female President ever at the University of Minnesota.

Worth Noting

Condolences to family and friends regarding the death this week of pro wrestling legend and Minnesota native Larry “The Axe” Hennig. He was a star in the old American Wrestling Association that entertained generations of fans in Minneapolis, St. Paul and other major cities.

Jim Brunzell

Jim Brunzell, another AWA star, emailed with the news yesterday and wrote: “I affectionately called him Dad, and would greet him with a hug and big kiss on the cheek! May he rest in peace!”

Former Spring Lake Park football player E.J. Ejiya, a senior at North Texas, was named this week as a Conference USA all-league first-team linebacker. After graduating from high school in 2014, he became a Junior College All-American at North Dakota State College of Science. His skills and work ethic have him positioned now as an NFL prospect.

Ejiya ranks fourth nationally in tackles for loss with 23 and leads the Mean Green in sacks with 9 (fourth in C-USA). His 113 total tackles are also fourth most in the league. As the top rated defensive player for North Texas, he has a grade of 86.5 from Pro Football Focus. That ranks him 26th among all FBS linebackers.

A side benefit for the Golden Gophers in preparing for Georgia Tech’s triple-option offense in the December 26 Quick Lane Bowl is that Georgia Southern, Minnesota’s nonconference opponent on September 14 of next year, also employs that seldom used system. The run-dominated offense at Southern is coached by coordinator Bob DeBesse who was Gopher OC under Jim Wacker from 1992-96.

Will the Gophers have all their starters for the Quick Lane Bowl game on December 26? Maybe more on that later.

Bud Grant will be at the Triple Crown Sports Card and Bobblehead Show from noon to 2 p.m. on Saturday at Southtown Shopping Center in Bloomington. Two of his former Vikings players, Bob Lurtsema and Dave Brown, make appearances from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

Minnesota Twins legend Joe Mauer was in the holiday spirit last weekend at Mauer Chevrolet where he was helping build bicycles for Toys for Tots.

Mark Rosen said he is retiring January 10 from his longtime position as WCCO TV’s No. 1 sports anchor. Rosen, whose wife Denise is dealing with cancer, had announced earlier this year he intended to retire from TV in April but he has moved up the date. The 67-year-old started working part-time at WCCO TV in 1969 and will be missed a lot by Minnesota sports fans.

Rosen told Sports Headliners he has signed a new contract with KFAN and will continue a regular role with the Minneapolis FM station. His new schedule without TV but with radio will allow him to be home by late afternoon weekdays. The Rosen family will vacation in Mexico later in the month.

Recently retired Star Tribune sports editor Glen Crevier is interviewed on “Behind the Game,” the Twin Cities cable TV program co-hosted by Patrick Klinger and Bill Robertson. Crevier had a 43 year career in journalism, including the last 20 at the Star Tribune. He is passionate about college football and has visited famous stadiums including Michigan Stadium this year. In addition to cable, the Crevier interview can also be viewed on YouTube.

As the nation mourns the death and also celebrates the life of George H.W. Bush, coaches and athletes could pause and remember the grace and humility with which the former war hero and President lived his life.

Today’s “look at what I did” athletes stand in sharp contrast to the quiet, humble and kind manner in which Mr. Bush lived his life including accomplishments that in perspective were far more important than winning touchdowns, last minute goals and ninth inning home runs. When the heroes from “The Greatest Generation” scored touchdowns, they simply handed the football to the referee. After a creative scoring play in basketball, the athlete from that era quietly headed back up the court to take his position on defense.

Hotdogging after a spectacular accomplishment in sports or another endeavor? Mocking an opponent by wagging a finger, or nodding a head? Not in Mr. Bush’s generation that included all those World War II men and women who came home and were reluctant to even talk about what they had seen and done.

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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.

(2) Readers Comments

  1. avatar
    Patrick
    December 7, 2018 at 9:59 am

    Always enjoy your enlightening columns David. I especially enjoyed your comments regarding the humility of George H.W. Bush and many athletes of yesteryear.

  2. avatar
    Les
    December 7, 2018 at 1:31 pm

    Regarding your last three paragraphs: Right on. All the hotdogging and calling attention to one's self, reminds me of Bud Grant's purported comment: "Act like you've done it before." Besides, scoring touchdowns, catching passes, gaining first downs, tackling, making baskets are what the "pros" are getting paid to do. I rue the day that stuff filters down to college and high school.

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