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Gophers ‘Lucky’ to have John Anderson

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June 4, 2018


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Sometimes it takes a stretch of success to remind us how special someone is. Today’s “Exhibit A” is Golden Gophers baseball coach John Anderson who has led the program for 37 years, and given this town a scrapbook full of great memories including last weekend’s Minneapolis Regional.

“We’re lucky to have him,” said Jerry Noyce, who could have been speaking for so many Minnesotans and alumni of the University of Minnesota.

Noyce was the Gophers’ successful tennis coach when athletic director Paul Giel appointed Anderson to lead the baseball program in 1981. Noyce’s last season in the athletic department was 1988 but he has remained a friend of Anderson and close observer of Minnesota baseball over the years.

Anderson’s teams have won a lot of games and he has operated his program with integrity. “He’s done it all the right way his whole career,” Noyce said.

Noyce and thousands of Minnesotans have been captivated by the 2018 edition of U baseball. The Gophers won the Minneapolis Regional yesterday and are headed to Corvallis, Oregon this week to play in a Super Regional they hope will earn them an entry later in the month to the College World Series.

John Anderson

Minnesota earned a No. 14 seed in the NCAA Tournament by winning both the Big Ten regular season championship and conference tournament title. Anderson has coached the Gophers to 11 regular season titles and 10 conference tourney championships. Anderson’s teams have been in the NCAA Tournament 19 times but yesterday was the first time his Gophers have won their region. Twice there have been four-year stretches where Minnesota qualified for the NCAA Tourney. Ten seasons there have been 40 wins or more. This spring Anderson’s fellow conference coaches voted him Big Ten Coach of the Year for a seventh time—the most in league history.

Anderson and his staff are known for the consistent way they teach, develop players and offer guidance. Neither the state of Minnesota nor Big Ten is known as a hotbed of college baseball. It’s not easy to win against schools with warmer climates and access to more and better players—places like Arizona, California, Florida and Texas.

Anderson seems to know when to push the right buttons. Against Ohio State in the Big Ten semifinals the Gophers were behind. “He told us to calm down, relax a bit, and get back to having a plan,” said Minnesota outfielder Toby Hanson. “After that, we took a deep breath and got back to being us. We got some big hits and just kept on going (winning 8-1).”

Last Saturday night at Siebert Field in the Minneapolis Regional, Minnesota had to use extra innings to defeat UCLA. “I just kept telling the guys the last few innings: Siebert Field. Siebert Field magic,” Anderson said. “We’ve won a lot of games this way in my career here, at the old Siebert Field and now here. Just keep believing in Siebert Field magic. Give ourselves chances to win and we’ll find a way.”

Anderson has probably had several opportunities to go elsewhere and coach. He likely could have relocated to jobs with better access to players and for more money, but the Minnesota native and former Gopher baseball player is too committed to the U to leave. “Nobody is more loyal than John,” Noyce said.

The employment agreement Anderson signed with the University of Minnesota about two years ago calls for an annual salary of at least  $225,000. The agreement provides bonus compensation including $12,500 for winning a Big Ten title, $7,500 for the Big Ten tournament championship, $7,500 for making the NCAA Tournament and $5,000 for conference Coach of the Year.

Anderson could have bettered himself financially elsewhere—perhaps even in pro baseball—but he has stayed through both good and trying times at Minnesota where he gas worked for a lenthy list of full-time and interim athletic directors. Along the way he’s inspired a lot of players and other admirers who are loyal to him.

One of Anderson’s financial donors to his program recently wrote this in an email to Sports Headliners: “He is a class act, a complete gentleman, and a terrific ambassador for Gopher baseball.”

U Football Scheduling

Coming off a losing season and two final defeats by a combined score of 70-0, Golden Gopher football ticket sales figure to be flat headed into summer but the box office could get a boost with favorable start times for home games. Five of the seven start times have been announced and so far none are at the dreaded 11 a.m.

Not only that but three games are set for night kickoffs. Some of Minnesota’s best home crowds since 2000 have been for evening games including against TCU in 2015 when a TCF Bank Stadium record attendance of 54,147 was announced.

Minnesota will open its season August 30 with a 6 p.m. game against New Mexico State at TCF Bank Stadium. The bad news is that a work weeknight game isn’t ideal and Minnesota has to battle the State Fair for attention, but positives include the Twins and Vikings are on the road.

Minnesota’s other two home nonconference games on September 8 and 15 begin at 6:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. respectively against Fresno State and Miami (Ohio). Gopher Big Ten home games with Iowa on October 6 and Indiana October 26 will have mid-afternoon and early evening kickoffs. Only the Purdue game November 10 and Northwestern November 17 don’t have start times yet among the seven home games this season.

Indiana is traditionally a poor draw but the October 26 date comes on a Friday evening and if Minnesota is off to a winning start, and the weather is favorable, the Gophers could sell the game out. This is a night sports town on weekends and Gopher fans remember the crowd of 62,374 on a Friday night (October 10, 2003) at the Metrodome when Minnesota played a thriller in losing to Michigan.

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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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