It looks like Golden Gopher ticket buyers are excited about new women’s basketball coach Lindsay Whalen, but not as much with football’s P.J. Fleck.
Back in January of 2017 athletic director Mark Coyle hired Fleck to upgrade football recruiting and compete for Big Ten championships. After 18 months the 37-year-old Fleck has improved the recruiting, according to experts who rank major college programs. The winning? Minnesota’s record was 2-7 in Fleck’s first Big Ten season and no one is predicting a big year in 2018. However, Fleck boosters, and there are many, believe the Gophers will be competing for West Division and Big Ten titles in a few years.
The University of Minnesota Athletic Department reports that as of June 21 public season football ticket sales totals have declined from 2017. The number of accounts on June 21 of this year was 6,031 and the total number of tickets was 20,673. That compared with June 21, 2017 totals of 6,457 and 21,418.
How did the Gophers do in total football public season tickets last year? They sold 22,131 public season tickets.
Public season ticket prices for football begin at $249, compared to the least expensive price of $310 a year ago. The DQ Club season ticket price has been reduced by $300.
Although Whalen, 37, had no previous coaching experience and is still playing for the WNBA Minnesota Lynx, her hiring is one of the most popular moves the Gophers have made in a long time. Whalen, a Hutchinson, Minnesota native, was a legendary player for the U. An Athletic Department spokesman told Sports Headliners when Coyle is out speaking and mentions Whalen’s name, the audience bursts into applause.
As of June 21, the Gophers had 803 public season ticket accounts for women’s basketball with 2,038 tickets sold. Those totals are major increases since June 21, 2017 when the figures were 480 accounts and 1,295 tickets.
Last season the total number of public season tickets sold was 1,338. Although there has been an $8 increase per season ticket, the Gophers are on track to easily exceed last season’s total.
Gopher women’s basketball has mostly been mediocre since the Whalen era ended in 2004. Her hire, though, has created expectations of not only winning championships, but perhaps even making the program financially profitable for the first time in U history.
Consider Whalen’s resume. She was the first three-time All-American in program history, a three-time All-Big Ten selection and three times made Academic All-Big. She led the Gophers to their only Final Four in program history in 2004. Her jersey, No. 13, hangs in the rafters of Williams Arena. She is also a four-time WNBA champion with the Lynx and is playing in her 14th WNBA season.
Despite a disheartening season in 2017-2018, public season ticket sales for Minnesota men’s basketball remain stable. As of June 21, there were 2,118 accounts and 6,256 public season tickets sold, compared with totals of 2,256 and 6,255 a year prior.
The Gophers sold 7,174 public season men’s basketball tickets for the 2017-2018 season.
Minnesota entered last season coming off an 11-7 Big Ten record and a first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 2013. Preseason predictions last fall had the Gophers as a nationally ranked team and contender for the conference title, but things collapsed in January with Reggie Lynch’s suspension and Amir Coffey’s injury. Minnesota finished with a 4-14 league record, barely avoiding last place in the league standings.
However, there is optimism about the 2018-19 season because coach Richard Pitino appears to have enough personnel to compete for an invitation to the NCAA Tournament. Forwards Jordan Murphy and Coffey will be on most everyone’s list of candidates for preseason All-Big Ten teams. Other experienced players who can contribute return, and the incoming freshmen class of all Minnesotans appeals to U fans. Another factor motivating repeat season ticket buyers is they don’t like the idea of giving up seating priority at historic Williams Arena.
In addition to Whalen, Coyle made another high profile hire earlier this year when he named Bob Motzko head men’s hockey coach. Motzko, 57, made a name for himself leading the St. Cloud program for 13 seasons including a Frozen Four appearance in 2013.
Motzko’s hiring, though, hasn’t so far been enough to prevent a slide in public season ticket sales. As of June 21, total accounts were 1,636, with 4,644 tickets sold. That compares with figures of 1,900 and 5,352 as of June 21, 2017. The Gophers sold 5,502 public season tickets for the 2017-2018 season.
A $100 decrease in pricing in one seating zone at 3M Arena at Mariucci has been offered to incentivize public season ticket buyers.
With an overall record of 19-17 last season, the Gophers didn’t qualify for the NCAA Tournament. Fan apathy was alarming with large numbers of seats empty in the arena. The record and disinterest were painful for a program long billed as “Pride on Ice.”
Although the renewal periods for existing basketball, football and hockey public season ticket holders closed in May, the totals reported here will increase with new buyers. Sales of new season tickets will continue into the beginning of the seasons in each of the four programs.
Well, this is almost as traditional as fireworks and hot dogs on the Fourth of July. My annual Independence Day Trivia Contest arrives early this year so you have more time to share with friends and family.
Okay, so I exaggerated with my opening paragraph, but I am delivering 18 questions about Minnesota sports to test your trivia IQ. Answer 16 to 18 correctly and you might become a future trivia quiz contributor. With 12 or more correct, don’t hesitate to test the know-it-all at work who thinks he is “Mr. Minnesota Sports.” Nail 8 to 11 correct answers and figure you were (somewhat?) competitive. Less than eight right answers? Start prepping for the 2019 quiz.
In composing the quiz I kept reminding myself earlier quizzes had too many difficult questions. Admonish me if I remain too harsh of a taskmaster. So dive into the 18 questions, with no peeking at the answers below until answering every darn one.
And Happy Fourth of July!
Trivia Quiz Questions
1. Name the deceased former Vikings coach who will have his name added to the franchise’s Ring of Honor later this year.
2. Kirk Cousins signed an $84 million contract with the Vikings earlier this year, but coming out of college what round of the NFL Draft was he selected by the Redskins?
3. During training camp the Vikings will host another NFL team for joint practices. Name the team.
4. Name the Twins pitcher who struck out 12 Rangers in Minnesota’s win over Texas on Sunday.
5. Who did the Twins trade to the White Sox in July of 2012 to acquire infielder Eduardo Escobar?
6. When these three Twins are in the outfield they like to say, “Nothing falls (between them) but raindrops.” Who are they?
7. This Twins relief pitcher wears his cap cockeyed and during an early season game pursued snowflakes with his tongue. Who is he?
8. Name the Golden Gopher baseball player who the U announced last week has signed a contract with the St. Paul Saints.
9. Name the new Minnesota Wild advisor who once was the Minnesota North Stars’ GM?
10. Where was Wild star Zach Parise born?
11. Who did the Wild select with the 24th overall pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft and how do you spell his name?
12. Who is the former Golden Gopher basketball player who once made such a spectacular dunk at Williams Arena that ESPN referred to him as the “Jewish Jordan?”
13. This Golden Gophers basketball starter has a sister who was an All-American at Northwestern. Who is he?
14. Who is the Minnesota Lynx guard who also is head women’s basketball coach for the Golden Gophers?
15. The Timberwolves have two players on their roster who played high school basketball in the state of Minnesota. Name them.
16. Where did Timberwolves first round draft choice Josh Okogie play collegiately?
17. Name the Golden Gophers’ junior wide receiver who is a preseason All-Big Ten choice.
18. What’s the name of the Minnesota United’s soon-to-be home stadium?
Trivia Quiz Answers
1. Dennis Green referred to himself as the “Sheriff” and he rounded up more wins than any Vikings head coach in history except for Bud Grant (101 versus 168).
2. Kirk Cousins was drafted in the fourth round by the Redskins in 2012 and no one could have predicted he would one day sign a three-year $84 million deal.
3. The Jaguars will come to Eagan for joint practices with the Vikings August 15 and 16 at the TCO Performance Center.
4. Jose Berrios, looking increasingly like the staff ace, struck out 12 Rangers and gave up two hits in seven innings in Minnesota’s 2-0 win on Sunday.
5. The Twins sent one-time star pitcher Francisco Liriano to the White Sox in a deal that brought infielder Eduardo Escobar and pitcher Pedro Fernandez to Minnesota.
6. Byron Buxton, Max Kepler and Eddie Rosario are so slick in the field they can (presumably) even run down raindrops.
7. Fernando Rodney is the Twins closer who wears his cap like he put it on in the dark and during a snowy game in Pittsburgh pursued snowflakes.
8. Golden Gopher senior infielder Luke Pettersen, who was an All-Big Ten third team selection at second base, has joined the St. Paul Saints.
9. Jack Ferreira, 74, once directed the personnel decisions for the North Stars and now Wild GM Paul Fenton has made Ferreira an advisor to him.
10. Even if you can’t skate, hope you got this one: Zach Parise was born in Minneapolis.
11. The Wild chose 18-year-old defenseman Filip Johansson, and please note the first name begins with the letter “F” and there are two “S’s” in Johansson.
12. ESPN’s SportsCenter was blown away by Sam Jacobson’s spectacular dunk but incorrectly referred to him as “Jewish.”
13. Golden Gopher forward Amir Coffey’s sister, Nia, was an All-American at Northwestern and their dad, Richard, was a member of the Gopher teams from 1986-1990.
14. WNBA and Lynx veteran Lindsay Whalen, 36, was named Golden Gopher women’s coach earlier this year (another uncontested “layup” question and answer for you).
15. Timberwolves guard Tyus Jones played for Apple Valley in high school, while center Cole Aldrich was a prep at Bloomington Jefferson.
16. Josh Okogie, who the Timberwolves selected with the No. 20 pick in the first round, played collegiately at Georgia Tech.
17. Golden Gophers junior Tyler Johnson is a third-team preseason All-Big Ten pick at wide receiver by Athlon magazine.
18. Allianz Field, located in St. Paul, will host the MLS United starting in 2019.
Nobody is talking about Amir Coffey right now but a basketball authority told Sports Headliners that a year from now the former Minnesota Mr. Basketball could be a first round selection in the NBA Draft.
Tonight’s 2018 NBA Draft prompts interest locally because the Timberwolves have the No. 20 selection in the first round. Gary Trent Jr., who played at Apple Valley High School and for Duke last winter, is another storyline to follow this evening. But a year from now this community might be focused on Coffey who will have played three seasons for the Golden Gophers and is blessed to have both the height and skills that potentially translate to an NBA career.
“There is no question he could be a first rounder,” said a former Big Ten coach who asked that his name not be used. “I would say if he has a decent season (next winter) he could a mid-first round, or even lottery pick.”
The 6-foot-8 Coffey projects as either a small forward or shooting guard in the pros. His talent package includes athleticism, ball handling, passing, driving, shooting and defending. He is also an unselfish player who cares more about winning than his statistics.
Coffey, though, hasn’t weighed much more than 200 pounds during his Gopher career. He is working to become stronger. “My biggest concern (for Coffey to become better) is his physical strength, and ability to hit the three consistently,” the source said.
A shoulder injury in January caused Coffey to miss most of Minnesota’s Big Ten games during his sophomore season. His stats for all games last season included being second on the team in assists at 3.3 per game, and third in both scoring average and rebounding, 14 points and 4.1 rebounds. His three point field goal percentage was .368 and he made .475 percent of all his shots.
If Coffey had been healthy he might have experienced the kind of season that validated testing the pros’ interest in him entering the draft this spring. Next season he could certainly be the Gophers’ best player and most multiskilled individual. With point guard Nate Mason having graduated, the Gopher coaching staff could utilize Coffey as a point forward and playmaker.
In that role Coffey could distribute the ball to Minnesota’s best low post scorer, forward Jordan Murphy, or pass to one-on-one specialist Isaiah Washington, allowing Washington to slash to the basket, or shoot from the corner. Coffey could also drive with the ball and set up teammates, or choose to shoot either long range or closer to the basket.
“If he (Coffey) gets stronger and improves his shooting he could be a real surprise to people because he is smart and passes the ball extremely well,” the ex-coach said. “His whole thing is staying healthy and getting stronger.”
Murphy will be a senior next season and at 6-6 and 250-pounds is one of the better rebounders and low post scorers in college basketball. The authority quoted here said Murphy is “a hell of a college player,” but may not have enough variety of skills to be drafted or make an NBA roster as a free agent.
The former coach believes Murphy projects as a short power forward in the pros. Murphy probably lacks the quickness to play small forward and defend. His inconsistent outside shooting, ball handling and passing skills are causes for concern, too.
Murphy has been All-Big Ten at Minnesota and so, too, was Mason who won’t be drafted tonight by an NBA team. Mason could receive a free agent invite from one of the league’s 32 teams to play on a summer league team. Scouts likely see him as a player who at 6-foot-2 is undersized to play point guard and has more of a shoot first, pass second mentality.
As for Trent, he might be drafted in the first round or slip to the second. Nbadraft.net projected in its mock draft yesterday that Trent will be chosen at No. 28 in the first round by the Warriors.
The Warriors could be an ideal fit for the 6-foot-6 Trent who is an extraordinary outside shooter (he set a Duke freshman record for three pointers with 97). The NBA champion Warriors rely on the accurate three-point shooting of guard Klay Thompson to help balance their offense but Thompson becomes a free agent after next season. Whether the Warriors can or choose to give Thompson a rich deal is the subject of considerable speculation.
Do the Warriors think they could draft a cheaper version of Thompson in Trent, who might help them immediately or in a year or two? Trent’s NBA career could very much be tied to being employed by a team that needs outside shooting because he isn’t highly praised for his ball handling, passing and defense.
Trent seems similar to former Robbinsdale Cooper star Rashad Vaughn but he has to hope for a better career with the pros. Vaughn, about the same height and weight as Trent, was known for his long range shooting in 2015 when the Bucks selected him in the first round. Vaughn competed one season at UNLV, just as Trent played only his freshman year at Duke. Vaughn struggled to establish himself with the Bucks and other NBA teams, and is no longer in the league.
Nbadraft.net projected the Timberwolves will choose Oregon freshman shooting guard Troy Brown at No. 20. The website also predicted Minnesota will select another shooting guard in the second round, taking Kentucky freshman Hamidou Diallo at No. 48.
Tom Thibodeau said on WCCO Radio yesterday morning the Wolves aren’t committed to drafting for a specific position but he indicated interest in “wings”—the position Brown and Diallo can likely play. Asked about the possibility of a trade for the pick, the Wolves’ coach and president of basketball operations answered “absolutely.”