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U Nears 1,000 New Season Tickets

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May 1, 2017

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As of Friday, the Gophers had sold 861 new football season tickets since January 6 when P.J. Fleck was announced as head coach. The total was obtained from an athletic department spokesman and is for nonstudent season tickets (a student season tickets total will be available later in the year).

P.J. Fleck

Fleck’s outgoing personality, and the reputation he earned at Western Michigan for being one of America’s most promising young coaches has prompted some renewed interest in football at the U. The athletic department sold 253 season tickets in less than 30 days after the 36-year-old Fleck took over as coach.

Fan interest declined last year under head coach Tracy Claeys and the Gophers sold about 5,100 fewer nonstudent season tickets in 2016 than in 2015. The Gophers didn’t sell out a single home game in 50,805 seat TCF Bank Stadium and many sold seats weren’t occupied. Last year the athletic department sold about 23,000 nonstudent season tickets and student season ticket sales were around 7,000.

The new season tickets sold this winter and spring is being accomplished without a marketing campaign. Promotional efforts are expected to start soon and will likely play off of Fleck’s “Row The Boat” mantra to create excitement. The phrase refers to a never give up attitude, and Fleck paid Western Michigan $50,000 for the rights to “Row The Boat.”

Fleck has big ambitions for attendance at TCF Bank Stadium, a venue that ranks near the bottom in seating capacity among Big Ten schools. Sports Headliners reported last month that in three years Fleck wants to expand seating capacity to 85,000. (See April 2, 2017 column).

Worth Noting

Race Thompson told Sports Headliners he hears the encouraging words from Minnesotans to become a Gopher and he appreciates the hometown interest but he won’t be influenced by others in choosing a college destination.

Thompson, the junior power forward from Armstrong High School, has offers from more than 10 schools including the Gophers. The Rivals four-star player said he probably will choose a school next fall and is looking for the place he will feel most comfortable, including a “family atmosphere.”

Thompson will make some college visits after July 1 and could sign a National Letter of Intent in November, the first signing opportunity for class of 2018 players to officially commit to their colleges. While schools like Minnesota and Marquette have been recruiting Thompson for some time, Indiana is now showing interest, too. Thompson said he isn’t sure, though, if he will visit Bloomington.

Race Thompson

Darrell Thompson, the Gophers all-time leading rusher in football, has said throughout the recruiting process that he and wife Stephanie won’t direct their son to play for the U, even though their suburban Minneapolis home would make travelling to watch him in college much easier than any other place.

Darrell leads Minneapolis-based Bolder Options, the nonprofit helping kids and teens learn life skills. The organization’s annual gala in Minneapolis last Thursday night raised over $160,000, a record for the event which is the nonprofit’s largest fundraiser of the year.

Another fundraising highlight for the organization is the WCCO Radio Gutter Bowl bowling event that most recently generated about $40,000. Morning show host Dave Lee is among those who have led the event.

The Twins have the first pick in the June MLB Draft and could select Hunter Greene from southern California. Greene throws fast balls over 100 miles per hour, plays with MLB range at shortstop, excels at the plate, and is the subject of considerable hype including from Sports Illustrated. The magazine’s latest issue has him on the cover and gushed the following:

“Baseball’s LeBron, or the new Babe? He’s 17. He mashes. He throws 102. Hunter Greene is the star baseball needs. (First he has to finish high school).”

Dalvin Cook, the former Florida State running back who the Vikings were excited to find available in the second round of Friday’s NFL Draft, was projected in last week’s Sports Illustrated to be the No. 23 pick in the first round by the Giants.

Vikings defensive end Brian Robison, who turned 34 last week, expects to do something with his “big-time passion” for fishing after he retires from football. He told Sports Headliners pro fishing could be his next career, or TV commentary about the sport. He has fished in pro-am tournaments in recent off seasons, and competed in the Texas Team Trail Bass Championships.

Doesn’t seem that long ago but it will be 17 years on Friday that former Gophers and Timberwolves coach Bill Musselman died. In Musselman’s first season at Minnesota, 1971-72, he coached the Gophers to their first Big Ten basketball title since 1937. In 1989-1990 he coached the expansion Timberwolves in their initial NBA season.

Mark Sheffert, the former Gophers football player who founded and leads Minneapolis-based Manchester Companies that provides management consulting, discussed corporate ethics and behavior yesterday on WCCO Radio’s News and Views program.

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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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