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Anderson Hopes to Finalize U Contract

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May 31, 2021

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Head coach John Anderson is in his 40th season leading the historic University of Minnesota baseball program and he wants to continue on. His current contract, though, ends June 30, and there has been quiet speculation for years that the athletic department could consider discontinuing baseball.

Anderson told Sports Headliners negotiations for a new contract have been developing for awhile and things could be settled by tomorrow. “We’re kind of trying to work to get something accomplished by June 1st,” Anderson said. “See what happens here. It’s not about money.”

Anderson didn’t detail what the issues are in negotiations. “I am probably eighth in the league in terms of compensation and the difference between where I am at and the top three in the league is pretty significant,” he said talking about Big Ten head baseball coaches. “But it’s not about money at this stage of the game. It’s more about having a contract that I feel comfortable continuing to invest the time and energy it takes to have a competitive Division I baseball program in the Big Ten, and language that I think is respectful of my tenure.”

The employment agreement Anderson signed with the University of Minnesota about five years ago called for an annual salary of at least $225,000. The agreement provided 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.

Is there a possibility Anderson won’t return for the 2022 season? “I don’t think that’s my decision,” he answered. “My intention is to be back. It’s up to the department (and athletic director) Mark Coyle to decide if that’s going to happen or not.”

John Anderson

On May 16 Anderson turned 66 years old. There are many college coaches in various sports who are older and still have the will and energy to succeed. Anderson knows he has more to offer to the program he loves.

“I don’t want to be here just to be here,” he said. “I want to be here if I think I can make a difference in the success of our program and mentoring our kids and preparing them for the next 50 years of their lives. I’ll know when that time comes (to leave). I’ll pay attention to my energy level and what I have to offer and I’ll know when the time is right.”

The pandemic of 2020 and 2021 has crushed budgets of college athletic departments across the country including Minnesota where the maroon and gold ledger is bleeding red ink. Coyle cut three men’s sports last year in response to the financial crisis.

Baseball is the oldest sport at the U, dating back 133 seasons, but could the program be cut in the not so distant future to help department finances? Wisconsin eliminated its program about 30 years ago and other prominent universities don’t participate in baseball.

Anderson acknowledged these are both unprecedented and uncertain times. “I think everything is on the table based on the financial model and what happens going forward. So I don’t think you can say it’s not (possible, eliminating baseball).”

The program and Anderson are beloved by U alums and other Minnesotans. The Gophers have had just three coaches since 1948, including Dick Siebert who won three national championships. Anderson, a Minnesota native, was a pitcher for the “Chief” in 1974-1975 before sustaining an injury and becoming a student coach.

At 26, Anderson succeeded George Thomas as head coach following the 1981 season. He had been an assistant coach to Thomas.

Anderson entered this season as both the all-time winningest coach in program history and the Big Ten. His teams have won 11 Big Ten regular season titles and 10 conference tournament championships. At the start of this year, he was second in wins (1,325) among all active Division I baseball coaches.

Affectionately referred to as “14” because of his uniform number, Anderson has the admiration of countless individuals for not only his accomplishments but how he has impacted lives. He is admired, too, for the integrity with which he has run his program and the straight forward way he goes about his business. “We’re lucky to have him” is a quote so many people will offer about 14.

The 2021 Gopher baseball season ended yesterday. It was a season like no other for Anderson and his team, with Minnesota finishing with a 6-31 record.

This spring the Gophers went through a nearly three-week stretch where they didn’t play because of the virus. How much did the pandemic contribute to the atypical Minnesota record? “I don’t think it’s ever one thing,” Anderson said about the worst record in his career. “I think it’s a series of things. Obviously COVID is a contributor, significant contributor because it’s impacted the development of our team. …”

The Gophers came out of last season with a young team that Anderson and his staff hoped to develop, but practice was limited in the fall. This spring the team has faced both limited practice and game time, a “slew” of injuries to the pitching staff and other health issues with position players. “It’s just been one thing after another,” Anderson said.

With the pandemic easing and hopefully the U and Anderson soon agreeing on a new contract, history indicates better times are ahead for the program. “We gotta get busy to kind of reset our program, and hopefully have a normal year where we can start doing the things we’ve done historically,” the Minnesota icon said.

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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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