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New NIL Collective Key to U Success


Dinkytown Athletes, a name, image, and likeness (NIL) collective supporting student-athletes at the University of Minnesota, had its official launch yesterday. It may not be an exaggeration to say the collective’s success may determine whether P.J. Fleck wants to be the Golden Gophers football coach long-term.

Fleck has publicly acknowledged the importance of NIL for his program. If he sees a successful NIL in Minnesota it could be a game changer for Gophers football and other sports including men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball.  Other major football programs are out in front of Minnesota with their collectives so the launch of Dinkytown Athletes, with co-founders Rob Gag and former U offensive lineman Derek Burns, is welcome news on campus including in Fleck’s office.

Per a news release yesterday,“Dinkytown Athletes (will) work with student-athletes at the U of M to connect them with the community, allowing them to earn compensation by using their name, image, and likeness. Fans, boosters, and local businesses can now directly support their favorite student-athletes through partnerships, fan-engagement events and exclusive content. Dinkytown Athlete’s mission is to build relationships with the community and further engage the passionate sports market in the Twin Cities and greater Minnesota, while creating opportunities for student athletes.”

Fleck, 41 and in his sixth season at Minnesota, acknowledged at his weekly news conference yesterday “how incredibly important” the new collective is to the U.  As the only Power Five college sports program in the state, and with a vibrant business culture that includes a long list of Fortune 500 companies, NIL opportunities at Minnesota could translate into the Gophers consistently attracting high level athletes in the revenue sports of football and men’s basketball that support the Athletic Department.

Worth Noting

The Gophers are No. 21 in the AP college football poll but College Football News has Minnesota ranked No. 9 nationally.  Only Ohio State, Georgia, Alabama, Michigan, Tennessee, Washington, Penn State and Clemson are ahead of Minnesota.

Here’s Sports Headliners’ Big Ten power rankings: Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, Minnesota, Iowa, Maryland, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Purdue, Rutgers, Indiana, Nebraska and Northwestern.

The 4-0 Gophers play 2-2 Purdue Saturday.  Under sixth-year coach Jeff Brohm the Boilermakers have been inconsistent and lost two games they could just as easily won.  Brohm is known for his offensive acumen, with Fleck describing his rival as among the best with X’s and O’s.

Putting life into the offense is wide receiver Charlie Jones who leads the Big Ten in receptions with 533 yards and seven touchdowns.  Fleck said Jones might be the best in the conference going after contested balls, and as a punt returner never fair catches the ball.  “He can play running back,” Fleck said about Jones’ athleticism.

Brohm made waves last spring, per Sports Illustrated, signaling his interest in coaching at Louisville. Speaking at a gathering in his hometown of Louisville, the former Cardinals quarterback reportedly was asked about turning down his alma mater in 2018.  He said the timing wasn’t right (just into the Purdue job) but he expressed his love for the Louisville area, SI said.  “So anything can happen in the future,” the magazine quoted Brohm as saying.

Tanner Morgan

Fleck said Minnesota quarterback Tanner Morgan, chosen Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week after completing 23 of 26 passes and throwing for three touchdowns against Michigan State, has a “mindset” that there is always a need to get better.

Morgan is 31-12 as Minnesota’s starting quarterback.

The Purdue game is a possible first of the season sellout at 50,805 seat Huntington Bank Stadium.  Ticket prices begin at $65 with singles only available in some sections.

Belated happy 26th birthday wishes to football analytics expert Daniel House, publisher of Gophers Guru.

Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen had his 50th career touchdown reception last Sunday.  He is only the fourth undrafted NFL player since 1967 to achieve that milestone (Antonio Gates, Rod Smith and Wes Welker).

Sunday’s Vikings-Saints game from London starts at 8:30 a.m. Minnesota time and can be viewed on NFL Network, NFL+ and KSTP Ch. 5.

The Timberwolves begin training camp today with the biggest question whether in a league where the trend is to smaller and mobile players they can win with 7-1, 256-pound Rudy Gobert and 7-foot, 250-pound Karl-Anthony Towns on the floor together.  How well can the two bigs defend against such opposition?

The popular over-under for Timberwolves wins this season is 48.5. “I don’t think there is a ceiling for this team,” Gobert said yesterday.

New Wolves top executive Tim Connelly impresses with his authenticity. He is interested in developing relationships in the organization that are “organic,” not contrived.

The Twins might regroup next season but they will have to contend with a Guardians roster that made history in winning the AL Central. The Guardians are the first team ever to win a division or league title with at least 16 rookies making their debuts, per and the Elias Sports Bureau.

Startling numbers: the Twins’ Miguel Sano played in 20 games this season and hit .083.

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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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