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Anderson Hopes to Finalize U Contract

May 31, 2021 - 1 Comment

 

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.

 

3M Open Pursuing Phil Mickelson

May 26, 2021 - (0) comments

 

Phil Mickelson is the biggest name in sports this week after becoming the oldest player ever to win a major golf championship on Sunday.  Hollis Cavner, who runs the 3M Open, is optimistic the 50-year-old Mickelson will be part of the field at TPC Twin Cities July 22-25.

What are the odds? “I’d say very good,” Cavner told Sports Headliners.

Cavner and his company run various golf tournaments in the United States.  He and his team are on the road much of the year recruiting players including the now hottest golf name in the world. So far Mickelson is noncommittal about the 3M, a regular stop on the PGA Tour. “He’s pretty direct,” Cavner said.

Cavner and Mickelson have a long friendship.  In 2010 the two played together in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, with Cavner participating as an amateur. “He’s a helluva good guy,” Cavner said.

Hollis Cavner

That relationship will be helpful in continuing to pitch Mickelson but winning the PGA Championship Sunday is a game changer for “Lefty’s” schedule.  Cavner said Mickelson might receive an invitation to play for the U.S. in the Tokyo Olympics scheduled in late July and early August.  Even if that doesn’t happen, the British Open is just a week before the 3M.  He won the Open in 2013 and his appearance in Scotland would be important to his international fame and brand.

Mickelson’s life is a whirlwind now and over the next few weeks with various requests including TV and personal appearances.  Cavner said Mickelson will be “inundated” with opportunities after shocking the golf world by winning the PGA.  He entered the tournament ranked 115 in the world and Fox Bet had him at 400-to-1 odds to win in Kiawah, South Carolina at the Ocean Course.

Cavner runs the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte.  He saw Mickelson in comeback mode at his tournament.  With a slimmer and stronger body, more relaxed mental approach and willingness to play safer shots, Mickelson was re-engaged.

He was on a mission to improve his performance the week of the Wells Fargo, with Cavner observing Mickelson “working his butt off” in practice hitting buckets and buckets of balls at the range.  “…He was really working on his game that week and I guarantee he beat more balls that week than anybody out there,” Cavner said.

Mickelson shot a round of 64 at the Wells Fargo and although he didn’t win the tournament, the resurgence in his game was evident to insiders.  “He was gearing for this (excelling at the PGA),” Cavner said.

Sunday was remarkable, with Mickelson shocking the sports world at almost 51 years of age and winning his first golf major event since 2013.  “He is so driven to be good,” Cavner said.  “He doesn’t want to be second ever.  He’s always been that way.  When you’re that good, some people are going to love you, some people are not.”

Critics have said Mickelson is cocky but Cavner doesn’t see it that way and views his friend as a great athlete who believes in himself and has done a lot to help others including through charity. “It wasn’t cocky.  He was good at what he did, and he knew it and he tried to prove it every week,” Cavner said.

Cavner can see Mickelson contending for more major titles this year and in 2022. “If he continues to play like he is, it wouldn’t surprise me at all,” Cavner said.

In his 40s Mickelson didn’t want other players to hit longer off the tee than he did.  The result was trouble on the fairways, sometimes hitting 50 yards off target.  “It hurt his game,” Cavner said.  “Now he’s dialed it back. (But) he’s still hitting it tremendously long.”

Mickelson has now won six majors, something that will secure his place on the Mount Rushmore of golf legends.  “He’s definitely in the top 12 of all time,” Cavner said.

Ticket sales via the 3M Open website were to Cavner’s liking even before Mickelson’s historic Sunday.  Despite possible COVID restrictions, crowds of 20,000 per day are predicted.  With or without Mickelson, the tournament field will have appeal.

“There’s a lot of guys who played in the PGA Championship that are coming,” Cavner said.  “Some of them that were on the leader board (at the PGA) in the last couple days.”

Worth Noting

A hockey authority, speaking anonymously, sees the Minnesota Wild as “50-50” in earning a win tonight against the Vegas Golden Knights.  A win ties Minnesota and Vegas at three games each in the best of seven playoff series.  The source believes the Wild need to take an early lead to win the game at Xcel Energy Center.  “I don’t see them coming from behind to win.  They need momentum out of the gate.”

The Wild received an unexpected lift from veteran Zach Parise in Monday night’s win.  He scored a goal after mostly being a non-contributor of late.  “They need a spark (tonight) like Parise,” the source said.

Don’t be surprised if Parise is playing elsewhere next season.

With COVID-19 restrictions, the Wild has been limited to 4,500 fans for first round playoff games.  That might translate to about $450,000 in gross ticket receipts, much different than capacity crowds generating revenue of $1.2 to $1.5 million. If Minnesota could advance to the second round of the playoffs and stage sellouts, it would help the franchise’s finances that have taken a major hit because of the pandemic.

Deep condolences to Mike Wilkinson following the death Sunday of wife Susan Wilkinson, 76, who struggled for years with muscular dystrophy and asthma. Mike is a passionate Golden Gophers football follower and author of the Murray Warmath biography, The Autumn Warrior.

The Minnesota Twins, a preseason favorite to be 2021 AL champions, are No. 26 in MLB.com’s latest power rankings of 30 teams.

Speculation: Tampa Bay Rays interested in acquiring Twins’ Nelson Cruz; Toronto Blue Jays looking at Minnesota’s Jose Berrios.

Outfielder Matt Wallner, the Forest Lake, Minnesota native, is the Twins Minor League Player of the Week. The 23-year-old played in six games last week for Single-A Cedar Rapids, hitting .400 (10-for-25) with two home runs and four RBI, including a four-hit game on Thursday against Beloit. He was drafted by the Twins in the first round (39th overall) of the 2019 First-Year Player Draft out of the University of Southern Mississippi.

 

 

Bud Grant, 94, Not Big on Exercise

May 24, 2021 - (0) comments

 

Bud Grant turned 94 years old on May 20. Awhile ago I interviewed the legendary former Minnesota Vikings head coach who was a superb athlete at the University of Minnesota and after his college career played in the NFL and the NBA.

Grant on living a long life: “The main thing is you gotta have the right parents. I don’t smoke. I don’t drink. I don’t swear. I don’t believe in a lot of exercise. I think you wear yourself out.”

Grant is still enjoying life including family, who all live near his Bloomington home. “I’ve got 19 grandchildren, 13 great grandchildren, and they all live within a half hour of my house. They didn’t go very far. They didn’t want to get very far from their mother.”

Bud Grant (photo courtesy of Minnesota Vikings.)

Grant’s devoted wife Pat passed away in 2009 from Parkinson’s. Nine years later he lost son Bruce to brain cancer. Grant can occupy a lot of his time attending activities of the younger members of his clan, but he sets limits. The kids are involved with baseball, hockey, soccer and the like. “I don’t go to all those little league games. A lot of grandparents do all that. I’ve done enough practices (games). I don’t have to do that anymore.”

At 94 Grant’s mind is sharp, but his body has limitations. ” I enjoy my lifestyle. I got a place on the lake (in Wisconsin). I fish and hunt; (but) not as much as I used to because my mobility isn’t as good. I can’t go chasing pheasants across a plowed field anymore but I hunt things that come to me. I sit in a deer stand. I call turkeys. I call ducks and things that come to me. Now is that hunting? Well, I don’t know. Maybe it’s shooting instead of hunting. I am not traipsing through the woods anymore.

“Same with fishing. I used to be a trout fisherman, wade down streams. Well, I can’t do that anymore but I can fish out of a boat. I can fish through the ice. I can do things that don’t require the mobility that I used to have.

“But I also enjoy good health except for my aging and body. I am stooped. I got a sore back now and then. I am not as mobile as I used to be, but I am interested (in things) and…I really enjoy doing nothing now days.”

Grant is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Canadian Football Hall of Fame because of his coaching career. He was the first person ever to achieve that distinction. He coached the Winnipeg Blue Bombers for 10 seasons, winning four CFL titles. He led the Vikings for 18 seasons, establishing the franchise as an NFL power that went to four Super Bowls.

For those who have known Grant, his success is no surprise. Minneapolis sports columnist Sid Hartman, who knew Grant for more than 70 years, used to say his calm and poised friend had more common sense than anyone he ever knew. Hartman was Grant’s presenter at his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction in 1994, and sometimes the target of Bud’s practical jokes.

Although Grant had a reputation for being cold and calculating during his coaching career, he was a prankster behind the scenes. That sense of humor and how to use it made an impression on Pete Carroll, a Vikings assistant coach who worked for Grant in 1985. Carroll, who has gone on to become a college national championship coach and Super Bowl winning coach, writes of his admiration for Grant in his book, Win Forever.

Carroll said Grant “…taught me more about the art of coaching, leadership, and the importance of observing human behavior than any graduate class ever could.” He observed how Grant had “…an awareness of the signals people give off and understood how to use that information to spur them to play at their best possible level.”

Carroll was struck by Grant’s extraordinary intuition and ability to foresee what could happen in football. In the book Carroll writes about the Vikings preparing for an opponent that had been winning games with ease. Grant told his team that if the game was close in the fourth quarter, the Vikings could win because the other team would tighten up, not accustomed to last minute pressure. Then late in the game Grant instructed his kicker to kick the ball to “No. 26,” predicting the return man would fumble. He did. The Vikings recovered the football and went on to win the game. “Everyone went berserk (after the fumble recovery) except Bud, who just stood there with a satisfied smile on his face, as calm as ever,” Carroll wrote.

“Whatever you do to be successful, I did it, and I worked harder at it than most coaches that I talked to,” Grant said. He recalled once asking a coach what he was doing that day and learned his rival was in the Bahamas. “I was never down in the Bahamas,” Grant said. “I was out recruiting, or looking, and talking, getting an idea of players, and analyzing.”

Then Grant thought about safety Paul Krause who still holds the NFL career record for most interceptions with 81. “We got him for almost nothing from Washington, but I had seen him play in college and I followed him and I knew him. So we got players that played great for us but were not recognized by other teams. We didn’t have one player who went to another team who had any great success. We didn’t miss on any of those and that was just because we (the coaches) spent a lot of time analyzing the best players.

“I’ve always said this, coaches don’t win football games. Players win football games. Coaches are a dime a dozen. You get all kinds of coaches that know X’s and O’s. You gotta accumulate (players), manage and put them in the right places and recognize their talents. That’s what wins football games, not coaches. Lots of great coaches out there.”

When Grant coached he understood the job entailed more than finding talent and instructing players how to block and tackle.  “I think I could probably pass some kind of test in marital relations and drug therapy. You know all the things we dealt with, and they deal with them today, but they have more people to deal with them. At my desk everyday (it) was who is in some kind (of difficulty). …I had many wives come in and talk to me about what they could do to straighten out their marital life and their financials. There’s so many things we dealt with. Well, now, I don’t know that (head) coaches do that so much because they’ve got so much help.”

NFL teams have three or four times the number of assistant coaches that Grant had when he started out with the Vikings in 1967. They also have almost countless numbers of support staff and interns. In Grant’s first season the coaching staff numbered five.

“We did all the work, and all the film work and everything,” Grant said. “And now, God, you got assistant to the assistant. I don’t know what they all do. I mean you gotta be chairman of the board instead of coach now.”

Grant is too smart and too much in the present to contend players of the past can match those of today. “Today’s football players are better than they were 20 years ago, 40 years ago, however far (back) you want to go. And there are more of them. All those kids aspire to be great football players from the time they are 12 years old. Well, some of them make it. I think if I could make $25 million a year, I’d aspire to it too. …They got better coaching. They’ve got 20 assistant coaches.”

Grant talked of his admiration for one of his greatest players, defensive end Jim Marshall who once held the NFL record for consecutive games at 282. “Jim Marshall is the most overlooked player in terms of recognition,” Grant said. “He played 19 years. He never missed a game. He never missed a practice. Even though he would have certain injuries, his recovery period was very short. Some guys with a twisted ankle, they’re out for three weeks. Jim Marshall came in on Mondays, he could hardly walk but he played on Sunday again.”

The 1985 season was Grant’s last as a head coach. He was only 58 but felt it was time to move on. He and Pat had decided when their last child graduated from college he would put away his whistle.

“Not all your plans work out but one of our plans was we wanted to get all of our kids educated,” Grant said. “I got six kids, they all graduated from college. They all got good jobs, and they have all been successful in their lives. …”

 

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