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U Basketball Ticket Sales Hold Steady

November 01, 2022 - (0) comments

 

As of last Wednesday, public season ticket sales for University of Minnesota men’s basketball were approaching last year’s total of 5,666.  An information request to the U by Sports Headliners generated various ticket sales numbers including that the sale for 2022-2023 public season tickets was at 5,517.

The number of public season tickets accounts for 2021-2022 was 1,908, compared to last week’s total of 1,857 for the coming season. There is no change from last year in pricing of public season tickets.

As of last week, University student season tickets totaled 2,138 and had surpassed last year’s 2,096.

Ben Johnson

There is positivity among fans about second-year head coach Ben Johnson and optimism regarding his recruiting and transfers.  The Gophers’ 2023 recruiting class has two hyped players who have verbally committed, center Dennis Evans from Riverside, California and guard Cameron Christie of Rolling Hills, Illinois. Recruiting authority 247Sports rates Evans the fourth best center prospect in the 2023 national recruiting class and Christie the 23rd best shooting guard.  This season’s team features North Carolina transfer forward Dawson Garcia who was a McDonald’s All-American playing at Prior Lake High School.

Minnesota has an exhibition game at Williams Arena Wednesday night against St. Olaf (tickets $6 to $16) and then opens its regular season schedule with a nonconference game against Western Michigan November 7. Asked about possible sellouts this season at 14,625 seat Williams Arena, the U ticket report document speculated the February 12 Iowa game and March 5 Wisconsin game might do so.

The Gophers’ overall record last season was 13-17.  In Big Ten games Minnesota finished with a 4-16 record and tied for last place with Nebraska in the 14-team conference.

The outlook for the upcoming season is the Gophers will be an improved team but forecasters still have them finishing among the bottom group in the Big Ten. Minnesota’s Big Ten and NCAA Tournament records the last several years has impacted fan support.  Dating back to the season 2017-2018 season the Gophers’ conference record is 31-67.  Minnesota qualified for one NCAA Tournament during that time, splitting two games in 2019.

Home attendance has been declining for years. About 15 years ago public season tickets totaled over 9,000.

The pandemic prevented fans from attending games for the 2020-2021 season, but the three prior years the public season ticket totals were as follows: 5,944 (2019-2020), 6,155 (2018-2019) and 6,524 (2017-2018).

The average attendance of 10,267 last season was the second lowest since 1970-1971 (8,395). The 2019-2020 average was 10,232.

Gophers Notes

Dorothy & Steve Erban

The Gophers play in the SoCal Challenge November 21 and 23 in San Juan Capistrano. Creative Charters is offering five-and-seven-day packages to enjoy not only the games but to experience the weather and attractions on the California Coast. The Stillwater-based company of Steve and Dorothy Erban has been offering Gopher and other fan travel since 1993.

Through a request for information to the University of Minnesota, Sports Headliners has learned the Gophers will pay legendary football power Alabama $300,000 to play at Huntington Bank Stadium September 18, 2032.  Alabama will guarantee the same amount to Minnesota for the September 17, 2033 game in Tuscaloosa.

Minnesota and Alabama athletic departments will both generate large revenues, with the assumption here each will keep all home game revenues including ticket receipts. Guarantees for nonconference games are often much larger than $300,000, further creating big paydays for both schools.

Minnesota is 1-0 all-time against Alabama. The Gophers beat the Crimson Tide 20-16 in the 2004 Music City Bowl in Nashville.  Minnesota is 9-8-1 against current teams in the SEC.

With balmy weather and an attractive 1:30 p.m. start, the Gophers announced a surprisingly large attendance of 49,368 for their game against Rutgers last Saturday. The Gophers haven’t sold out a game this season in their 50,805-seat stadium but could November 19 against Iowa. Big Ten teams keep all home revenues.

Despite ups and downs over the decades, interest in Gopher football in the state is considerable.  That interest can translate into ticket sales and TV eyeballs. The Minnesota at Penn State game October 22 was televised on ABC nationwide and in the Minneapolis-St. Paul marketplace had 250,000 viewers, per Darren Wolfson on a recent SKOR North podcast.

 

Vikings Near ’98 & ’09 Fast Starts

October 30, 2022 - (0) comments

 

The Vikings are 6-1 after today’s 34-26 win over the Cardinals.  With a win next Sunday over the Commanders, they can match the 7-1 starts of the 1998 and 2009 teams that are among the best in franchise history.

Those two teams went on to 15-1 and 12-4 regular season records respectively.  Both flirted with Super Bowl trips before losing in NFC title games.

No one should put the 2022 Vikings in that company yet but the latest edition of the Purple has been impressive so far this season.  They’ve managed to win five straight often making timely plays in close games (winning twice by eight points, and three, four and seven).

That was true today when Za’Darius Smith and Harrison Phillips put together consecutive sacks of Cardinals’ QB Kyler Murray in the closing seconds of the game.  Smith had three sacks on the day, a fitting achievement on a day when sack master Jared Allen of the Vikings was inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor.

The raucous crowd at U.S. Bank Stadium was noisy today, even by their ear-pounding standards. This town loves a winner and the citizenry is passionate about the local NFL team above all others. Fans were giddy about the possibility of seeing the Vikings remain among the NFL elite today.

Kirk Cousins

“You can’t say enough about our fans today, the noise they brought,” Vikings QB Kirk Cousins said on KFAN after the game.  “From the first half to the last it’s just a tremendous environment. It’s a privilege to get to play here.”

Cousins completed 24 passes today and moved to 3,000 career completions.  He is the 31st QB in NFL history to reach 3,000 completions. He has also thrown a touchdown pass in 37 consecutive games.

The Cardinals’ set their defense to stop the Vikings outside offense so Minnesota took advantage rushing inside for many of their 173 yards.  Dalvin Cook ran for 111 yards, approaching his total in last year’s loss to Arizona when he had 131.  Cousins even ran for 22 yards including a rare touchdown run of 17 to score Minnesota’s first touchdown.

Cousins and the Vikings, though, have struggled this season against blitzes. The Cardinals used one to force a Cousins fumble in the third quarter that set up a touchdown drive narrowing the score to 28-23.

As usual, though, the Vikings won with contributions from the offense, defense, special teams and the crowd (4-0 record at home).  The Vikings converted three Arizona turnovers into 13 points in the second half. Typical of seizing opportunities by this team.

Worth Noting

Reserve quarterback Nick Mullens recently praising the communications between the coaching staff and players: “If you can communicate, you can execute. That’s been a great trait for us here.”

Mullens said head coach Kevin O’Connell and his staff have created a player-friendly environment that includes expectations and boundaries. “The players are very aware of the standard that the coaches and ourselves hold for each other,” Mullens said. “Upholding that standard each week is what we strive for. And we’ve done a good job and look forward to just keep earning the right to do that.”

For a home game like today that started at noon Vikings will arrive at the stadium about 9:30 a.m.  Veteran safety Harrison Smith will use the hot tub to warm up his 33-year-old body and doesn’t go out on the field much prior to kickoff. “Just try to get the body warm and loose.  Nothing crazy,” he recently told Sports Headliners.

Smith said he doesn’t sleep well after games and sometimes tries to catch up on rest Monday when he’s also doing an assessment about his body.  He will get a massage on Mondays or Tuesdays.  Later in the week there will be more practice and preparation for the upcoming game.

“I’ve played golf a few times on Tuesdays (this year),” Smith said. “It’s a good excuse to get some vitamin D if the sun is out. If I am hurt, though, I don’t play.”

Vikings kicker Greg Joseph, 28, talking last week about his future in football and hoping to keep playing well into his 30s: “Oh, I feel like I’m only gonna get better and better and stronger and stronger, which is exciting. I keep trying to reset my ceiling every year. So yeah, just excited. …”

Plans after football? “Whatever God has in store for me,” Joseph said.

Axios Sports points out that dating back to last Thursday and going through November 22 “there will be either FBS college football or NFL every single day.”

St. Paul native Pat Eilers, who played safety for the Vikings and Notre Dame, has made (along with wife Jana) a $5 million donation to his alma mater to support the director of sports performance position. The Eilers have provided previous gifts to Notre Dame and their children have attended school there.

It seems like a roll of the dice as to what kind of season starting Wild goalie MarcAndre Fleury can have at age 38. Coach Dean Evason and GM Bill Guerin must be monitoring his performance and calculating how to handle the goalie roster.

Fleury’s 38th birthday is November 28, the same age that goalie Gump Worsley was a  member of the Stanley Cup Canadiens decades ago.  Worsley won another Cup with the Canadiens in 1969 at age 39 (almost 40) and is the oldest NHL goaltender to have that distinction. Worsley later played for the North Stars and retired at age 44.

Retired Twins executive Terry Ryan, who was with the Phillies after leaving the Twins, is living in Eagan.

It was 35 years ago last Tuesday the Twins defeated the Cardinals in Game Seven of the 1987 World Series in Minneapolis. Wheaties boxes celebrating the World Series championship are available for sale on Ebay.

The Timberwolves sold $5 upper level tickets for home games last week against the Spurs.

Timberwolves limited partner Alex Rodriguez has purchased a home in Minnesota.

Stillwater-based Creative Charters is offering a same day trip to the Minnesota-Nebraska football game Saturday in Lincoln and has space available on the plane. Kickoff is 11 a.m.

St. Thomas football coach Glenn Caruso speaks to the CORES lunch group November 10 at the Bloomington Event Center. He is a six-time National Coach of the Year and is leading the Tommies in their second season of Division I competition where they top the Pioneer League at 5-0. CORES is open to the public but reservations must be made by November 7. More information about CORES is available by contacting Jim Dotseth, dotsethj@comcast.net. CORES is an acronym for coaches, officials, reporters, educators and sports fans.

 

Injuries: Savvy & Luck Help Vikings?

October 25, 2022 - (0) comments

 

Coming out of the bye-week, the question in Viking-crazed Minnesota is whether the Purple can sustain their hot start to the season.

Kevin O’Connell photo courtesy of Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings, 5-1, are likely to continue playing winning football but with 11 games remaining on the schedule it might not be realistic to expect they will dodge key injuries so successfully while seeing their opponents troubled by them. Maybe Kevin O’Connell, who has made impressive adjustments to the offense, called winning plays and hired a solid staff of assistants, has brought along not only coaching skills but also the luck of the Irish.

Safety Harrison Smith is the only starter to miss a game so far. Outside linebacker D.J. Wonnum, a sack specialist and key reserve, missed a game because of illness. Weekly looks at Minnesota’s list of injured or ill players has frequently been minimal compared with other NFL clubs.  Minnesota’s practice report on players whose game status was in question, or ruled out, has typically listed six or so names.

Smith missed the Lions game September 25 but returned the next Sunday for the London match up with the Saints. Wonnum didn’t play against the Dolphins October 16. Star running back Dalvin Cook, who injured his shoulder in the Lions game, was in doubt for London but did start and play in the October 2 international game.

Not so fortunate in England were the Saints who were missing starting quarterback Jameis Winston and former All-Pro RB Alvin Kamara. In the Vikings’ last game before the bye, October 16 in Miami, they played a Dolphins team without its starting quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa. Then early in the game backup QB Skylar Thompson was sidelined with an injury. Tyreek Hill, on the short list of the NFL’s best wide receivers, played for Miami despite an injured foot.

Minnesota’s good fortune goes back to the September 9 opener against the Packers who went through a troubled offseason and training camp trying to figure out their receivers corps. Veteran Allen Lazard, a QB Aaron Rodgers favorite, seemed the best of the group after star WR Davante Adams left for free agency and a spot with the Raiders during the offseason, but Lazard was injured and couldn’t play in Minneapolis. Injured David Bakhtiari, among the best offensive tackles in the pros, was also unavailable to Green Bay.

Judging by results so far, the Viking strength and conditioning department, led by Josh Hingst in his second year with Minnesota, is doing its job. The Vikings have played like a team not only able to avoid injuries but respond effectively to the few they have had. They also have shown wherewithal in the fourth quarter, not playing like a team that was fatigued or beaten down.

Give the Vikings credit for their health and taking advantage of their opportunities, including opponents’ injuries and making big plays in the second half, but there’s nothing wrong with having good fortune, too.

Worth Noting

Best guess is coveted wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. soon signs with one of the two best NFL teams, the Bills or Chiefs. A wildcard landing spot is the Vikings because of his previous relationship with O’Connell when both were with the Rams.

BTW, it probably can’t be helping the defending Super Bowl champion Rams, with a 3-3 record, that the coaching staff is without O’Connell, Wes Phillips and Chris O’Hara. When O’Connell took the head coaching job in Minnesota last winter, he made Phillips his offensive coordinator and O’Hara his quarterback coach.

Twin Cities Dunkers leader Dan Stoltz, whose SPIRE Credit Union features Kirk Cousins in TV commercials, has arranged for the Vikings’ quarterback to speak to the Dunkers October 31.

Did you know the Vikings’ most elite offensive playmaker, WR Justin Jefferson, is 23 years old, while the Gophers’ best, RB Mo Ibrahim, is 24?

From a personnel perspective beyond this season, the best thing about the Gophers’ program is the promising future of redshirt freshman quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis. He was poised in his first college start last Saturday evening in the crazed-white out atmosphere at Penn State and showed both his running and passing skills that include a strong arm.

It’s a possibility Minnesota, with Kaliakmanis, could have the Big Ten West Division’s most talented quarterback next season. Look for Kaliakmanis to start Saturday’s home game against Rutgers if senior Tanner Morgan is still injured and unable to play.

Yesterday head coach P.J. Fleck wasn’t sure who his starter will be.  He also said it’s uncertain if reserve quarterback Cole Kramer’s injury will allow him to be on the field.  Kramer played on two downs in the wildcat formation against Penn State, but he didn’t touch the ball because direct snaps went to Ibrahim.

The latest rankings of all 131 FBS football teams by Chris Vannini of the The Athletic has Minnesota No. 42. Rutgers is No 93, with the other remaining teams on the Minnesota schedule ranked as follows: Iowa No.61  Nebraska No. 92, Northwestern No. 119  and Wisconsin No. 47.

Morgan, the winningest quarterback in Gophers’ football history, will be remembered for more than his success on the field. His leadership with teammates and caring about the community are exemplary.

This fall Morgan, who lost his father to cancer last year, has a new partnership with the Mendota Heights-based Angel Foundation and its Kapps for Cancer initiative to raise funds.  A variety of baseball and stocking caps are being sold. http://kappscustoms.com

Former Gopher football player Jim Bruton has authored 23 books including his latest on Washburn-McReavy Funeral Chapels.

The timing of Gopher volleyball coach Hugh McCutcheon’s announcement to retire at season’s end is stunning and without explanation yet. Gophers’ athletic director Mark Coyle said at a news conference earlier this year he worries about the extraordinary time all of his coaches must devote to recruiting in today’s competitive environment.

Bob Motzko’s No. 1 ranked hockey Gophers have a roster that continues the program’s tradition of using talent from the state. Twenty of the 26 players on the roster were born and raised in Minnesota, with 16 of them from within 40 miles of campus.

The Wild will host a free, open-to-the-public outdoor practice starting at 10 a.m. November 5 at St. Louis Park’s Recreation Outdoor Center, 3700 Monterey Drive. There will be fan giveaways and activities.

Former Gophers’ All-American basketball player Quincy Lewis, who was M Club director for about four years until October 14, is now director of alumni relations for the Utah Jazz, the NBA club he once played for.

Sports Illustrated’s pro and college basketball issue predicts the Wolves’ Anthony Edwards could be the NBA’s most improved player. “Now with even more talent around him, Edwards is looking at a third-year jump that could put him into the league’s elite,” the magazine said.

The Wolves are projected to finish second to the Nuggets in the Northwest Division and qualify for the eighth spot in the Western Conference playoffs. The magazine’s highest ranked Big Ten men’s team is Illinois at No. 15, with two other conference programs in the top 25, No. 20 Indiana and No. 24 Michigan.

Race Thompson

Race Thompson, the Indiana senior forward from Armstrong and son of Minnesota football great Darrell Thompson, is profiting from NIL deals including a recently announced ambassador role with Merchants Bank.

Absurd: the length of college football games. Last Saturday’s Texas-Oklahoma State game started at 2:30 p.m. and didn’t end until about 6:45 p.m. (Four quarters, no overtime).

 

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