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U 10th Football Game? Rutgers, Please

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July 14, 2020

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You know that guy Kevin Warren who used to live in suburban Minneapolis and was chief operating officer of the Minnesota Vikings?  Yeah, the nice man who moved to Chicago and became commissioner of the Big Ten Conference early this year.

A few years ago Mr. Warren was on the University of Minnesota search committee to choose the school’s next athletic director.  The committee made a top hire in Mark Coyle who since 2016 has made his presence felt in the Gopher Athletic Department.

Now, Warren might be able to do the Gophers another good deed.  His Big Ten office announced last week that all fall sports teams will play conference opponents only—if there is competition in the coming months.  With COVID-19 placing question marks everywhere, there is no guarantee of a Big Ten football schedule, but it’s a possibility that has Gophers fans waiting with high expectations after last season’s team earned an 11-2 record and No. 10 final ranking in the Associated Press national poll.

Before the pandemic, Big Ten football teams were each scheduled to have nine conference opponents, plus three nonleague games. In 2020 it is the East Division’s turn to have each of its teams play five home conference games, with four on the road.  The West Division, including the Gophers, had the more favorable five at home, four away scheduling in 2019.

Conjecture is the Big Ten may write a composite football schedule giving each of the 14 teams 10 conference games.  That means the Gophers and other teams in the West pick up a home game.  And here’s where our friend Kevin comes in.

Mr. Commish, how about sending the Rutgers Scarlet Knights to Minneapolis for a season opening game Saturday, September 12?  The Gophers and Knights originally had nonconference games scheduled that day, so the date is open for both programs.

Despite the school’s fancy nickname, the Knights have been pretty dismal in football and basketball since joining the Big Ten in 2014.  Pay me a buck for every Big Ten fan who believes the far away New York City area school never should have been invited to join the conference. But the Scarlet Knights are here (thanks, former commissioner Jim Delany) and no doubt other West Division teams covet adding Rutgers, 2-10 last year, to their schedules.

The Gophers and Knights have only played twice in football, including one game in Minneapolis in 2016.  Minnesota and Rutgers met last season (Goldy won 42-7) but they aren’t scheduled to play again until 2022 so it’s not like we see Ozzie Nelson’s and Elizabeth Warren’s old school every fall.

The Knights are hardly a box office attraction and that just adds to the appeal of bringing them to Minneapolis in September.  The Gophers and other college football programs won’t be fretting about filling up their stadiums, with teams expected to either play in front of empty stands or at maybe 25 percent capacity.  Bingo, great year to schedule Rutgers at TCF Bank Stadium.

Now lest you think we’re getting over confident about taking on Rutgers, I will be the first to recommend having a bottle of Maalox nearby when watching September 12.  See the Scarlet Knights talent level will again be pretty minimal but the team has a new coach in Greg Schiano, who in a previous stop in Piscataway had Rutgers knocking on the door of football royalty. Schiano, in his first game back with the Knights, will have his team prepared and motivated for an upset.

So Kevin, it’s not like we’re asking for a gift—just a little favor when your office makes revised schedules.

Here’s how the entire new Gopher schedule could look with 10 conference opponents:

September 12: Rutgers

September 18 (Friday night): Iowa

September 26 (previously BYU): at Maryland

October 3: Bye (was Maryland)

October 10: at Wisconsin

October 17: Michigan

October 24: at Illinois

October 31: at Michigan State

November 7: Purdue

November 14: Bye

November 21: Northwestern

November 27 (Friday): at Nebraska

Worth Noting

Indianapolis defensive end Kyran Montgomery, considered a rising recruit, has narrowed his college possibilities to the Gophers, Florida State and Missouri.  Rivals.com ranks him a four-star, while 247Sports labels Montgomery a three-star.

With a couple of recent de-commits, and the success of other programs, the Gophers’ 2021 recruiting class has dropped to No. 20 in the national team rankings by 247Sports.  In the spring Minnesota was No. 5 and second in the Big Ten only to Ohio State.  With the guess that Gophers coach P.J. Fleck will line up another five to seven verbal commitments before signing days in December and February, the Gophers could improve their No. 20 ranking.

After last night’s Byron Buxton left foot injury at Target Field, expect test results later today from the Twins regarding the center fielder’s status in the days ahead.

Brian Cosgriff

Brian Cosgriff, the seven-time state champion girls basketball coach who recently announced his retirement from Hopkins after 21 seasons, doesn’t plan to coach again but will teach physical education full time at Providence Academy in Plymouth.  “It’s closed (coaching again).  It’s just time to do something else,” the 59-year-old Cosgriff told Sports Headliners.

Cosgriff has a brother who died at 61, and this spring his sister was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. He mentioned family when talking about his retirement decision, and also colleagues at Hopkins who are moving on. He plans to continue working the chain crews for Royals and Gophers football games. “You’re going to have to pry my dead hands off the (marking) pole,” Cosgriff joked.

Edina’s Mardy Fish, the former highly ranked pro tennis player, won the American Century Championship celebrity golf tournament in Nevada Sunday.

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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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