A Friday notes column:
Former Gopher junior linebacker Blake Weber and players from three other schools are transferring to Glenn Caruso’s St. Thomas football program. The St. Thomas coach told Sports Headliners yesterday he is “tremendously happy” to have Weber, Michael Frankl, Peder Olson and Cody Stanger joining his team.
Weber, from Prior Lake High School, played on special teams for the Gophers in nine games in 2015 after transferring from Rochester Community and Technical College. He redshirted last season, and did go through spring practice this year with the Gophers before deciding to transfer. Linebacker is perhaps Minnesota’s deepest position going into the 2017 season.
Frankl is a quarterback transfer from Iowa State, while Olson is a linebacker joining the Tommies from North Dakota State. Stanger, a defensive lineman, comes to St. Thomas from Rochester Community and Technical College. Frankl played high school football at Ames High School in Ames, Iowa, while Olson is from Maple Grove and Stanger is from Stewartville, Minnesota.
All four transfers are expected to be eligible this coming season, joining a powerhouse program that is undefeated in the MIAC the last two seasons. Caruso is 99-15 in nine seasons at St. Thomas. He has won several Division III coach of the year awards.
Athlonsports.com ranked all 130 major college football coaches this week. The Gophers’ P.J. Fleck is No. 41 on a list that has Alabama’s Nick Saban first, Ohio State’s Urban Meyer second and Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh third. Among those Fleck ranks ahead of are Nebraska’s Mike Riley (46), Georgia’s Kirby Smart (65), Florida Atlantic’s Lane Kiffin (80), Illinois’ Lovie Smith (106) and former Gophers defensive coordinator Everett Withers (127) now head coach at Texas State.
Kiffin, the Bloomington native, has his 77-year-old dad, Monte Kiffin, on the staff as a defensive assistant. Monte’s long coaching career includes eight years with the Vikings in the 1980s and 1990s.
Gophers fans followed ex-U quarterback Phil Nelson last year for his one season at East Carolina. Now the 2017 Pirates will have former Gophers defensive end Gaelin Elmore who will play his senior season for East Carolina.
Former Gophers assistant coach Tony Petersen is offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the Pirates.
Congratulations to former Gopher All-Big Ten tight end Ray Parson on his recent 70th birthday.
A crowd estimated from several hundred to a few thousand watched the Timberwolves’ Jimmy Butler news conference yesterday at the Mall of America. Many more followed live coverage on local radio and TV, and NBA TV.
Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau said of Butler: “He’s a great person. He’s a great leader. We’re thrilled to have him.”
Thibodeau coached Butler with the Bulls and helped take him from a late first round draft choice to an All-NBA guard. “Thibs has molded me into the player that I am today,” Butler said.
After the news conference general manager Scott Layden told Sports Headliners the Wolves are “excited” to have Ricky Rubio on the team. The veteran point guard is the subject of ongoing media speculation he will be traded because his shooting isn’t consistent enough to suit the Wolves.
Layden, though, referred to the strong play of Rubio as “incredible” in the closing months of the 2016-2017 season. Rubio’s shooting and scoring were at times the best of his six-year career. He had career highs at 11.2 points per game and field goal percentage, .402. He had 25 double-doubles during the season, with 23 in the final 45 games.
U.S. Bank Stadium, already the winner of local awards, was honored this week with the David Vickers Award for “Venue Project of the Year” in Dublin, Ireland. Part of the international Stadium Business Awards lineup, the award won by the Vikings was determined by a panel of global stadium industry leaders and online voting by stadium industry peers, according to a Vikings news release.
The award is “given to a new stadium, arena or major sports venue that opened (or re-opened after renovations) to great success between January 1, 2016 and January 27, 2017.” Among earlier awards presented to U.S. Bank Stadium was Best Sports Venue by Minnesota Meetings & Events magazine.
The expansion Minnesota United FC ranks No. 11 in average home attendance among the 22 Major League Soccer franchises, according to Wednesday figures from Soccerstadiumdigest.com. Playing at TCF Bank Stadium, Minnesota is averaging 20,115 per match so far this season. Atlanta United FC, another expansion franchise, leads the MSL in average attendance at 46,698.
The MIAC’s total of Academic All-Conference athletes for the 2016-2017 school year has set a new record of 1,033, one more than the previous year. Student-athletes must be sophomores, juniors, or seniors with a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.5 on a 4.0 scale to qualify for MIAC Academic All-Conference recognition.