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U Regent Wants to Revive Programs

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December 16, 2020


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Board of regent member Michael Hsu proposes giving about $1.2 million in University of Minnesota borrowed money next year to the Gopher men’s gymnastics, tennis, and indoor track and field programs, allowing them to continue for the 2021-2022 school year.

The regents received a report stating the U likely needs to borrow about $82 million sometime next year because of the pandemic and its adverse effects on revenues. Hsu suggested at a recent regents meeting that the $82 million be increased to $83.2 million, with the additional sum providing a short term fix for the above mentioned sports. “Give everybody a chance to kind of figure things out and see if there is any way to continue these sports using outside money,” Hsu told Sports Headliners.

In October the regents voted 7-5 to eliminate the three sports at the end of the fiscal year in June as a cost savings to the Gopher Athletic Department. Critics have scoffed at the less than $2 million amount in annual savings that will be realized, but athletic director Mark Coyle has said Title IX issues also dictated the decision. Program boosters have held protests, generated fundraising ideas and used the media to plead their case, with gymnastics coach Mike Burns even appearing nationally on the “60 Minutes” TV program.

Hsu was planting an idea with the suggestion to provide funding for the programs facing elimination. “I am not expecting a (University system) loan amount to be known until May or June timeframe, but we have several meetings before that and it may come up in some fashion. …I don’t think we’ll be acting on any loan until closer to the end of the fiscal year,” Hsu said.

Hsu also said it’s anticipated U is facing about $166 million in budget shortfall by fiscal year end. Therefore, there would be a need to source outside money via a loan, or perhaps sale of bonds, to make up for a lot of the shortfall. Hsu and others predict a significant portion of an $82 million loan would be given to the Gophers’ Athletic Department.

Earlier in the year Coyle projected a worse case revenue shortfall of $75 million for this school year. Since then one major development has been that despite the pandemic, Big Ten teams including the Gophers have been able to play a fall season and generate significant TV revenues.

Hsu doesn’t have the figures on TV revenue, or other current specific athletic department revenue and expense data, but he guesstimates the Gophers’ Athletic Department may need $40 million of the U’s borrowed money. “Let’s be clear. That is a Michael Hsu estimate—that is likely not to be right.”

Worth Noting

St. Paul Saints owner Mike Veeck told Sports Headliners he expects ticket and concession prices to remain the same next season, despite his franchise losing $1 million this year and elevating from Independent to Triple-A status in 2021.

The Saints will be a farm club of the Minnesota Twins, with officials of the big league team assuring the creative Veeck his franchise can continue its famous promotions that characterized the fan experience in St. Paul for more than 25 years. Veeck also said he will be interested to see the direction of Independent Baseball in coming years and could be interested in acquiring a franchise.

A financial victim of the pandemic, the Harold’s Cabin restaurant in Charleston owned by Veeck has closed.

Gophers football fans were wondering who No. 48 was last Saturday when Minnesota defeated Nebraska, 24-21. Redshirt senior Anders Gelecinskyj from Bloomington Kennedy, by way of Minnesota State, kicked one field goal and three extra points in his Gopher debut while subbing for regular kicker Michael Lantz who is out for the season.

On the KFAN Radio post game show Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck acknowledged his new kicker, who despite being on the team for two-plus seasons had never appeared in a game. Then Fleck told a story about Gelecinskyj giving him a gift awhile ago that is popular in the Gelecinskyj family. On Fleck’s desk sits a hollowed out egg painted in German colors.

Fleck talking about his defense that played its best game of the season in defeating Nebraska: “We knew we were going to be younger on defense, and nobody predicted COVID. Then you don’t get the spring ball and summer to develop them (young players). They’re thrown into play with a few weeks of preparation.”

Avante Dickerson, the Omaha cornerback who was the 247Sports composite top ranked Gopher verbal commit, will not sign with Minnesota today on National Signing Day and is delaying his National Letter of Intent commitment until February.

Much maligned Kirk Cousins has thrown 83 touchdown passes since joining the Vikings in 2018. That is tied for fourth best in the NFL with Tom Brady, and trailing Patrick Mahomes (109), Russell Wilson (104) and Aaron Rodgers (90).

Saint John’s coach Gary Fasching told Sports Headliners he is hopeful MIAC football teams will play a spring schedule starting in April. He said it’s likely a four-game Johnnies schedule will include a game against historic rival St. Thomas before the Tommies depart the MIAC next fall for the Pioneer Football League. The matchup was scheduled last fall for U.S. Bank Stadium where Fasching was told the attendance might reach 50,000.

A game next spring with the Tommies would likely be hosted by Saint John’s without spectators.  The Johnnies have made a MIAC record six consecutive NCAA playoff appearances dating back to 2014.

Fasching reported that offensive tackle Ben Bartch, the former Saint John’s star drafted in the fourth round this spring by the Jacksonville Jaguars, made his first NFL start last Sunday. “He graded out very well,” Fasching said. “They are really excited with him.”

SI.com points out the Timberwolves Ricky Rubio, playing last year for the Phoenix Suns, made the top 10 in “ESPN’s real plus-minus statistic for point guards.” He is a top 100 player in the NBA, according to SI.com, which ranks him No. 82.

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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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