Gophers becoming a big deal in a crowded sports marketplace

Published 6:00 am Sunday, October 19, 2014

Column: Notes from Nashville, by Andrew Dyrdal

I have never thought of Minneapolis as a “college town.”

Sure, the University of Minnesota campus and Dinkytown can feel intimate, but scale back and you’ll find a swarming metropolis with a bustling downtown.

The U of M is just a small part of what makes the Twin Cities great, and its sports teams share the spotlight with four major professional franchises.

For that reason, I’ve always thought the Gophers had sharp a disadvantage when it came to recruiting. When I visited the University of Wisconsin in Madison for the first time as a college senior, I couldn’t imagine how any high school athlete would choose a college surrounded by suburbs over that beautiful campus on a lake.

But with the success of its football, basketball and hockey teams over the past couple years and the declining success of the Timberwolves, Twins and Vikings, the Gophers are slowly gaining a bigger share in a crowded marketplace.

While the Vikings have dealt with national attention-grabbing news regarding homophobia and domestic violence, Jerry Kill has brought in high-character players to play an old-school type of football that has the Gophers in contention for a Big Ten championship.

The Twins and Vikings have made one bad personnel decision over another, and Richard Pitino has brought in enough diamonds in the rough to the Gophers men’s basketball team from junior colleges like DeAndre Mathieu to weather the storm while bringing in a Top 25 recruiting class next season.

The Gophers own most of the feel-good sports stories over the past couple years, and it doesn’t look like it will change anytime soon.

Hopefully that momentum will lead to bigger crowds and more resources to help them continue to contend in the Big Ten. Minneapolis is becoming more and more of a “college town,” and its professional counterparts will need to make some big changes to get it back.

Andrew Dyrdal’s column appears in the Tribune each Thursday. It was changed this week because of prep football on Wednesday.