Somehow, adding Golden Flashes and Jackrabbits wasn't enough to distract Gophers fans from the Tar Heels.
The Gophers announced Tuesday that Kent State has been added to the 2015 football schedule, and South Dakota State will visit TCF Bank Stadium yet again in 2019. But the school also confirmed that a home-and-home with North Carolina has been removed, at the urging of coach Jerry Kill, from the 2013 and 2014 schedules at a cost of $800,000.
It isn't likely to be a popular decision, athletic director Norwood Teague conceded, but he said it's the right one for a program trying to turn itself around.
"We are behind in many ways. We have a lot of room to make up. ... If we want to win, we're going to have to do some things that squeeze us," Teague said of the decision to buy their way out of the North Carolina contract. "We're going to make some decisions that don't really look good on paper at times, because of where we are. I know it doesn't always settle right with our fans, but it's what's got to happen."
Kill believes the Gophers' Big Ten schedule is such a challenge, with annual games against powerhouses such as Nebraska, Michigan and Wisconsin, that his players need to taste victory first in order to believe in themselves. "One thing Jerry has believed strongly in is building confidence within his team with nonconference opponents," Teague said.
Which is why the 2013 schedule now includes home games against UNLV, Western Illinois and San Jose State, and the 2014 slate features Eastern Illinois, Middle Tennessee State and San Diego State. The vacancy created by canceling the North Carolina games will be filled shortly, Teague said, though he said recent reports that New Mexico State will be the substitute are premature. It's likely, however, that the Gophers' next road nonconference game will be a trip to Fort Collins, Colo., on Sept. 12, 2015, to play Colorado State.
The Gophers also announced that each of the next four seasons will open with home games on the Thursday before Labor Day, after the university reached an agreement regarding parking lots with the State Fair.