When it comes to the NCAA Women’s Final Four and Minnesota, the first thing that comes to mind is Lindsay Whalen’s memorable run with the Gophers in 2004. It was a run that inspired fans and a generation of young ballplayers in the state.
Whalen is now the coach of the Gophers and has hopes of reaching the Final Four again. Regardless of her team’s success, the Women’s Final Four and Minnesota will hook up again, this time as event host. The 2022 Final Four will be held at Target Center in Minneapolis, the NCAA announced Monday.
“It’s huge,” Whalen said. “I got to play in a Final Four. I know what that represents and what that means to a state.”
Whalen was running practice as the new head coach Monday when she received a text message from her director of basketball, Melissa Maines. Whalen’s response: “Let’s gooooooo!”
Sharing that same enthusiasm a few miles away was Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and Gophers athletic director Mark Coyle, who embraced other officials while celebrating the news at a viewing party across from the Target Center, which also served as the venue for the 1995 Women’s Final Four.
The 2022 Final Four also will honor the 50th anniversary of Title IX.
“What better way to celebrate that huge achievement than doing it right here in Minneapolis,” Frey said. “And if we can hopefully get Lindsay Whalen to cut the nets at the end of the Final Four, I think it would be a nice exclamation.”
Coyle added to that optimistic thinking, adding “that would be a great story if it did come to fruition for us.”
Minneapolis was named one of eight finalists in January to host a Final Four from 2021 through 2024.
San Antonio won the 2021 bid, Dallas won 2023 and Cleveland won the 2024 bid.
Being part of a string of big-ticket sporting events certainly made the Twin Cities an attractive destination. Other major NCAA events following in the wake of Super Bowl LII and two Frozen Fours: the 2018 women’s volleyball Final Four, 2019 men’s basketball Final Four, 2020 wrestling championships, 2021 men’s basketball tournament regional, and 2021 men’s gymnastics championships.