Mike Tice was responsible for the development of a lot of talented offensive linemen during his time as a Vikings coach.

Center Matt Birk is appreciative for what Tice did for him. Tice, who was a Vikings tight end before becoming offensive line coach and later head coach, now is assistant head coach for the Jaguars, whom the Vikings visit on Sunday.

Birk might be working for some financial company in New York now if it weren't for Tice, who really liked what he saw from Birk when the Cretin-Derham Hall and Harvard product worked out for the Vikings before the 1998 NFL draft.

"Oh yeah, I remember coming here working out for him," Birk recalled. "I was home on spring break in college, and I came here and went through a workout, and he was very complimentary and very upbeat."

"... Mike gave me a chance and I appreciate that, and I also spent eight years with him. So obviously I have a personal relationship with him, but this week is not the time to be catching up."

The Vikings made Birk a sixth-round pick, 173rd overall, and he has made six Pro Bowls since. He also is the longest-tenured current athlete in Minnesota's four major pro sports, with this his 11th season.

"[Tice] certainly helped me a lot," Birk said. "Like I said, he just saw something in me and he didn't give up on me. He taught me how to play in this league."

Tice would like to be a head coach again and Birk would like to see him get the opportunity.

"Obviously he's a good coach, he's been in this league a long time," Birk said.

Asked if Tice should have been fired after the 2005 season, Birk said: "I don't know. That's the past. That's for you guys to speculate on. He's a good coach.

"Mike knows football, he was a player and now a coach for a long time. He's done both of them for a long time. He knows the game. You look at the offensive lines that he coached, they did pretty well."

The year Birk was drafted, Tice's starting offensive line consisted of Todd Steussie, Randall McDaniel, Jeff Christy, David Dixon and Korey Stringer. The Vikings haven't had lines any better, and they sure could use one or two of those linemen now.

Birk said Sunday wouldn't be the time to catch up with familiar faces, with the Jaguars (4-6) and Vikings (5-5) both fighting to make the playoffs.

"That's where the focus is going to be," he said.

Familiar with Weber

Bobby Weber was a three-year letterwinner at defensive back for the Gophers football team from 1974 to '77.

On the coaching staff under Cal Stoll during that time was Norm Parker, who coached defensive linemen. Parker now serves as defensive coordinator of Iowa, and he has been working on a defense that will be responsible for stopping Gophers quarterback Adam Weber, Bobby's son, on Saturday at the Metrodome.

"I visited Iowa on a recruiting trip," Adam recalled. "And Norm Parker was one of the coaches who tried to sell me on going to school there.

"My dad and Norm talked about old times at Minnesota. It's funny that now Norm is going to try to do everything he can to stop our offense, contrary to what he did when Minnesota would play Iowa when my dad was a Gopher."

Parker, considered one of the best defensive coaches in the country, has been at Iowa since 1999. Twice over the past four years, he has been a finalist for the Frank Broyles Assistant Coach of the Year award.


It wasn't any surprise that the Metrodome wasn't picked for an NCAA men's basketball Final Four from 2012 to 2016. The NCAA had doubts if the Metrodome would be available during that period, with the possibility of the Vikings building a new stadium on the location. And the committee favored newer buildings except for New Orleans, one of their favorite sites. However, the Metrodome will be the site of first- and second-round games this March, and the NCAA said the cities that failed to land a Final Four for the five-year period announced Wednesday will get to host earlier rounds during that time span.

The Vikings have sold out their next home game, Nov. 30 against the Bears, so it won't be blacked out on television. And there remains a good chance that the final two home games against the Falcons and Giants also will be sold out. If that were to happen, it would mark the 11th consecutive season the Vikings have sold out all their home games. ... The Vikings should hope that the Giants will have already clinched the NFC's top seed by the time the season finale rolls around, so that they will rest a lot of their starters at the Dome, with nothing at stake for them. This Giants visit will be seventh regular-season game between the teams since 2000, the most of any Vikings non-divisional opponent. They also met in the NFC Championship Game after the 2000 season, won by the Giants 41-0.

Less than 1,000 tickets remain for Saturday's Gophers-Iowa football game. ... The Gophers men's swimming team, ranked No. 9 nationally, will get a boost in January, when Nadav Kochavi becomes eligible. Coach Dennis Dale is very high on Kochavi, the Israeli national champion in the 100- and 200-meter butterfly, who swam unattached at the Minnesota Grand Prix last weekend and posted NCAA standard times. His times would have ranked in the top five in school history. ... The Gophers men's diving team under Jason Baumann has made strides as well. Sophomore Drew Brown broke school records on the 3-meter and 10-meter platform last weekend.

Bart Reiter, a three-time Iowa state champion wrestler from Don Bosco High School in Gilbertville, has said he will wrestle for the Gophers next season, following his brother Mack Reiter, a three-time All-America with the Gophers.

It could be an interesting recruiting battle at the University of Minnesota for the services of Anders Lee, the outstanding quarterback and hockey player for Edina. Lee was named Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year in football. There is a better chance he would be offered a hockey scholarship from the Gophers than a football one, because the Gophers are loaded with quarterbacks.

Longtime NFL safety John Lynch, who announced his retirement Monday, will make his debut as a Fox Sports analyst for Sunday's Vikings-Jaguars game. Lynch, who played 11 years for Tampa Bay and four more for Denver, served as an honorary team captain for the Buccaneers last weekend vs. the Vikings.

Tulsa freshman Armond Battle, a 6-7 forward from Benilde-St. Margaret's, will redshirt this basketball season after suffering an ankle injury in practice Nov. 9. He had surgery last week to repair a torn Achilles' tendon.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on his Podcast once a week at www.startribune.com/sidcast. shartman@startribune.com