In late July linebacker Lee Campbell was part of the Gophers entourage that went to Chicago for the Big Ten Conference meetings. Before leaving town, Campbell went to TCF Bank
Stadium with his cell phone. ¶ He took pictures, lots of them. The stands, the view of the campus through the open end of the stadium. Then he went into the Gophers' 60-plus-yard-long locker room and did a short video. ¶ Once in Chicago, Campbell showed off his new football home to anyone he could find, mainly opposing players. Especially that locker room. ¶ "They'll never get to see it in person," said Campbell, grinning, of the cavernous, football-shaped locker room. "I had to rub it in their faces all I could." ¶ It seemed to work.
The first new stadium to hit the Big Ten since the Metrodome in 1982 was a hot topic in the Windy City.
Some coaches talked about how it will affect recruiting battles. Players mainly just talked about all the bells and whistles and smiled.
"It's amazing," said Wisconsin linebacker Jaevery McFadden, who saw the locker room video while sitting next to Campbell at a Cubs game. "It's big, it's crazy. I'm kinda jealous, man. I ain't gonna lie. I'm kinda jealous."
Wisconsin will be the Gophers' opponent in the Big Ten home opener on Oct. 3. McFadden's teammate, O'Brien Schofield, hasn't seen the stadium, but he has played there many times. At least virtually.
"I've seen it on the NCAA 2010 football game," he said. "I can't wait. I'm just excited I get to play in there, the first year of the new stadium. ... That will be a roaring game."
Purdue coach Danny Hope, whose team will be the Gophers' homecoming opponent on Oct. 10, hasn't seen the stadium, but he has heard a lot about it.
"I've heard coach [Tim] Brewster talking about it," he said. "And I don't blame him. It's special being on campus. That's the way it's supposed to be, you went on campus, their fans are there. I think that bodes well for Minnesota. So, hats off."
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz recalled taking a walk around downtown Minneapolis early in the morning before his Hawkeyes ended the Gophers' Metrodome era with a 55-0 victory last November. "I remember thinking that the next time we played up there it would be a little colder. But it will be interesting."
Iowa won't play in the new stadium until next season, but when the Hawkeyes return, fewer seats should be available to their fans. TCF Bank Stadium's capacity of 50,805 is second-lowest in the Big Ten. The idea is to create local demand while keeping the other team's fans to a minimum.
But the intimate design of the stadium figures to make it plenty loud, according to Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema.
"It won't be like our Camp Randall, it won't be like Penn State, the Big House in Ann Arbor, it won't have those numbers," Bielema said. "But it will be loud. When I was at Kansas State [as co-defensive coordinator in 2002 and '03], we had a smaller stadium. But when we got rolling there, it was one of the best venues we ever played in. It was small, compact, loud. And I know [TCF Bank Stadium] will be sold out."