Joe Christensen covered Major League Baseball for 15 years, including three seasons at the Baltimore Sun and eight at the Star Tribune, before switching to the college football beat. He’s a Faribault, Minn., native who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1996. He covered Jim Wacker’s Gophers for the Minnesota Daily and also wrote about USC, UCLA and the Rose Bowl for the Riverside Press-Enterprise before getting this chance to cover football again.
Email Joe to talk about the Gophers.
The University of Minnesota on Friday announced a $6 million gift toward its $190 athletics facilities plan from retired telecommunications executive Robert Eddy.
According to Senior Associate Athletics Director Chris Werle, the school has raised $65 million toward the project, as Eddy's gift had been factored into the running total but hadn't been previously announced in his name. The school is currently soliciting construction bids to build a $150 million portion of the project. Here's a portion of the press release:
The gift will help fund a new Basketball Development Center, which will house men’s and women’s basketball offices, locker rooms and other areas designed to provide the University of Minnesota basketball programs and student-athletes all of the tools needed to achieve greatness on and off the field.
Eddy is a graduate of the University’s engineering department and retired Chairman and President of Sherburne Tele Systems, Inc. A philanthropist and University of Minnesota supporter, the Big Lake resident has donated generous gifts to the Athletic Department and the University.
“Bob has been a proud supporter of Gopher Athletics and our student-athletes,” said Director of Gopher Athletics Norwood Teague. “This most recent gift will provide our men’s and women’s basketball programs with the facilities, training and support they need to compete with the top programs in the conference and the country.”
A member of the University’s Heart Advisory Committee, Eddy created the R.K. Eddy Endowed Chair in Cardiovascular Resuscitation in 2013.
“We are grateful for Bob Eddy’s extraordinary support for the University and Gopher athletics,” said University of Minnesota President Eric W. Kaler. “His remarkable gifts demonstrate how University academics and athletics work in concert to impact the health, success and pride of our students, our alumni and the citizens of Minnesota.”
Note: Eddy will be honored Saturday at Williams Arena during the first half of the Gophers men's basketball game against Purdue, and at Sunday's women's basketball game against Michigan State.
The Gophers landed another wide receiver recruit Saturday, when Rashad Still, a 6-5, 200-pound multi-sport standout from El Paso (Texas) Andress High School, gave them a verbal commitment.
Still, a top basketball player, didn’t start playing football until high school, so he is considered a raw talent. He had very few other offers, but the Gophers are adding him to a growing contingent of tall, athletic receivers. Earlier in the week, they got a commitment from Hunter Register, a 6-5 receiver from Lafayette, La.
Our baseball writers, La Velle Neal and Phil Miller, head to Fort Myers in a little more than a week. Will I miss it? Sure. The temperature difference alone is enough to make one pine for spring training.
But at the same time, I'm really digging the new beat. I feel like I'm at the Minnesota Daily again with so much to learn. I'll be the first to admit the recruiting stuff has left my head spinning at times, but I'm trying to keep Strib readers up to speed on the bigger developments.
We have a few things planned leading up to national signing day next Wednesday, and I'm anxious to see the entire Gophers class unveiled. The rankings aren't pretty, but there's more to it than that, and we'll work to give it all some context.
Meantime, I had a chance to write this feature story on the Gophers women's hockey team. Amanda Kessel, Noora Raty, Megan Bozek and Co., have won 34 consecutive games. My favorite stat: During that stretch, they've played 2,040 minutes -- and trailed for all of 27:45.
Minnesotans are used to seeing prolific hockey, but this might be the best women's team of all-time.
OK, it's back to football now. Super Bowl Sunday is almost here, and it's final decision time for some recruits. Enjoy the weekend, folks.
Two months after the search for Joel Maturi's successor began, the four-person committee conducting the manhunt for Minnesota's next athletics director is on schedule and is "confident we will meet our goal of having finalists identified by late April," a university spokesman said Friday.
"[We] are excited by a robust candidate pool," Matt Hodson, a media relations associate at the university, said via email, a group "that meets the values and attributes we require of our next AD."
After seeking input from the school's faculty, students and staff, as well as boosters and alumni, the large 21-person advisory committee has compiled and reviewed the various opinions and forwarded them to the quartet appointed by President Eric Kaler that is considering the candidates and narrowing the list. Once two finalists are identified, Kaler and both committees will interview them, with Kaler selecting the new athletics director in early May.
Maturi's contract, and his 10-year tenure as AD, ends on July 1.
I wrote a story Tuesday about the changing job description of a Division I athletic director, and included several comments from the longest-serving Big Ten athletic director, Purdue's Morgan Burke.
He told me something else about the job that didn't make it into the story, but that will resonate with Minnesota fans. Judging by my email, and the comments on the story, it's an issue that plenty of fans feel strongly about.
"We are one of 22 Division I universities, according to the Big Ten, that are truly self-supporting -- no taxpayer funds, no student fees, no university support of any kind," Burke said proudly.
That's fairly impressive, I told him, considering Purdue's size, relative to the rest of the conference. Purdue last season drew an average of 42,225 fans to Ross-Ade Stadium, lower even than the Gophers' 47,714 average. The Gophers ranked ninth in the conference, and 49th nationally, while the Boilermakers were 10th and 51st.
So what's his secret?
Among other things, Burke said, "we only sponsor 18 sports. These days, you have to minimize the number of sports in order to control ... your budget. I'd like to add sports, but we have a responsibility to live within our means."
It looks like a similar debate is shaping up at Minnesota, where Joel Maturi considers it one of his signature achievements that he has not had to pare back the Gophers' 25-sport department. Some of Maturi's most vocal critics, however, insist that the money and the department's focus are better spent emphasizing the revenue sports of hockey, basketball and especially football.
University president Eric Kaler said at Maturi's retirement announcement last week that he generally favors offering as many sports as possible -- but he sounded noncommittal about whether the Gophers will be able to afford it.
"The next AD will have an opinion about that," Kaler said. "I do share a commitment to a broad range of sports. We just need to look at the financial viability of doing that. I'm sure that will be an important element that the new athletic director will balance."
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