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.

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Posts about NCAA

Fundraising for facilities project is 'way ahead of schedule,' says Gophers AD

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: February 12, 2015 - 12:57 PM

Gophers Athletics Director Norwood Teague said Thursday that fundraising for the $150 million athletics facilities project is “way ahead of schedule,” noting that $70 million has been raised in about 10 months.

Teague gave an update before the Board of Regents Facilities and Operations Committee approved using $15 million of the money already raised for schematic design.

“I feel very good about the pace that we’re on,” Teague said after the meeting. “Our fundraising is way ahead of schedule. I am thrilled with the money we’ve brought in thus far, and I’m thrilled with the prospects of our timeline.”

Senior Associate Athletics Director Chris Werle said, “We’re still hoping to break ground [by the] end of the summer. That’s our goal.”

Others have noted that fundraising for this project is going much quicker than when the Gophers were raising money to build TCF Bank Stadium.

Last week, University Chief Financial Officer Richard Pfutzenreuter said as with any project, 80 percent of the money – in this case $120 million – needs to be raised before construction can begin. The other 20 percent can be financed and paid off through continued fundraising, he explained.

 “We’re going to get it done,” Regent Thomas Devine said. “We’re going to make sure that we deliver a product here.

“And I think certainly when we look at the arms race that we’re in – those of us that have traveled to the other schools in the Big Ten, and we know what’s going on in the SEC – this is an important step for the university. And the commitment’s there from this board and from the president.”

The Gophers originally unveiled this as a $190 million project in July 2013. After laying the groundwork with potential donors, the Gophers didn't begin making official asks until last summer. Teague insists the project hasn’t been scaled back – the goal is still to raise $190 million – but acknowledged there are components that will be updated after this first $150 million phase.

Those include practice facility upgrades for men and women’s golf, baseball, women’s gymnastics and wrestling, as well as renovations for the old indoor football complex, which is currently being used by eight teams. The Gophers are also looking at a new interim and long-term home for the track teams.

The $150 million phase will build a new indoor football complex, a new basketball facility, and an academic and nutrition “Excellence Center,” for all 750 Gophers athletes.

Regent Dean Johnson thanked Teague for the work he and his department have done.

“I know this has not been an easy mountain to climb,” Johnson said. “And yet, I believe on behalf of the university, and the state of Minnesota, this is much needed.

“When this issue comes up in public, one of the first things I indicate is this is done with private funds, foundation money -- no tax dollars or no tuition -- and I think it’s very important to state that for the general public.”

U announces $6 million gift toward Gophers athletics from Robert Eddy

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: February 6, 2015 - 4:58 PM

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.

Teague says Gophers are 'extremely pleased' with Power 5 autonomy vote

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: August 7, 2014 - 2:41 PM

Gophers AD Norwood Teague issued a statement Thursday on the NCAA vote that will give the Power 5 conferences, including the Big Ten, autonomy to make their own rules.

“We are extremely pleased the Division I Board of Directors has approved a structure that allows more freedom in addressing issues related to our student-athletes and providing them with the support needed to perform in the classroom, in their respective sports and later in life," Teague said in his statement. "We look forward to working with our Big Ten and NCAA partners in determining how best to do this as we enter a period of dynamic change and transformation for the NCAA.

“While there is much to sort out as we move forward, we are excited about having the ability to focus intently on the well-being of our student-athletes, while continuing to provide our university, alumni and fans with the many benefits college athletics brings.”

For more on what this means for college sports, check out this story by Strib columnist Chip Scoggins:

Big Ten statement stresses urgency for a new NCAA model, giving five power conferences autonomy

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: June 2, 2014 - 10:53 AM

The Big Ten is ready for significant NCAA change. Commissioner Jim Delany has long made that clear, but the conference issued a statement Sunday stressing that it supports a new model that would give autonomy to the five power conferences (including the ACC, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC).

The statement echoed the urgency the Pac-12 presidents had in their letter last month. The five power conferences are ready for this new model now, so they can begin providing athletes with "full cost of attendance scholarships” and other enhanced benefits.

SEC commissioner Mike Slive said Friday that if the Power Five conferences aren't given the flexibility to form their own bylaws, they might have to form a new NCAA Division -- Division IV. The Big Ten didn't go that far, but here's how it summed up its annual June meeting of the Big Ten's Council of Presidents/Chancellors:

Key areas of discussion focused on NCAA restructuring, the need for autonomy for the 65 institutions comprising the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC, and ensuring accountability for delivering reform.

Similar to Pac-12 letter, the Big Ten stressed the urgency of taking action now:

While the NCAA Board of Directors’ Steering Committee on Governance has made good progress in the area of autonomy, more work needs to be done as we seek to implement a 21st century governance structure that preserves the collegiate model while allowing each school to focus on improved student-athlete welfare.

Why autonomy? Because the power five conferences are ready to start implementing these changes but have met resistance from the lower-revenue conferences. From the statement (with highlights of what the athletes could get in bold):

The Big Ten continues to strongly support full cost of attendance scholarships, reasonable on-going medical or insurance assistance to student-athletes, continued efforts to reduce the incidence of disabling injury, guaranteed scholarships to complete a bachelor’s degree, decreased time demands and enhanced time to fully engage in campus life, adjusted restrictions on preparing for careers based on advice and counsel of agents and a meaningful role in governance for student-athletes.

Some other key points:

The [Big Ten presidents] also examined three other principal objectives for reform proposed by the Pac-12 presidents – strengthening the Academic Progress Rate (APR) requirements for post-season play, the “one and done” culture in men’s basketball and liberalizing current limits on transfer rules. While the concept of increasing APR requirements has not been discussed in the past, the Big Ten has long supported increased academic standards for all institutions. With respect to the issues of the “one and done” culture and transfer rules, the [Big Ten council of presidents] agrees that these are important issues that should be examined and addressed in cogent ways.

Gophers receive passing marks -- and then some -- in latest APR report

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: May 14, 2014 - 2:20 PM

The Gophers athletics department received passing scores – and then some – Wednesday, as the NCAA released its latest Academic Progress Rates (APR) report.

All 25 Gophers teams exceeded the 930 multi-year score required to avoid penalties such as a loss of scholarships. The men’s basketball team and men’s hockey team were among 18 Gophers programs that recorded perfect 1,000 scores for the 2012-13 school year.

The Gophers football program posted a 994 score for that year, matching its record from the previous year.

The annual APR report offers a snapshot of each program’s academic success. The latest NCAA multi-year numbers examine the school years from 2009-10 through 2012-13.

In 2009, under then-coach Tim Brewster, the Gophers football team lost three scholarships when it posted a 915 multi-year APR. The team’s latest multi-year APR score is 962, which still ranks toward the bottom of the Big Ten but is tracking up.

Here’s a link to the Gophers’ full APR release, with a breakdown for each program.

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