The University of Minnesota was able to raise $95 million from boosters to help build TCF Bank Stadium for the Gophers football team.
But it was a different story when it came to generating money for a down payment on a new Siebert Field. It took a long time before the Pohlad family contributed $2 million to get the fundraising started. But the money wasn’t — and still isn’t — available for lights and other features to make the new home for Gophers baseball into a first-class stadium.
Then you have the case of the proposed basketball practice facility that Tubby Smith was promised six years ago when he left Kentucky to take the Gophers job.
Something in the area of less than $10 million needed to be raised to put the shovel in the ground to get a building on the way, a building that certainly would help recruiting. But it didn’t happen under Joel Maturi as athletic director, although his replacement, Norwood Teague, is confident it will help now that the university has found a spot to build it on, a spot that would be near the Bierman Building.
Teague, now in his second year on the job, has a plan where he hopes to raise $190 million for Gophers facilities, one that would make the school’s athletic facilities go from among the worst in the Big Ten to the best.
Not surprisingly, one of the first things Teague heard from boosters is that they want to see some winners before they contribute.
Teague is confident Gophers men’s basketball can win under new coach Richard Pitino. “We’ve won in basketball in spots in the last 30 years,” said the AD. “The situation with the NCAA rule violations back in the late ’90s and early 2000s, that definitely put us behind in many ways. But we won then, and besides some of the academic issues, it doesn’t seem like we were doing anything wrong, besides what coach [Clem] Haskins got in trouble for on the academic side. I think basketball is very winnable on a national level.
“With football, being back on campus helps a lot now. I don’t know, I think the Metrodome hurt, but I don’t know how much. I think we just got behind and now we’re catching up.”
Teague, who has not raised a lot of money since being named Gophers AD, was asked how fundraising here compares with his former job at Virginia Commonwealth.
“I think it is tough anywhere, you just have to get after it and dream big and tell your donors that you’re dreaming big and hope that they’ll hop on the dream with you,” he said. “I guess for lack of a better way of explaining it, people are the same, they want to give to things that they’re passionate about and we have to sell that to the Nth degree over the next five, six, seven years.”
Teague also said he did not have any second thoughts about releasing such a big figure for his proposal.
“I really wanted to get it out and show what we were doing,” he said. “It’s a big number, but then again, as I’ve said in some press reports earlier in the week, Northwestern is doing a $220 million one and they’ve raised about $50 million. If they can do it, we can. We have some strong prospects out there. We just have to work hard at what we’re selling and present it as a great return on an investment.
“If we win on the national level with football and basketball, I’m not sure we can measure the great response we’d receive and the great shot in the arm it would give to the state and the Twin Cities in so many ways, and the university. … We’ve got multiple years to work on this thing and we’re starting to build that case and move forward.”
Morneau has to wait
A couple weeks ago I asked some top Twins executives if they had any interest in trying to sign Justin Morneau before he becomes a free agent at the end of the season. And the answer was that if Morneau’s agent approached them they might consider it.
But apparently that attitude has changed. When Morneau’s agent asked Twins General Manager Terry Ryan if there was interest in negotiations the answer was no.
That isn’t any surprise.
Morneau’s six-year, $80 million contract comes to a close at the end of this season, and there always has been a possibility that the first baseman might be traded.