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.
Everyone in the Twin Cities seem to be talking about the Twins today, so it's no surprise that the Gophers plan to do so, too. Specifically: What happens if the Twins win the American League championship?
It's a nice problem to have, the Gophers would agree -- but it is potentially a problem. First pitch in Game 3, which would be the first World Series game in Target Field, is scheduled for roughly 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 30.
A half-hour earlier and two miles to the east, the Gophers will kick off against Ohio State, the five-time defending Big Ten champion that could easily be the No. 1 football team in the country by then. The game will be nationally televised, either by ABC, ESPN or ESPN2, and it's a good bet that Minnesota would prefer that the visual being broadcast from its home stadium not be swaths of empty seats.
Trouble is, there may not be anything the university can do. "Changing starting times is tough in football," said assistant athletic director Jason LaFrenz, just because of the sheer number of people -- from concession workers to security officers to ticket-takers -- affected. "It's a lot easier to do in basketball or hockey."
There's also the not-so-small matter of the Gophers' TV obligations. ABC and ESPN don't care much about the proximity of the venues, because they're planning to televise a football game opposite the World Series anyway. The ratings in Minneapolis would be affected, obviously, but that's a tiny consideration. And anyway, think of the picturesque shots that a blimp will get of the two stadiums lit up on either side of downtown.
One more problem: There's no way to know if the Twins will get to the Series until the week before. The Gophers understandably are reluctant to give up their prime-time exposure if there is no conflict (and they might not want to do it even if there is), but Game 7 of the American League Championship Series is scheduled for Oct. 23, which likely doesn't give the schools or the network enough time to reschedule.
Still, the university's athletic administration will discuss the issue internally, and consult with the Big Ten, LaFrenz said. The game is sold out, so it's more a matter of consideration for the city's (and university's) sports fans.
"It's still early. We'll know more as we get closer to that day," LaFrenz said.
Speaking of Gopher attendance, this Saturday's game with Northern Illinois is sold out, too, except for the student section. (Roughly 1,800 of those end-zone seats went on sale to the general public on Tuesday.) LaFrenz said the university is hoping that the season's first night game will keep no-shows to a minimum. "People seem to show up better for these than for the 11 a.m. games," he said. More than 1,000 tickets were also distributed to high-school football teams, so "we're expecting a really good crowd on Saturday," he said.
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