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 Gophers received a verbal commitment from Florida high school linebacker Rayfield Dixon, according to GopherIllustrated.com, which said Dixon's choices had come down to Minnesota and West Virginia. The site has Dixon rated as a three-star linebacker and lists him as the 15th commitment for this year's Gophers class.
STREVELER LOOKS TO FORGE BONDS
I spoke to Chris Streveler, the quarterback from Marian Central Catholic in Woodstock, Ill., who begins classes at the University on Tuesday. He'll be competing for the starting job during spring practice with Philip Nelson, Mitch Leidner and Dexter Foreman.
"If it happens, it happens, but I’m not going to come in and press and worry about it," Streveler said. "I hope the quarterbacks there will take me under their wing and kind of help me out. Because I’m sure coming in early, it’s going to be a big jump coming from high school to college."
Streveler is rooming with Leidner, actually.
"I think it’ll be great to be around [the other quarterbacks] and learn from them and just come in and work hard. That’s kind of my motto: just get better every day. If I do that, things will work out."
Streveler sounds like a terrific kid. We'll have more on him next week.
DUNGY TO RECEIVE NCAA'S HIGHEST HONOR TONIGHT
There was a cool aside during last night's Gophers/Michigan telecast, when ESPN showed the 1974 game program from a visit Dick Vitale made to Williams Arena as a coach with the University of Detroit.
Tony Dungy, a two-sport athlete for the Gophers at the time, played against Vitale's team that night, and was featured in the game program with a photo spread. Decades later, when Dungy was an honored guest at the Dick Vitale annual charity gala, he brought along that program for Vitale as a gift.
As mentioned here last week, Dungy will be honored again tonight, this time with the Theodore Roosevelt Award at the NCAA Convention in Grapevine, Texas. University President Eric Kaler and Athletics Director Norwood Teague will be on hand, with Kaler making the presentation.
The award is considered the NCAA's highest honor, given annually to an individual whose time as a collegiate athlete helped shape "a distinguished career of national significance and achievement."
“We are proud and honored to call Tony Dungy an alumnus of the University of Minnesota,” Kaler said in a news release. “Tony personifies what we seek to instill in our classrooms and on our playing fields: innovative thinking, influential teaching and inspirational leadership. The entire University of Minnesota community takes great joy in this remarkable tribute to one of our own.”
I was out sick yesterday. Did I miss anything?
* Manti Te'o ... wow.
* A.J. Barker ... wow.
* And Marc Trestman (Gophers QB 1974-76) lands the Bears head coaching job.
That was one eventful day. And now it's almost time for Gophers/Michigan at The Barn. This should be fun to watch. Amelia's doing a live chat over the noon hour, so stop by to check that out.
If the Gophers can remain bowl eligible in coming seasons, potential new destinations could include New York for the Pinstripe Bowl, San Diego for the Holiday Bowl and San Francisco for the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.
This piece from Stewart Mandel on SI.com taught me a lot about how the bowl system could change after next season, when the BCS contract expires, along with all the other contracts for bowls.
TV ratings have been solid, even for lower-tier bowls, but attendance is sagging. The most glaring example was the Sugar Bowl between then-No. 3 Florida and Louisville, which drew 54,178, the event’s lowest attendance since 1939.
Some bowls become more intriguing than expected and become a hot ticket (see the Cotton Bowl matchup between Oklahoma and Texas A&M). Other bowls linger as consolation prizes for disappointed fan bases, leaving schools way overmatched trying to fill ticket allotments.
As Mandel writes, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany “wants the conference bowl lineup to become ‘more national’ than its current glut of Florida games; he wants to keep fans from becoming fatigued by repeat trips to the same destination." So Delany believes it's time to get more creative.
The Big Ten is expected to sign on with the Pinstripe Bowl, as it looks to strengthen its eastern footprint after adding Rutgers and Maryland. And a source tells Mandel that over a six-year term, the Big Ten and Big 12 could share spots in the Holiday Bowl and Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco, with each conference taking three trips over the six years.
I’m not sure where those bowls would rank in the Big Ten’s new pecking order, but it sounds like we could have an idea by this April.
We’ve got some recruiting stories in the works, but for now, I just wanted to pass along a couple nuggets:
* Tony Dungy will be presented with the Theodore Roosevelt Award at next week’s NCAA Convention in Grapevine, Texas.
According to the news release, the award is the NCAA’s highest honor and is given annually to an individual “for whom competitive athletics in college and attention to physical well-being thereafter have been important factors in a distinguished career of national significance and achievement.”
Before becoming a Super Bowl winning coach, Dungy played for the Gophers from 1974-76 and was a two-time second-team All-Big Ten selection at quarterback. He played one season for the Gophers basketball team and was named to the all-Big Ten selection at quarterback. He was a two-time All-Big Ten academic selection as well and graduated with a degree in business.
“The greatest thing for me going to college was learning about decision-making,” Dungy said in the press release. “You are making decisions about what academic path you are going to take, and what friends you build relationships with. You learn how to handle your personal life and process information. That is what college was all about for me.”
* So far, two outgoing Gophers seniors have been selected to play in postseason All-Star games.
Troy Stoudermire will play in Friday night’s Casino Del Sol College All-Star Game in Tucson, Ariz. This game, which produced six NFL draft picks last year, will be broadcast on ESPN3 at 6 p.m.
MarQueis Gray, who is preparing for the NFL Combine, is scheduled to play in the Texas vs. The Nation Game on Feb. 2 in Allen, Texas. That game has been around since 2006 and has included 100 eventual NFL draft picks.
Hello, and welcome to my new blog.
I’m Joe Christensen, the new Gophers football beat writer for the Star Tribune. I swapped places with Phil Miller, who is moving to the Twins beat this year, joining La Velle Neal.
I’ve spent the past 15 years covering Major League Baseball, including the past eight at the Star Tribune. I enjoyed it thoroughly, but it became tougher and tougher to be gone so many nights with a wife and two young kids at home.
Last summer, I went to my editors requesting a change, and I don’t think it could have worked out any better. College football always has been a passion of mine, dating to my time covering Jim Wacker’s Gophers for the Minnesota Daily in 1994.
After graduating from the University in 1996, I covered prep football for Riverside (Calif.) Press-Enterprise. And later, during my time on the Dodgers beat, I had chances to cover USC, UCLA, as well as the Rose Bowl. That said, I’ve got a lot to learn before I’ll consider myself an expert on college football.
While covering baseball, I viewed my Around the Majors blog as a chance to take the readers along for the ride. I’ll post breaking news here, when something happens with the Gophers. And I’ll work to bolster our coverage with bonus items that I find interesting or amusing along the way.
Thanks for stopping by. You can also follow along on Twitter -- @JoeCStrib.
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