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.
Why is the Gophers women’s hockey team 36-0? Well, it doesn’t hurt when you have the three best players in the country.
USA Hockey named the three finalists for this year’s Patty Kazmaier Award were named Thursday, and all three are Gophers -- senior defenseman Megan Bozek, junior forward Amanda Kessel and senior goaltender Noora Raty.
The award has been presented since 1998 to the national women's hockey player of the year. It's the first time all three finalists have come from the same school. The Gophers are ensured of having their second winner and first since Krissy Wendell in 2005.
Kessel leads the nation with 94 points (43 goals, 51 assists). Bozek ranks second among the nation’s top-scoring defenders with 52 points (18 goals, 34 assists), and Raty leads the nation with a .953 save percentage.
The winner will be announced on March 23 in a brunch ceremony at the University of Minnesota’s McNamara Alumni Center. That event had been planned as part of that weekend’s Frozen Four festivities at nearby Ridder Arena, but now it will have a definite Minnesota feel.
Big 10 talk buzzing again. #UVA being mentioned often as likely to join. Georgia Tech still in the mix. #UNC, the big domino, has an offer.
With an eye toward what this would mean for the Gophers football team, here’s a closer look at those three ACC institutions:
2012 record: 8-4
3-year trend: 23-15
Coach: Larry Fedora (1 year)
Joined ACC: 1953
History vs. Gophers: The football teams haven’t played. North Carolina was on Minnesota’s schedule in 2013 and 2014, but Minnesota got out of those games by paying North Carolina $800,000.
Notable: North Carolina was ineligible for a bowl game last year and is on three year’s probation for improper player benefits under former coach Butch Davis.
Big Ten appeal: Stealing North Carolina from the ACC would be a coup, with the Tar Heels’ athletic tradition and the school’s academic reputation. It would expand the Big Ten’s footprint south and should boost the BTN's ratings in an expansive TV market.
2012 record: 4-8
3-year trend: 16-21
Coach: Mike London (3 years)
Joined ACC: 1954
History vs. Gophers: The football teams have met once, with Virginia defeating Minnesota 34-31 in the 2005 Music City Bowl.
Big Ten appeal: The football and basketball programs aren’t as strong at Virginia, but the academics sure are. With Maryland coming into the fold, the Big Ten already has a foothold in the D.C. market, and this would strengthen that.
2012 record: 7-7
3-year trend: 21-19
Coach: Paul Johnson (5 years)
Joined ACC: 1983
History vs. Gophers: The football teams haven’t met.
Big Ten appeal: The Yellow Jackets have played in a bowl game every year since 1997 and reached the Orange Bowl in 2009 after winning the ACC. So the football program is legit, and so is the school. But let’s face it, this is all about Atlanta, getting the Big Ten Network onto all those televisions. Not only would that be a boon for the conference financially, but it should help other schools recruit throughout the South.
Catching up on news from last week's NCAA convention, there was nothing too earth shattering, at least as far as the general public is concerned.
The potential rule change I wrote about last week -- allowing athletes to compete immediately after transferring if they have a 2.6 GPA or above -- is still in the discussion change.
NCAA president Mark Emmert wants to streamline the rule book, and the Division I Board of Directors took the first step, approving 25 new measures.
One eliminates the number of phone calls and other private communication -- text messages, social media messages, etc. -- that coaches can have with recruits. That takes effect Aug. 1, allowing for unlimited texts, etc.
“There was virtually no debate on it," Emmert is quoted as saying here to the Associated Press. "Everyone agreed that those rules need to be changed. That was probably the least controversial issue in this whole process."
The 25 new measures were Phase I of the NCAA's streamlining efforts, and now it's onto Phase II.
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.
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