Hartman: Dayton knew fee for seats was in bill

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 16, 2012 - 6:57 AM

The governor is overreacting to the Vikings' survey of ticket holders about seat licensing in the new stadium.

One of the reasons the Wilf family came up with an extra $50 million near the end of negotiations for a new Vikings stadium bill and will contribute a total of $477 million was because the bill included a clause that allowed the team owners to sell seat licenses in the new stadium.

Members of the Minnesota House of Representatives and the Senate knew the clause was included in the bill, and the night it was passed, nobody objected to it. Gov. Mark Dayton communicated with the authors of the bill and knew what it included.

I am a great admirer of the governor and what he has accomplished, not only in getting the stadium bill passed but all of the other tremendous things he has done for Minnesota since he took office.

But he is no doubt pulling a grandstanding act in his reaction to the Wilfs sending out the survey regarding seat licensing fees.

The Wilfs haven't made many mistakes since they purchased the Vikings in 2005, but sending out a survey to season ticket holders and asking them if they are willing to spend thousands of dollars to buy the rights to their seats for the first time, on top of the ticket prices, was a big mistake. Maybe those seat licensing fees will raise enough money to get a retractable roof on the stadium, but the timing made no sense.

Why not wait until you at least have part of the stadium built and can show people what they are going to get for their money? Why send out a survey on seating fees before there's been a single shovel in the ground?

Still, rest assured that once the seat licensing policy is announced, it won't affect the majority of the seats in the stadium. There will be plenty of tickets available for those who can't afford the best seats, which come at a premium price anyway.

Big break for Gophers

Getting in a bowl game this year will make the Gophers football team much better, and with Wisconsin and Nebraska coming to TCF Bank Stadium next year, it will put Minnesota in a better position to compete with those powerful teams.

"Getting into the bowl game, the biggest thing is it allows us to take all those redshirt freshman that we have and get extra practice opportunities," Gophers coach Jerry Kill said. "That puts us, according to which bowl and which situation you go to, you get 15 more extra practices plus spring ball. That's 30 practices that you're going to get with your kids.

"Being a young team and not an older team [only eight seniors are playing this season], we'll have a tremendous amount of kids back. From a standpoint of getting your program better, it's a great opportunity."

In my opinion, Kill and his coaching staff have done a great job this year considering the number of injuries they have had, especially on offense.

It all started with the ankle injury to senior MarQueis Gray. My prediction before the season was that if Gray got injured, they wouldn't win a game without him at quarterback and they could potentially win six if he played all year.

Well, he got hurt in the Western Michigan game and the Gophers have won two conference games against Purdue and Illinois with freshman quarterback Philip Nelson starting and Gray moving to receiver.

Then you have the ankle injuries to centers Jon Christenson and Zach Mottla. Kill said that in 30 years of coaching, he has not had three centers play in a single game like he did last week against Illinois.

"Not even in high school coaching have I ever been put in that situation," Kill said. "Luckily we snapped Zac Epping early in the year due to injuries, and that's a unique situation. It's a concern for us where we go from here.

"You can't go to war with one center. I don't know, we have a big challenge this week. That tells you a little bit about the job that coach [Matt] Limegrover did against Illinois from an offensive line standpoint. To have all the injuries we've had, our two leading receivers out, playing a true freshman quarterback, it's not an easy thing. I give all the credit to those kids and their effort and kind of the next-man-up mentality. I can't say enough about the kids that played in the game and the coaches that we have that hung in there."

Fortunately the Gophers will get some of their offensive players back yet this year, but there is still some question about who will play center.

Nebraska will pose a real physical challenge this week. They are a 20-point favorite over the Gophers in Lincoln, but if Minnesota can come out of the game without any more injuries, they would have a chance to beat Michigan State in the team's final home game and improve their bowl invitation.

Jottings

• Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, who suffered a concussion against the Houston Texans last Sunday, remains uncertain for Monday night's game against the San Francisco 49ers and was held out of practice Thursday, but coach Lovie Smith said Cutler continues to improve. Cutler's past two seasons have been cut short because of injuries, and he has a history of concussions. If Cutler is sidelined for an extended period of time, it could have a drastic effect on the NFC North race and the NFC wild-card race. The Vikings' next game is Nov. 25 against the Bears in Chicago.

• Former Gophers center Colton Iverson played tremendously in his first game with Colorado State last Friday, a 72-65 victory over Montana, who made the NCAA tournament last season. Iverson had 18 points, eight rebounds, one assist and one steal.

• The Chicago Tribune speculated on Wednesday that the reason the Cubs signed former Twins pitcher Scott Baker was so they could potentially deal him at next year's trade deadline for prospects -- something they did with free-agent starter Paul Maholm last season. Baker called that speculation "kind of a far stretch." Cubs General Manager Theo Epstein also downplayed the idea, saying: "The reality is it's not exactly a buyers' market out there for pitching. So you have to take your risks. ... We're very comfortable placing our bet on Scott Baker."

• The Detroit Free Press reported that former Twin Torii Hunter will most likely hit second -- in front of 2012 American League MVP Miguel Cabrera and perennial All-Star Prince Fielder -- and play right field for the Tigers next season after reaching an agreement with them Wednesday. Hunter wrote on his Twitter account: "Found a job! Headed to Motown to win that ring!" At 37, Hunter got a pretty good contract of $26 million for two years.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. shartman@startribune.com

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