The University of Minnesota has allowed the athletic department to plead with donors for pledges to cover as much of the $170 million financial burden as possible for the enormous new (or remodeled) athletic buildings kitty corner from the on-campus McDonald's.

There is no doubt the university could have beaten on these corporations and individual donors for causes to better serve the 30,800 undergraduates not involved in athletics on the Twin Cities campus, but that's not the message we prefer to send in the Minnesota media.

We want you to believe this extravagance was undertaken in the noble pursuit of a better experience for all 700-plus varsity athletes, and they might get that, but a giant share of the millions was spent to impress and pamper football and basketball players.

This gouge of university donors also comes at a moment when the traditional troika of well-publicized Gophers sports — football, men's basketball and men's hockey — has as low of a standing for fan appeal as at any time in the half-century that the Twin Cities has been a crowded major league market.

We have teams in the big four of major league sports — the Vikings, Twins, Timberwolves and Wild — that are involved in or coming off successful seasons, and that dominate the sports calendar as never before.

There are also the Lynx for those that prefer title runs and air conditioning with their summer entertainment, and the newcomer, the Loons, for the hip crowd that enjoys an $11 beer that tastes like fruit and wearing scarves for a reason other than staying warm.

The pros have all our needs covered. The Gophers have a cartoon character for a football coach, and a basketball coach who has watched over meltdowns in two of his past three seasons, and they provided matching performances in the Big Ten standings — 2-7 (.222) in football and 4-14 (.222) in basketball.

Meantime, the hockey team was getting swept at Penn State for the second straight weekend — this time in the playoffs.

The Gophers should move to Rochester, like the Badgers in Madison. The Post Bulletin would kill it with coverage.

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