The word is that David Larson, a former Cargill executive who passed away Oct. 25, left $15 million to the Gophers football program with the money set to go toward the building of a football practice facility. That facility is something coach Jerry Kill believes is very necessary for the program to be competitive.
Larson, a University of Minnesota Regent since 2005, was very close to Kill. The word around campus is that Larson made other contributions to the athletic department during his lifetime as well.
Larson was a fantastic Gophers football fan. He attended practice on a regular basis and hardly ever missed a game or even a scrimmage, and he was one of the biggest boosters of Kill.
In September, Land O’Lakes announced a $25 million contribution to Gophers athletics and an academic center, and word is that the company is getting a very good response to the move.
Meanwhile, also on the football front, the best guess from sources on campus is that the Gophers will be invited to the Holiday Bowl in San Diego on Dec. 27. ESPN recently released its new projections and one prediction had them at the Holiday Bowl against Arizona State while the other had them in the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Fla., on Jan. 1 against Georgia.
Decker stays positive
Eric Decker, the former Gophers star receiver and Cold Spring, Minn., native, has taken some criticism this week from the media and spoke about the New York Jets’ 2-10 season.
“It’s hard, it’s tough,” Decker said. “You can say ‘what if,’ you can analyze every game, but we haven’t done enough. We haven’t given ourselves enough breaks to win a football game.”
Decker has taken a lot of criticism from fans and media members who say he went after money as a free agent last offseason instead of staying with the AFC champion Broncos.
Former Jets receiver Braylon Edwards said as much about Decker this week on television. But Decker said those people have no idea what they’re talking about, and that the Broncos didn’t offer him a contract after he became a free agent.
“If we’re 9-3, this conversation wouldn’t be happening. I feel like the decision I made in March [to sign a five-year, $36.25 million deal with the Jets] to come here was for good reasons. I believe this will eventually turn,” he said.
Decker leads the Jets with 49 receptions, 531 receiving yards and four receiving touchdowns, and Vikings defensive coordinator George Edwards knows Decker is still a dangerous weapon.
“He has the ability,” Edwards said. “He can stretch you down the seam, he runs excellent routes, and he can go up and get the football. There is no doubt about it. He has done it in the past. I know he’s not getting as many balls as he has in the past, but he is one of their leading guys and has shown the ability to get open down the field and go up and take the ball. From that aspect of it, he’s somebody we have to definitely be cautious of as we work through this weekend.”
One of the other Jets receivers is Percy Harvin, the former Vikings star who has 19 catches for 182 yards and 17 rushes for 96 yards in five games — but no touchdowns — since being traded from Seattle.
“They’ve really instituted him pretty quick into what they’re trying to do schematically,” Edwards said. “They use him in a lot of different roles, from running back to slot receiver to Z receiver. They’re really finding him ways to let him touch the ball. We know how explosive he can be with the ball in his hand.”
So, clearly Harvin and Decker are two dangerous players the Vikings need to prepare for on Sunday.
“No doubt about it, especially out on the perimeter in the perimeter running game or passing game, those two guys are the guys they definitely go to,” Edwards said.
• Twins manager Paul Molitor was asked about the other outfield positions now that Torii Hunter will play in right. “[Oswaldo] Arcia is going to be moved to left field, and he’s a promising young player who did some good things last year,” Molitor said. “Obviously Aaron Hicks is potentially a candidate to be an everyday center fielder. [Jordan] Schafer came up and did a good job for us. But yeah, we feel a lot better just potentially and our lineup, adding a guy like Torii.”
• Twins President Dave St. Peter was asked about the team’s season-ticket renewal campaign. “It’s ongoing, we’ve got another couple weeks to go in our renewal campaign,” he said. “We haven’t finalized a percentage. I’m optimistic we’re going to land somewhere hopefully around 14,000-plus season tickets. Last year we were north of that [around 17,000 full-season equivalents], but there’s still great interest in this franchise. Ultimately we need to start building that season-ticket base back up.”
• Adam Thielen, the Vikings wide receiver who blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown against Carolina on Sunday, said not only had he never blocked a kick before, but he didn’t even play special teams at Minnesota State Mankato. Did Thielen think he would play this much? “I’d hope so,” he said. “I’ve put a lot of work in trying to help make this team better.”
• The Gophers football team got another commitment, this one from Charlie Rogers, a highly rated safety from Iowa Western Community College who began his college career at Iowa State.
• Former Apple Valley point guard Tyus Jones played his best game for No. 4 Duke on Wednesday when he scored 22 points on 7-of-11 shooting in an 80-70 victory at No. 2 Wisconsin. Jones is averaging 10.5 points on 46.2 percent shooting and has an impressive 5.8 assists per game compared to just 1.0 turnover per game. … Rashad Vaughn, the former Cooper star, suffered what UNLV trainers are calling a “non-impact” back injury in a 75-55 loss to Arizona State on Wednesday. Vaughn is averaging 16.2 points on 41.2 percent shooting. … Reid Travis, the DeLaSalle product and other member of the “Big Three,” is averaging 8.5 points on 47.8 percent shooting for Stanford and is grabbing 7.5 rebounds per game.
• Paul Bittner, a 6-4 left wing from Crookston, Minn., who is playing for Portland of the Western Hockey League, is the 18th best prospect for the 2015 NHL draft in the December rankings released by International Scouting Services. Gophers recruit Tommy Novak is ranked 25th. Bittner has nine goals and eight assists in 24 games. Novak has three goals and 12 assists in 18 games for Waterloo of the USHL.
• The Gophers wrestling team is ranked No. 1 in the latest InterMat rankings. They have three wrestlers ranked first overall in their weight class: Dylan Ness at 157 pounds, Logan Storley at 174 and Scott Schiller at 197.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 7:40, 8:40 and 9:20 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. firstname.lastname@example.org