Richard Pitino saw the number of college basketball teams scheduling charity games growing this fall and wondered if it was a trend the Gophers could jump on.
After the Big Ten sent an e-mail to its teams last month notifying them the NCAA is allowing extra exhibitions to raise money for natural disaster relief, Pitino was ready to move. Not long after, Sunday’s game against Green Bay came together.
Pitino quickly had an idea about what they would support, because the Gophers played two games in Puerto Rico in his four seasons, in 2014 and 2015.
The effects of the devastation from hurricanes in Puerto Rico this year were immense and long-lasting.
“It breaks your heart what’s going on there,” Pitino said. “So if we can help out in any way, we’re going to do that. It’s great the NCAA allowed it. I’m excited about the game. Green Bay is a great opponent. More than anything, it’s a good way for our fans and community to show that giving side of it.”
Minnesota is one of eight Big Ten teams playing hurricane relief exhibition games this year for victims of Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Harvey, including Illinois, Michigan State, Nebraska, Penn State, Purdue, Rutgers and Wisconsin.
Pitino tweeted last week that he would match $1 for every $10 ticket bought for Sunday’s game, being held next to Williams Arena at the Maturi Sports Pavilion.
“I love the fact that we’re playing in the Pav, because it’s a different environment,” he said. “I think that will be cool. My biggest thing is I want to pack that thing. I think it’s about 5,000 fans, so let’s fill it up. There’s no excuse not to, because 100 percent of it goes to helping Puerto Rico. And at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about.”