As Gonzaga plays in its 19th consecutive NCAA men's basketball tournament — dispatching first-round foe South Dakota State on Thursday — Yahoo has an interesting look back on the 1999 chain of events that impacted two schools: Gonzaga and Minnesota.
Dan Monson, who took Gonzaga to the first of those 19 consecutive tourney appearances and led the Bulldogs to the Elite 8 — including a victory over a Minnesota team reeling from losing several top players to the fresh academic scandal story — decided later that summer to leave Gonzaga to take the head coaching job with the Gophers.
In essence, the Gophers made him an offer he couldn't refuse.
"It was going to take me 15 years to make the same amount of money at Gonzaga that I would make in two at Minnesota," Monson told Yahoo. "I asked myself in the mirror, 'Does it really make sense to turn down the chance to set your family up for life just because you're comfortable where you are?' "
But as the piece notes: "To this day, it's still a question with which Monson wrestles."
Mark Few took over for him in Gonzaga and has led the squad to 18 more NCAA berths — including a No. 1 seed in this year's tournament. Monson struggled to sustain success with the Gophers, making the NCAA tournament just once before taking a buyout in the midst of the awful 2006-07 season.
It feels in retrospect like a lost era of Gophers basketball — one from which Minnesota started to recover during the Tubby Smith era but might not have fully escaped until this season under Richard Pitino.
That notion brings to mind another interesting item of note from this week:
This is the 15th consecutive athletic season in which Wisconsin has made both the NCAA men's basketball tournament and a college football bowl game. The Badgers extended the streak with a Cotton Bowl berth (and victory over P.J. Fleck-coached Western Michigan) as well as earning a No. 8 seed in this year's men's basketball tournament.
Not only is that the longest active streak of any school achieving both of those postseason feats, but also it is the longest such streak in history. The next longest in history? Texas, which did it 12 consecutive years from 1999-2010. The next longest active streak? Baylor and North Carolina, tied at four.
To put that in local perspective, in the past 15 seasons the Gophers have made five NCAA men's basketball tournaments and 12 bowl games. Their longest streak in that span of having both teams reach the NCAA tourney and a bowl game was two — back to back in 2008-09 and 2009-10.
Minnesota will hope to embark on a longer streak starting this year. The meter sits at one and counting — with Pitino and Fleck, a pair of thirty-somethings, charged with bringing about sustained success.