College Athletics: New Gopher AD visits Grand View
NISSWA--New University of Minnesota athletic director Mark Coyle and eight Gopher coaches met with fans on the third leg of the Gopher Road Trip Chalk Talk Thursday with a stop at Grand View Lodge, and talked about the successful 2015-2016 season.
NISSWA-New University of Minnesota athletic director Mark Coyle and eight Gopher coaches met with fans on the third leg of the Gopher Road Trip Chalk Talk Thursday with a stop at Grand View Lodge, and talked about the successful 2015-2016 season.
Coming out of the winter season Minnesota held a fourth-place ranking in the Learfield Director's Cup joining Ohio State (2), Michigan (3), and Penn State (5).
It was Coyle's second full day on the job. It was important to him to meet Gopher fans.
"The reception has been awesome," Coyle said. "Having been here from 2001-2005 I knew that we had a dedicated fan base. I purposely got here as quickly as I could from Syracuse as I wanted to do this tour. I am having the chance on my first day to do a couple of stops and we talked about people investing in our program when they buy a ticket to come and support our kids. I think it is important to invest back in the communities and let them know how much we appreciate them."
Head football coach Tracy Claeys, women's golf coach Michele Redman, women's swimming and diving coach Terry Ganley, women's cross country coach Sarah Hopkins, volleyball coach Hugh McCutcheon, women's tennis coach Chuck Merzbacher, associate head soccer coach Krystle Seidel, and men's tennis coach Geoff Young talked about their team's accomplishments and future.
"I think sometimes we forget to celebrate our successes in college athletics," Coyle said. "Fans want us to do well in football, basketball and hockey to compete at a high level and so do we. We have had a lot of success with six conference championships this year and a national championship with women's hockey. We also have our men's baseball team playing in College Station (Texas) in the NCAA Regionals. It's a credit to the over 700 kids that compete in sports."
Redman talked about her young golf team and the progress made this last season.
"We had two of our young ladies that broke the scoring record for the history of the program," said Redman. " Heather Ciskowski and Sabrine Garrison are the two lowest scores to come to the U as part of the golf program. I am excited about the direction of the program. We missed getting to the NCAA Regionals by five teams. We all wanted to get there and were really close. We were a young team and if we had a better Big Ten season then we would have a great chance to get in there.
"We do have a young lady from Pequot Lakes on our team right now. Maggie Heggerston is a freshman this year. We want to keep the best players in the state home, while being competitive. In the future, I would like to start a golf academy at the U to teach kids when they are younger so they are ready to go by their sophomore or junior year in high school."
Claeys enters his first full season as head football coach. The Gophers finished 6-7 with a win over Central Michigan in the Quick Lane Bowl. Claeys told the crowd he made no apologizes for his team being in the bowl game with a losing record as they were invited to participate based on their performance in the classroom.
He said the response has been great from fans as he tours the state.
"People have been great to us," he said. "Obviously it's great when you go out and a large number of people are Golden Gopher fans. I enjoy getting out and doing this. A lot of weekends people get out and drive to the Twin Cities to see different Gopher teams compete and it is always good to get out here and see them on their home turf.
"The neat thing about football in the state of Minnesota is that we are the state's team. There is no other Division I team. When you look at most states, there are split loyalties. It is very powerful when you go out there on game day knowing you are representing the whole state."
The tour headed to Spicer with four more stops next week. Coyle and Claeys both talked about the importance of developing a connection in greater Minnesota.
"You want to own your state and if you can get the best men and women in your state to come to your institution, then you own your state," Coyle said. "I think it's great the connectivity between the small town in Minnesota and the campus and it's important."
Said Claeys: "The base of our team always has to start in the state of Minnesota. The hard thing is that you can't put a number on that. You don't know year over year how many of those kids are going to be around and how many are Gopher fans. Hopefully, the more we win the more players will grow up being Golden Gopher fans and jump on board and want to come to the university."