Gopher Coaches and Fans Celebrate a Maroon and Gold Day
The annual Golden Gopher Road Trip stop in Owatonna played to a packed and enthusiastic crowd at the Owatonna Country Club Tuesday. Most of the approximately 200 in attendance were decked out in maroon and gold.
About ten University of Minnesota coaches addressed the crowd, giving updates on their teams and poking fun at the other coaches. Voice of the Gophers Mike Grimm emceed the program and Director of Athletics Mark Coyle provided some opening remarks. He pointed out that the university is among the top schools in the nation in the Director's Cup sports standings and one of the top institutions academically, as well.
Most of the coaches lauded over the new Athletes' Village and over still-to-come facility improvements for the wrestling and golf programs. New men's hockey coach Bob Motzko said it's a real, "Wow factor." Men's golf coach Justin Smith said it would be nice to have indoor practice options on campus. Several times this season they couldn't get to indoor facilities around the Twin Cities due to poor travel conditions. Smith pointed out that Owatonna High School graduate Peter Jones had the third-lowest scoring average for the Gophers.
Men's gymnastics coach Mike Burns was proud to show off the NCAA trophy for a second place finish in the national tournament. He also thrilled the crowd by walking on his hands back to his seat after making his presentation. Wrestling coach Brandon Eggum has one of the top-rated recruiting classes in the nation, led by Apple Valley's Gable Steveson. Eggum said Steveson will be competing in Rochester soon in an effort to qualify for World Team competition in both junior and senior divisions.
Volleyball coach Hugh McCutcheon reflected on a great season in the fall that saw the Gophers hold down the No. 1 spot in the nation for a short time. Minnesota will host the NCAA Final Four at Target Center this coming season.
Men's basketball coach Richard Pitino spoke briefly about last season, which started very well but got derailed by injury and other factors. He is excited about the schedule for the season ahead, which includes a game inside US Bank Stadium, the host site for the 2019 Final Four.
Football coach PJ Fleck sent the fans away with a rousing message about the football program. He can't talk about current juniors, so Jason Williamson's name was never mentioned. Williamson gave the Gophers a verbal commitment after the state championship run by the Huskies last fall. Andrew Stelter was mentioned. A member of the 2013 state title team, Stelter just finished his collegiate career and has earned his degree.
Fleck said the program is still in the process of building its foundation. He said the team might use 18 freshmen this coming season. They will definitely have a quarterback that has never thrown a college pass with a couple of players vying for the starting job.
New Gopher women's basketball coach Lindsay Whalen was not able to travel with the Road Trip due to her commitments as a member of the Minnesota Lynx. However her name came up several times followed by rounds of applause. She recorded a brief message of thanks to supporters of the Gophers.
A number of fans walked away with door prizes including Gopher gear and signed basketballs and pucks. Federated Insurance of Owatonna helped to promote and organize the Owatonna stop.
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