This might be something for Mark Coyle, the new athletic director at Minnesota, to address, after he decides whether he can find the millions required to fire men’s basketball coach Richard Pitino. It’s something of an essay I was sent by a Gophers’ track fan on the difficulties the university’s track and field teams are encountering these days.
The women’s team has encountered the same difficulties, although this concerns primarily the men’s team:
THE MEN’S TRACK AND FIELD team at the U has been minimized to make way for the “village’’ so that the men’s basketball team won’t have to travel back and forth to Williams Arena for practice.
There hasn’t been a track on which the Gophers could host a meet since 2003. The Gophers won the Big Ten championship that year, largely on the shoulders of Minnesota kids. Those Gophers had the NCAA champion in the 400 meters (Adam Steele) and the National Coach of the Year in Phil Lundin.
The track started to crumble as a viable venue for a meet, but at least the Gophers had a place to practice. There was a five-year streak of Big Ten titles.
Now the Gophers have nothing. They are bussing their athletes to Hamline and Concordia in St. Paul for practice.
If facilities were the end-all, the program should be a mess. It is not. The Gophers have the 2015 NCAA champion (Luca Wieland) and three legitimate Olympic hopefuls on the team: multi-events specialist Luca Wieland, hammer thrower Sean Donnelly and 800-meter runner Goaner Deng.
At last look, the Gophers were rated 14th nationally as a team, and they have a near perfect score in APR (Academic Progress Rating).
The university doesn't like reminders that it has created these conditions for 150 athletes (100 of whom are women, making up a large share of the female student-athlete population).
No track location has been chosen. There is no timeline for a track to be finished. It’s a good thing the Gophers’ track athletes, men and women, and their coaches have the good people of Hamline and Concordia to lean on – to generously prop up the track and field programs of the flagship university of the state of Minnesota.
But, hey, the all-important athletes from the revenue sports need a better place to eat lunch, so 150 kids who put the student in student-athlete can hustle over to St. Paul as charity cases at D-II and D-III facilities between classes to train for success.