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GDG rundown for the weekend of Mar. 17th-19th

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So many sports, so little time.  It’s the height of this crazy month we call March.  It’s so crazy that our hosts will be doing a lot of traveling over the next few weeks just to keep up.  This week, Eric is in the Downtown Minneapolis studio, while Larry is in transit from covering Day 1 of the NCAA basketball tournament.  They look at the Minnesota Gophers’ first foray into the tourney in four years.  Then, the Vikings bring in a new running back.  Where does this leave the legacy of Adrian Peterson?  The Wild have cooled off down the stretch run.  The Wolves are still trying to push for the West’s 8-Seed.  Plus, we’ll hear from Golden State star Steph Curry and revisit an interview on the renovation happening at the Target Center.

A Maddening Result

Segment 1: The Madness is here and running rampant on the sports world.  Eric and producer Jonathan Lowe look back on the first day of the NCAA basketball tournament, including a glimpse at the Gophers’ first-round loss to Middle Tennessee.  Plus, a familiar voice gets back behind the microphone.

 

Gophers’ Season Ends in Upsetting Fashion

Segment 2: Larry joins in on the fun in this portion of the show.  He joins Eric on the way back from Milwaukee, where he watched the Gopher hoops team fall in the first round of the NCAA tourney.  We hear a detailed breakdown of the loss to Middle Tennessee.  And the guys put a wrap on a surprisingly positive turnaround for the program.

 

Vikings Continue to Add During Free Agency

Segment 3: Even with the frenzy of March Madness, the NFL can always steal some of the headlines.  The Shield’s free agency season continues, and the Vikings appear to have made a statement.  The fellas discuss the team’s new tailback and what effect the signing will have on Adrian Peterson.

 

A.P. Sits and the Wild Slip

Segment 4: The discussion continues to focus on Adrian Peterson for the start of this segment.  Where does AP stack among the all-time prolific rushers (Vikings and NFL history)?  Then, have the Wild hit their traditional regular season swoon?  We hear about the team’s recent struggles.

 

A Look Back: GDG’s Digs Into Renovations at Target Center

Segment 5: The NCHC’s Frozen Faceoff is this weekend at the Target Center.  It’s a good time to step back into the GDG vault and discuss the ongoing renovations with the facility.  We revisit Eric’s interview with Mortensen Construction project manager Derek Hansen on the progress of the upgrade.

 

The State of Golden State

Segment 6: The Timberwolves had a big flourish last week, beating the Clippers and Warriors in back-to-back outings.  After last Friday’s win over Golden State, we got into the locker room for some postgame sound from reigning MVP Steph Curry.  After that, our hosts discuss the practice of marquee NBA teams sitting star players during the regular season.

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March Madness makes NCAA a bundle!

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By Larry Fitzgerald
March 15, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD

 

When do the athletes — most of them Black — get their fair share?

 

Many years ago my mother, Sally Fitzgerald, taught me how to value a dollar. “Practice trying to save 25 cents out of every dollar,” she said. “It’s a great financial strategy — it challenges you to keep an eye on your money.”

My biggest disappointment in seeing former President Barack Obama leaving the White House after eight years was that no investigation of the NCAA was done. If Black Americans were ever to receive reparations in this country, that is the pool of money to take it from. I thought the government could dive into the NCAA pool and try to go about rewarding us as a people for slavery.

Everyone gets all excited about March Madness and the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. It’s all about the seeding. The NCAA selection committee had many questioning its seeding. Defending Champion Villanova (31-3), Kansas (28-4), Gonzaga (30-1) and North Carolina (28-7) are all number-one seeds.

Billions of dollars are generated over the next three weeks with 68 teams playing to the Final Four in Phoenix and eventually a National Champion. The Gophers (24-9) are back in the NCAAs as a number-five seed Thursday in Milwaukee versus Middle Tennessee. Middle Tennessee pulled a huge upset last year as a number-15 over number-two Michigan State.

The Big Ten gets seven teams led by number-four Purdue and number-seven Michigan, the regular season and tournament champs. Wisconsin is seeded number eight — how is that? They beat the Gophers twice and finished ahead of Minnesota, Maryland, Michigan State and Northwestern. Yes, for the first time ever the Wildcats are in the money.

I have always been curious where the money goes that’s generated annually by the NCAA. I have long referred to them as the most corrupt organization in sports. That opinion has not changed.

College football and basketball generate enormous amounts of money for the 300 Division I programs across the USA. The wealth gets lost in athletic budgets funding the other sports teams and individuals and million-dollar salaries to primarily White coaches.

Universities and the television networks work hand in hand with the sponsors — apparel and shoe companies. Good to see Samuel L. Jackson, Charles Barkley and Spike Lee in those Capital One NCAA-themed spots.

Yes, I was hoping that former President Obama, because he loves sports, would have poked into this growing gravy train of wealth generation, especially considering that the majority of the labor force is Black players under the guise of amateurism.

When the great Jackie Robinson broke the race barrier in sports during the spring of 1947, White America did not see us as human, much less as equals. Major League Baseball called it an experiment, remember? However, they knew we could play.

We as a people were segregated back then, spending our hard-earned money supporting the Negro Leagues. Our dollars were unified then and went around in a big circle within our community.

Nobody gave a hoot about the NCAA tournament in the 1930s, ‘40s and ‘50s. Not until the late 1960s did the growth spurt begin. It’s still growing, the enormous wealth is staggering, and we don’t get a dime.

Sure, a handful of players get drafted each year first-round to the NBA, and others get their educations and start careers. But believe me, 60 to 70 percent of these thousands of athletes never overcome this.

That’s why my excitement is tempered watching the games. I have all these questions, and the NCAA says the exchange of a free education (scholarships) is fair compensation. I’m no Johnny come lately. I have seen where the Wild goose went.

I have echoed these sentiments before. We are supposed to be happy with what we do get. It’s a vicious cycle that has gotten out of control. When, I ask, are we ever allowed to touch the ceiling?

 

Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to info@larry-fitzgerald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.

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GDG rundown for the weekend of Mar. 10th-12th

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For as many options as we have available on the Twin Cities sports scene, this might be as varied a sports weekend as we’ve seen in the area for quite a while.  Eric and Larry take a moment to set the table from the Downtown Minneapolis studio.  A new league makes its Twin Cities debut as MN United play their first MLS game on home turf.  The Vikings look to make a splash in a new NFL year.  The Timberwolves are in the hunt for a Playoff spot, but didn’t get to play a game this week due to unusual conditions (Trailblazers TV broadcaster Lamar Hurd explained the situation).  And the Gopher look to continue their success in the postseason (Richard Pitino and Nate Mason talk about how they can achieve that).

Welcome to the Pitch

Segment 1: There’s a lot going on, sports-wise, in the Twin Cities.  However, there’s only one weekend event that requires a first.  Eric and Larry discuss the MLS home debut for MN United.  What should we expect from their Sunday tilt with fellow MLS expansion franchise Atlanta FC?

 

A Pigskin Free Agent Frenzy

Segment 2: Despite what it says on the actual calendar, the NFL celebrated its own “Happy New Year” on Thursday.  And the action got underway quickly.  Even the Vikings got in on the fun.  The guys look at the team saying goodbye to one offensive lineman and hello to another.  This also brings up the history of some famous Purple protectors.

 

Wolves Looking to Hunt Down a Playoff Spot

Segment 3: The race for the 8-Seed in the NBA’s Western Conference is crowded.  The Timberwolves are part of that mix.  But have they positioned themselves well enough to make a run?  Plus, what in the world is happening to Pro hoops in L.A.?

 

Slippery When Wet: Lamar Hurd Discusses a Weird Postponement

Segment 4: A funny thing happened on the way to Monday’s basketball game…a Spring storm broke out (kind of).  Eric caught up with Portland Trailblazers broadcaster Lamar Hurd to discuss the bizarre circumstances that postponed a pivotal game in the chase for a postseason spot.

 

Gophers Given Their Due: GDG Chats with Richard Pitino and Nate Mason

Segment 5: The Gophers are in Washington, D.C. battling for the Big Ten Tournament title.  Their successful season has garnered some attention.  Larry talked about the turnaround with head coach Richard Pitino and star point guard Nate Mason.

 

When Sports and Mother Nature Collide

Segment 6: With the weird postponement of the Wolves game this week, the fellas look back on some of the notable weather games they’ve attended.  Then, they pour through some more notes from the opening of the NFL calendar year.

 

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Gophers’ miracle season continues

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By Larry Fitzgerald
March 8, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD

 

Do you believe in Miracles? Wow — from 8-23 last year to 23-8? Richard Pitino is just 31-31 the last two years, I remind you, as Gophers men’s basketball coach.

This is his fourth season, and just like Minnesotans, some fans are worried the famous name Pitino, son of legend Rick Pitino of Louisville, will have teams knocking down the door trying to lure him away from Williams Arena. While appearing on Emmy Award-winning TPT Almanac last Friday, I was asked by co-host Eric Escala if the Gophers might lose Pitino because of the team’s success.

After getting smashed at Madison Sunday 66-49 and having their eight-game win streak end, the greatest turnaround season in the country will in my view still land the Gophers and Pitino in the NCAA tournament. This would be his first trip to the NCAA men’s tournament and the Gophers’ first trip to the dance since 2013.

That was the same year Norwood Teague became athletic director and quickly fired legendary former NCAA championship coach Tubby Smith. Smith reached the NCAAs three times in six years and beat number-one Indiana at Williams Arena the only time in school history. Smith led the Gophers to the field of 32.

(Photo courtesy of Larry-Fitzgerald.com)
Nate Mason drives Gophers to NCAAs

Minnesota is a privileged institution. White coaches get contract extensions for what Smith accomplished while Smith was run off campus by a guy like Teague, a predator disgraced and fired on sexual harassment charges that usually land people like that in jail. But being privileged has its benefits.

You see, people around here think they know, and they don’t know squat. They think Minnesota basketball is comparable to North Carolina, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan State and UCLA. They think the only Division One basketball program in Minnesota is all that. Let’s be clear: It’s not.

Ten times in 105 years the Gophers have reached the NCAA tournament. Remember, three of those NCAA trips were vacated because of academic fraud charges under Clem Haskins. Having said that, I do like this year’s team. Pitino has done a really solid job worthy of earning him the BIG Conference coach of the year. He’s got my vote, and I’m a voter.

The Gophers play with heart. They play together like they enjoy each other, and they lead the nation in blocked shots. They started 15-2 losing five in a row and then reeled off eight straight wins. They beat BIG Conference champion Purdue on the road. They have been in five overtime games and are 3-2. They rebound well, and they are deep.

Junior Nate Mason might be the best guard in the conference. Freshman Amir Coffey has really played well — he’s likely the BIG Freshman of the Year. This is a young team that grew up fast.

The BIG Conference has not gotten much national respect this year. Just three teams have even cracked the AP and USA coaches polls — conference champ Purdue is number 13, Wisconsin number 24 and Maryland number 25. Michigan State, Indiana, Michigan and Illinois are down by their standards.

The 11-7 Gophers have earned a bye in the BIG Men’s Tournament set for Washington, D.C. this week for the first time ever. I think they will be a tough out and could receive a five seed in the NCAAs. Pitino did a good job not just coaching but cleaning up some of the disciplinary issues from last season. This is a good defensive team.

 

 

Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to info@larry-fitzgerald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.

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Eric Nelson

SPORTS NUGGETS: The Adrian Peterson-Minnesota Viking divorce was inevitable

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By Eric Nelson

February 28, 2017

GAMEDAY GOLD

MINNEAPOLIS – Sports Nuggets from the home of the Pillsbury Doughboy…

• Business Decision: The Minnesota Vikings divorce from Adrian Peterson was as predictable as a Kim Kardashian break up. Everyone saw it coming and no one is surprised it happened. This was purely business for the Purple. No way the Vikings were going to fork out $18 million to a RB who will be 32 on March 21…

•AP’s Legacy: The decision means that Minnesota has cut ties with one of the greatest players in team history. In 10 years AP ran for 11,747 yards and 97 touchdowns. His pinnacle season was 2012 when he gained 2,097 yards, had 12 TD’s and was NFL MVP. Making those numbers even more impressive is that AP suffered a major knee injury late in the 2011 season…

•Potential Landing Spots: AP is now an NFL free agent and will be pursued by multiple teams. Houston, the NY Giants and Tampa Bay could court him. But don’t discount, Dallas, Green Bay, Seattle or even Minnesota…

•NFL Nightmare: The worst-case scenario for Viking fans would be AP playing for the Packers. How devastating would it be for the Purple Nation to watch him go to Green Bay and lead the Packers to Super Bowl LII at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis..?

•Change of Fortune:The Minnesota Gopher basketball team was historically bad last season. The Gophers finished 8-23 overall and 2-16 in the Big Ten. HC Richard Pitino appeared to be in over his skis and his future in Minnesota was foggy at best. But, something remarkable has happened in Dinkytown. The Gophers (22-7, 10-6) have won seven straight games and have morphed into a top tier Big Ten team. Believe it or not, Minnesota is almost assured of going to the NCAA Tournament – which didn’t seem possible when season started…

•Trending Up: Pitino will likely win the Big Ten coach of the year award, which is remarkable considering that he was on a scorching hot seat when the season started and there was speculation about his job status. Now Gopher fans are hoping Pitino isn’t lured away to another program because of his recent success…

•Instant Impact: Freshman Amir Coffey is already one of the top Gopher players. Coffey is averaging 12.2 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists per game…

•Crowning Wins: It was a Minnesota sweep Monday night against teams named the Kings. The Wild won over the Los Angeles Kings 5-4 in overtime at the Xcel Energy Center, while the Timberwolves knocked off the Sacramento Kings 102-88 in Northern California…

•Fantastic Finish: Mikael Granlund scored the game winning goal just 12 seconds into OT, when he knifed through two LA defenders and put the puck past Kings G Jonathan Quick. Granlund leads the Wild with 20 goals and 56 points this season…

•Global Game: The once all white, mostly Canadian NHL is much more diverse these days. According to the LA Times, there are 16 blacks and players from 20 different countries in the league this season…

•Playoff Chase: Despite being 12 games south of .500 the Timberwolves (24-36) are just 2 1/2 games behind Denver for the eighth and final playoff spot in the NBA Western Conference. Minnesota has not been in the postseason since 2004 when the Wolves lost to the LA Lakers in the conference finals…

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Larry Fitzgerald, Sr.

Tracy Claeys: Gopher scapegoat

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By Larry Fitzgerald
January 11, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD

 

Usually leadership at NCAA Institutions like Big Ten schools with 45,000 students comes from university presidents. Not at Minnesota, where President Eric Kaler has done his best recently to bungle the important role of the athletic program.

He places academic achievement as his number-one priority, and in many ways under his watch he has undermined the importance of the athletic program, which drives the revenue streams for university athletics.

It’s been called dysfunctional: The clear incompetence and laxity of administration leadership have pushed the Gophers to the verge of being a national joke. Last week, Head Football Coach Tracey Claeys was fired after becoming the first Gophers football coach to win both of his first back-to-back bowl games.

Claeys took over after previous head coach Jerry Kill resigned because of health concerns during the 2015 season; Claeys was his top assistant. In his first full season, he led the Gophers to a 9-4 season with the second-most wins by a Gopher team since 1905, including the 17-12 win over Washington State in the December 27 Holiday Bowl in San Diego.

former Minnesota Golden Gopher football coach Tracey Claeys

Tracey Claeys

When Claeys became head coach, the University did not have a full-time athletic director because Kaler dropped the ball. That was on the heels of longtime respected athletic director Joel Maturi resigning.

Kaler has long been casual in his support of Gophers athletics, and it shows. He has burn scars to prove it. Kaler hired a search committee to find his next AD, which is a sure sign of a president with a lack of commitment to his athletic program and one of the key reasons why the Gophers have not been in the Rose Bowl since 1961.

Norwood Teague was the guy recommended by the committee to the uncommitted Kaler, and he hired him from Virginia Commonwealth. Teague was supposed to elevate the athletic program and was believed to be a great fundraiser.

The first thing Teague did three years ago on arrival was fire as men’s basketball coach the highly respected Tubby Smith, one of the best coaches in college basketball. Smith had won an NCAA Championship at Kentucky before taking the Minnesota job. After six seasons, he was fired.

Three times Smith led the Gophers to the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Smith beat UCLA in the NCAA tournament in his final win, and during the year even upset number-one Indiana at Williams Arena for the first time in school history. Never before in 100 years of Gophers basketball had the men’s basketball coach reached the NCAA tournament three times in six years.

Teague proved in short order that he was in over his head. He was fired after it was discovered that he was a campus sexual predator, harassing women administrators and media females with sexual advances. It was one of the most embarrassing and expensive mistakes in school history. The program has become a laughing stock in college athletics thanks to President Kaler.

For two years, the U of M athletic program has been without a full-time AD. Richard Pitino was hired by Teague to replace Smith. After three years and zero NCAA appearances, last year the young Pitino was 8-23, the worst season in school history.

Not until last fall was Mark Coyle hired as full-time athletic director. He is not the best communicator according to some. He did not hire Claeys, and it showed — he recently barbecued him in a news conference and fired him last week after the football team in September had four Black players accused of sexual misconduct with a female student.

Claeys suspended the players for three games because the university has a student code of conduct policy that allows Title IX investigators to launch their own independent investigation even after university and Minneapolis police had conducted an investigation into the alleged assault of the woman using video and audio of the sexual act captured on tape by the players. No charges were filed.

Three weeks ago, 10 Gopher players were suspended by the university after the Title IX report was issued. The football team’s remaining players announced a planned boycott of the Holiday Bowl game, demanding the 10 players be reinstated. Thirty-six hours later, after meeting with Coyle and reading the 82-page Title IX report, the players withdrew their boycott protest.

After his players announced their planned boycott, Claeys tweeted his support of their right to protest, not of the actions of the accused suspended players. The confusion of Claeys’ support angered some. Coyle used the opening to fire Claeys and hire his own guy, P.J. Fleck, who led Western Michigan to a 13-1 season and a trip to the January 2 Cotton Bowl.

Fleck will make $3.5 million a year over the next five years while the suspended Gopher football players await a hearing on their fate and suspensions. Kaler still has job, and his mistakes are evident. His lack of leadership and poor decision-making are clear and are costing this university a small fortune.

 

 

 

Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to info@larry-fitzgerald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.

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Larry Fitzgerald, Sr.

Coach Richard Pitino on his Gophers

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By Larry Fitzgerald
December 8, 2016
GAMEDAY GOLD

 

Truth in disclosure: Since Tubby Smith was fired unfairly three years ago by Norwood Teague, the ex-Gophers athletic director, I felt so strongly about how bad that decision was that I stopped covering men’s Gophers basketball. Last year was the worst year in school history at 8-22.

Two weeks ago I ended my protest by covering the Gophers vs. Arkansas at Williams Arena. They won. Before that game, I sat down with Richard Pitino (RP), now in his third season as head coach.

MSR: Congrats on a great start to the season!

RP: Thanks, it’s been a kind of quiet, challenging start to the season.

MSR: The Gophers are better. They are 7-1 and play New Jersey Institute of Technology next at Williams Arena. How are you selling your program and the keys to it?

RP: I would hope that when you talk about playing for the University of Minnesota, you’re obviously talking about a tremendous college experience. And tremendous opportunities outside of basketball if you get your degree from here with all the Fortune 500 companies. To play in the Big Ten if not the best one of the best basketball conferences. And to play in front of our loyal fans.

You talk about all those things. You talk about style of play and the commitment to getting these guys better on and off the court. And, hopefully, winning follows that too. You’re constantly talking about those things with our guys. Our guys love going to school here.

I think that’s kind of an underrated thing here. And they love playing in this arena as well.

MSR: Your dad Rick, head coach at Louisville, is a Hall of Fame coach. Is your goal to achieve some of the things he’s accomplished over the years?

RP: I’m 34 years old and I’m new at this, and to try and mirror a Hall of Famer’s career would make me pretty unhappy. I try to take it day by day.

Richard and Rick Pitino

Like father, like son?

I’ve been provided a tremendous opportunity to be the head basketball coach at a great school a Big Ten school, at a young age. I’m just trying to get better every day and pour myself into our team, my family, and do my best there. The whole trying to be like your dad…you really don’t think about those things.

MSR: Much was made of recruiting and the number of talented in-state high school players that got away from Minnesota. You did get one of the best in Amir Coffey. Can you talk about that?

RP: What’s difficult about local kids is you can’t take them all. You only get 13 scholarships, and you have to identify with the ones that you need. Amir was a guy that we needed. It was extremely important to get him.
It’s early, obviously, but he’s playing well. When you get a local kid and it works — and hopefully it does continue to work — that might be the best local recruiting tool that you can have. We’re going to continue to try and do our best and put him in the position to succeed.

I know the fans locally, they love him if you can see a local kid have success.

MSR: You have a more physical team in 2016-17. Is that what you wanted?

RP: Yes, we’re a much bigger team. If you look at our team, we’ve got more size [with] Amir at 6’-7” at the three spot. That helps. Your four spot is bigger. Reggie Lynch is bigger. That helps in defensive rebounding, and that puts pressure on the defense when you can play inside to out.

I don’t know too many teams in this league if you’re not big that are going to win. If we stay healthy — knock on wood — we’ve got the size to compete. I really do like our size a lot.

Richard Pitino in action court side

Minnesota Gophers head coach Richard Pitino

 

Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to info@larry-fitzgerald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.

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