Gophers: Recent moves suggest new practice facilities on the way



With the firing of Tubby Smith this week, the University of Minnesota is in a rare place to make a big splash on numerous fronts. The new coach will bring a lot of hype and publicity to the basketball program as well as to the university.

But the bottom line that all sports and entertainment comes down to is — money.

With rumors of fundraising drying up for the university in the basketball program, is this the grand reason that Smith was let go as coach?

There has been talk for over a decade about the university building new practice facilities for both the football and basketball programs to keep the U of M on par with other Big Ten institutions and colleges across the country.

The hiring of athletic director Norwood Teague last summer was supposed to help because he knows about two things — basketball and fundraising.

Is the new “Player Development Practice Facility” for both basketball and the updates to the Gibson-Nagurski Football Complex ready to break ground on campus?

The Star Tribune reported last fall that the first step for the eventual practice facility is happening now.

So was the plan before the season started to remove coach Smith at the end of the year, buy him out for $2.5 million, and move forward with a new coach and practice facilities?

Well the recruiting trail has never been hotter in the state of Minnesota in basketball. Now would have been the time if Tubby couldn’t get the job done in recruiting and winning in the Big Ten.

As it is with most athletic programs, everyone wants part of the cake. Head football coach Jerry Kill has been asking for improvements to the football practice facility since he took over as coach two years ago.

So with rumors of boosters ready to commit money to the athletic department with the removal of Smith as basketball coach, should we expect construction crews to start setting up shop on campus when the snow melts?

Gophers fans want to land the top football and basketball recruits. So begs the question, does T. Denny Sanford still have that $35 million lying around?

Don’t be surprised if the hiring of the new basketball coach next week comes with a fat check behind it to build the long awaited practice facility.

With the opening of the new dormitory at 1701 University Ave. set for the Fall of 2013, the construction offices for the new dorm are about to be removed from Lot C58 below (Located right across 4th St. from Ridder Arena & the Baseline Tennis Center).

Image courtesy of the University of Minnesota Parking and Transportation Services website –

This spot would be ideal for the new basketball practice facility. Its proximity to Williams Arena and the Sports Pavilion would make it a convenient spot for athletes to walk to and from practice day and night. By the looks of the renderings that RDG Planning & Design have come up with, this is the spot for the new home for 6 a.m. shoot-arounds.

It would also put the new facility in plain sight for fans and donors traveling to campus for almost all athletic events. Something that would be a reminder to any future recruit that they are a big part of the university’s sports and entertainment image.

Several other Big Ten universities have built basketball practice facilities recently including Purdue, Ohio State, Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, and Indiana.

The Gophers and Northwestern are the only two programs without a dedicated building for hoops advancement.

Construction time for such a facility would be roughly a year and a half total. That’s what it took to build Indiana’s posh new Cook Hall.

At that rate, now is the time for Teague and his advisers to move onward with this project. Especially as it would mean that it would be open just in time for the Twin Cities’ Big 3 of Tyus Jones, Rashad Vaughn, and Reid Travis to hit campus as freshmen and start the second year under the new Minnesota basketball coach — whoever that may be.

Hey, they could even live across the street at the new dormitory planted next door. No moped travel necessary.