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Land O'Lakes Pledges to University of Minnesota Athletics

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A historic gift from the Arden Hills, MN company will fund the new Student Athlete Excellence Center at the heart of the new Athletic Village.

Keystone

After months of speculating and endless haranguing over the lack of details around Norwood Teague's game-changing vision for the future of University of Minnesota Athletics, Jason Gonzalez of the Star Tribune officially reported today on what had been hotly rumored over the last week:

The University of Minnesota's $190 million athletics facility overhaul will be jumpstarted by a $25 million pledge from Arden Hills corporation Land O'Lakes.

The Land O'Lakes Foundation and the University of Minnesota will announce the commitment with an athletics-heavy focus on Wednesday afternoon at a news conference on the Northrop Mall on campus.

An allotted $21,037,500 million will be directed to building a 60,000-square-foot Center for Excellence in the new athletics village, provide support for student-athlete activities in the new facility, and will support various athletic sponsorship and events.

While exact details of the joint press conference will shed more light if this indeed marks the end of silent phase for the Athletic Village fundraising, Land O'Lakes contribution for the Student Athlete Excellence Center is historic in and of itself:

This is the largest commitment ever made collectively by Lake O'Lakes and its foundation and one of the largest single corporate commitments ever made to the university. The pledge is largely philanthropic, but includes an element of sponsorship. Land O'Lakes will receive naming rights to the Center for Excellence.

This is one of the first ever agreements between the university and a business partner to have a broad range of support for student-athletes and academic programs, including student scholarships, development within athletics, internship opportunities and faculty research.

The U recently made public a request for proposal for the design of Student Athlete Excellence Center and broader pre-design work that would support the broader Athletic Village vision, the supporting documents conveying that the Excellence Center was to be the centerpiece of the new Village and likely first structure to break ground. The proposals and Land O'Lakes pledge arrive on the heels of Jerry Kill's public comments about a new practice facility for Gopher football beginning construction next Spring. The Excellence Center, new football facilities (including weight room and training facilities, offices and indoor practice field) and a combined men's and women's basketball development center are part of the overall master facilities plan outlined by Teague over a year ago.

All of this is very exciting stuff! The Land O'Lakes pledge is the single most definitive action towards kicking off the project, though some (including myself) were hoping a large corporation charitable gift would be funneled directly into the cost of sport-specific items. A philanthropic effort geared towards developing all Gopher student athletes, both during and after their years in Dinkytown, will always go over more easily with the scholastically minded Board of Regents versus the proliferation of football and basketball spending, yet it's a start.

Attention now turns towards exactly what was not addressed by the announcement: fundraising needs for the football and basketball development centers. If Teague has a sizable portion raised already, he'll likely make that public shortly thereafter (understanding Land O'Lakes desire to make the day largely about their gift). It'd be prudent of him to strike while the iron is hot if they do not, in fact, close the silent phase with the corporate pledge.

This is real and it is happening, Gopher fans. Read the official release from Land O'Lakes here.

EDIT: Additional details from Marcus on timing: