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Minnesota Football Facilities: Sid "Reports" & Some Legitimate Concerns

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Sid Hartman has written a hopeful sounding practice facilities update. If he's wrong again, it may be time to start feeling some concern.

nothingshortofgreatness.com

In case you missed it, Sid Hartman had some big Minnesota Gophers practice facilities news to share over the weekend:

The University of Minnesota Board of Regents will vote on the Gophers athletic department’s facilities funding plan in June, and indications are strong that athletic director Norwood Teague’s plan of borrowing $20 million from outside the university and $20 million from the athletic department against future earnings will get the board’s approval so that construction could begin in the fall.

Great news right? Well............no. I mean, don't get me wrong, shovels in the ground this fall would WOULD be great news. But is this true? To be blunt, Sid's accuracy on this subject has been lacking. There's also the issue that Sid tends to uncritically share information he's received from one of his many close personal friends without even bothering to share some vague anonymous sourcing. In other words, you should take this news with a large block of salt.

The lack of sourcing means we're in the dark for motives behind the leak. Is it Norwood setting the table to move on the fence donors into the committed column? Is it Nanne sharing some legit info with an old friend? Is it Kill working to pressure the Board of Regents into voting the project through despite some hesitancy? We literally have no idea. Without that context, we lose even more of our ability to gauge the possible accuracy of Sid's assertions. Personally, when I have no ability to even guess at the accuracy of a Sid nugget I assume it's wrong.

Like I said, this would be GREAT news if true. But until we know more the IF TRUE part should loom large in your mind.

Previous Rational Facilities Thoughts

Ok, so what if Sid is wrong?

The thing is, it's kind of important that Sid be right on this subject for once. Not for his own credibility or anything like that. I mean this in a more general "Gopher fans should want him to be right because the alternatives could be unpleasant" kind of way. We're starting to reach the point where the U needs to announce that the project is approved or risk some backlash. Don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating folks freak out or anything. After all, I err on the side of "all is well" more than I worry. But here are the not unwarranted concerns raised by reasonable folks like our very own Matt Humbert:

- Coach Kill is getting frustrated: Kill has already laid down some serious markers in terms of what he wants. He wanted ground broken by this point and used language that said he expected it. That hasn't (and clearly won't) happen. This is also where I note that I was wrong about what Kill was doing when he said Spring 2015. It probably was a shot across the U's bow. And that's why getting to groundbreaking ASAP is starting to become more urgent.

I agree with Matt in thinking that Coach Kill was never a likely/legit candidate for any open jobs last winter. While I don't think Kill would have left if those schools had offered, there is probably a point where that changes if he continues to succeed here in spite of the facilities limitations he is under. How soon do we reach that point? Consider something that Matt said in December:

If Kill gets a commitment from the university administration that facilities will break ground this spring, and he believes it due to not-yet-for-public-consumption agreements between boosters/corporations and the U, he's not going anywhere.

The unspoken flip side to that statement was that without those commitments, Kill would be a risk to leave Minnesota. Well, we're basically to the summer of 2015, Coach Kill does not have those commitments, and the tone of his recent public comments suggests that he's not happy about it:

"The people (including rival coaches) out there understand how tough this (coaching) job is and there’s a lot of things that have to happen here for us to continue to get the great athlete," Kill said.  "We’ve worked our (tails) off with what we’ve had, what we’ve done.  It’s kind of amazing some of the players we’ve gotten.  (They) disregarded all the stuff—eating in the hallway and all those kind of things to where we are right now."

Kill has also set a new marker for success when it comes to groundbreaking:

Kill said progress is being made toward breaking ground, including soil samples examined.  He expects groundbreaking for the football center to happen in August.

"I’ve been pushing for four years," Kill said.  "My job is to keep pushing.  You talk about the alums, all that.  I told them I’d get stuff done.  I don’t even want to say we won’t get it, because we will."

I asked Matt for his impressions as I was writing this. To him, failure to get shovels in the dirt this fall makes Kill's departure an immediate concern. That's not to say he's out the door, just that the inability of the U to deliver despite the most favorable fundraising environment he could deliver would leave him questioning whether it will ever happen.

I...well, I honestly don't know what to think. What I do know is that an important deadline for action set by Kill has come and gone without any movement from the U. Kill has set a new deadline publicly, so I'd expect the response from Kill to a failed vote/meeting without a vote in June to come with a much sharper tone at the very least.

- Failure scares donors: While I always counsel patience in the facilities process, the fact is that the U's fundraising efforts seem to have plateaued. Any additional delays in the process (especially if they are due to the Board of Regents taking a hard line about the amount of fundraising required before groundbreaking) could make the project less attractive to any donors they are still trying to woo. Think of the general slowness in fundraising that plagued TCF Bank Stadium. This would be that only without a legislatively mandated contribution from the state which assured the project was going to happen even if the U had to float bigger bonds to make it happen.

On the other hand, a commitment from the U to get started makes it easy for any fence sitting donors to hop on. Everyone loves a winner, especially in fundraising.

Thanks for ruining the latest Facilitiesmas "news" Captain Buzzkill...

I know, this has been more of a downer post than I originally intended. But for all the joy that Sid's "reporting" could portend, the fact is that he has a simply terrible track record about the practice facilities. And as much as I want to, I can't ignore the fact that if Sid is wrong there are some legitimate reasons to start getting concerned about where the U is at.

TL;DR?

GoAUpher is a giant spoilsport who will probably be wrong because once you write 1,000 words explaining the downside of a situation you're pretty much guaranteed to get good news. Right? Yea, lets go with that.