Ahh July. The time of the year where everyone is so geared up for football that small comments can start epic firestorms. Gophers head oach PJ Fleck may have done just that Sunday morning when he made his usual appearance on the Sports Huddle with Dave Mona and Sid Hartman on WCCO Radio. The pertinent audio begins at about the 21:15 mark of hour two of the show. As Joe Christensen of the Star Tribune describes, this would be the key quote that came from Fleck’s mouth:
I’ll be honest with you, one of the main things I’ve listened to from numerous people, whether it’s fans, whether it’s administration, whether it’s players, is moving our sideline to the other side, and that’s what I’d like to do. So I think we’re going to be on the other side that we haven’t been in the past.”
"I don’t know, I wasn’t here in the past. I just think the side I’d like to play on [the north side]. ... I think it gives you a lot of advantages as well, so we’ll probably be on a different sideline."
This switch had been rumored as a possibility for some time, so it’s not really a surprise. But U officials might have been a bit surprised by the backlash by some Gopher Football fans.
The major issue it appears is that this change (if it happens) was not confirmed prior to season ticket renewals/upgrades. Many people who have sat on the current home sideline bought their tickets because they wanted to sit on the Gopher sideline side of the field and feel as though they are getting the rug pulled out from under them. One thing the U will need to deal with if they make this change is that all of the very high money seats are on what is currently the Gopher sideline—people that you probably do not want to make mad as a program.
The reasons for the Gophers switching are many. The Vikings used the current visitors side as their home sideline when they played at TCF Bank stadium. It is the sunnier side of the stadium—at times it can feel 20-30 degrees warmer in the winter months. That means less warming equipment, less gear, just less things to worry about in general.
It does sound like other than the actual switching of the sidelines, the on-field logistics would remain the same. Both teams would still warm up on the sides of the field they do currently. Both teams would still use the tunnels they use currently.
The logistical questions remain though? What happens to the visitors section of seats just above the visitors tunnel on what would now be the Gophers sideline? All of Minnesota’s parents and recruits sit currently in the closed end of the stadium on the current Gopher sideline. You would think that would need to change, but since season ticket renewals have already occurred that would not be easy for this season. What happens to the location of Goldy/cheerleaders during the game? It’s quite possible that Fleck wants to make this change, but the logistics will just make it impossible for this season. In fact, it appears people in the Gopher Football offices may have been pushing this back Sunday night:
Yes, P.J. Fleck wants the Gophers to switch sidelines at TCF Bank Stadium. Told it's under consideration, but no decision has been made.— JoeChristensen (@JoeCStrib) July 10, 2017
Fans need to take three deep breaths on this topic. https://t.co/whPfmReKqu— Ryan Burns (@RyanBurnsMN) July 10, 2017
Will the change happen? Frankly we may not actually get an answer until people walk into TCF Bank Stadium on August 31.