History: The University of Minnesota was founded as a preparatory school in 1851, seven years before the territory of Minnesota became a state. The school did not start actually enrolling students until six years later (1857) and once they did financial problems forced the school to close during the Civil War. With the help of Minneapolis entrepreneur John Sargent Pillsbury, it reopened in 1867. Known as the father of the University, Pillsbury used his influence to establish the school as the official recipient of public support from the Morrill Land-Grant Act, designating it as Minnesota's land-grant university. In 1873, they honored their first real graduates as two students received the first bachelor of arts degrees.
John Pillsbury was a very interesting guy. He was a politician, businessman, and philanthropist. After he moved west he founded the Pillsbury Company (now owned by rival General Mills) which was the first company in the United States to use steam rollers for processing grain. The finished product required transportation, so the Pillsbury assisted in funding railroad development in Minnesota. He also served as the 8th Governor of Minnesota (1876-1882). During the Grasshopper Plague of 1877, Governor Pillsbury called for a day of prayer on April 26, 1877. A subsequent sleet storm killed all the grasshoppers and their eggs. In Cold Spring, Minnesota, a Grasshopper Chapel was built to honor this miracle.
Location: The school we are playing on Saturday is officially known as the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Those twin cities are Minneapolis and St. Paul. This place is the oldest and largest part of the University of Minnesota system. It is located on two campuses in the two cities linked through a dedicated transit way with free bus service. Its student body is the fourth largest in the United States according to fall 2007 statistics, with 50,880 students.
Nickname: They call themselves the Golden Gophers. Minnesota was tabbed the “Gopher State” in 1857 after a satirizing cartoon, depicting nine gophers with the heads of local politicians pulling a locomotive was published. The story was over legislative action for a $5 million railroad proposal in western Minnesota. Later, the University picked up the nickname.
The “Golden” adjective has not always been a part of the Gopher nickname. During the 1930s, the Gophers wore gold jerseys and pants. Legendary KSTP-AM radio announcer Halsey Hall coined the term “Golden Gophers” in reference to the team’s all-gold attire on the field.
Colors/Logo/Mascot/Helmets: Maroon and Gold. In 1880, the University of Minnesota was preparing for spring graduation. For the previous 29 years, different graduation colors were used every ceremony. In spring 1880, President Folwell began a tradition of common school colors at the University. He asked an English instructor, Mrs. Augusta Smith, to select proper colors to use for graduation ribbons and other occasions. She chose maroon and gold, which made a favorable impression on the students and faculty in 1880. As the years passed and without any kind of formal action, maroon and gold became the official school colors.
They use a stylized M as their primary logo. They have a costumed rodent they call Goldy Gopher as the “game day” mascot. He attends the most important sports events including football, basketball, and hockey. The Goldy image is also utilized in many different versions as a sport specific secondary logos, my favorite is the gymnastics gopher. If you play sports at Minnesota, there will be a cute cartoon of Goldy in your gear.
On their helmets – they have used the primary "M" logo since the late 1960s, however they have changed the helmet and face mask more times than I cared to count. Fight Song: The "Minnesota Rouser" is the name of their fight song. It is played at all Minnesota Golden Gophers games. In 1909 the local newspapers held a contest to write a suitable song for football games. They needed one to replace the hymn like "Hail! Minnesota". The song was written by church choir director Floyd Hutsell. The song was originally titled, "Minnesota, Hats Off To Thee," but eventually became known as simply the "Minnesota Rouser." The tune has always been very familiar to me, as it was the same tune as one of the public high schools in my home town.
Ironically, William T. Purdy wrote another song written for the contest, "Minnesota, Minnesota." He withdrew it from the contest at the last minute, and entered it for a similar contest in Madison, under the title "On Wisconsin."
Minnesota Rouser (Gopher fans traditionally thrust their fists in the air during the spell-out, and twirl their index fingers during the yell.)
Minnesota, hats off to thee!
To thy colors true we shall ever be,
Firm and strong, united are we.
Rah, rah, rah, for Ski-U-Mah,
Rah! Rah! Rah! Rah!
Rah for the U of M.
Academics: The University of Minnesota has the fourth largest student body in the US, behind Ohio State, Florida, and Arizona State. The U.S. News and World Report ranks Minnesota 61st (tied with Clemson and Fordham) which is up about 10 spots from last year. That puts them 7th in the Big Ten.
Stadium: It is worth mentioning that since 1982 Minnesota has played in one of the worst stadiums in college football: The Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. This ugly dome is off campus, generic, sterile and does not generate much enthusiasm for Gophers games. Both the Twins and Vikings have proven that it can get loud inside there, but typically not for Gopher football. On the flip side, it is the only US sports venue that has hosted a Super Bowl, a Final Four, and a World Series. The Gophers are currently planning move back to campus in 2009 when their new home, TCF Bank Stadium is complete. The drawings look cool and it has to help their recruiting efforts. I look forward to attending future Michigan games in this place.
Athletics: The Golden Gophers lay claim to one of the oldest and most storied programs in college football history. They have won 6 National Championships (the last in 1960) and 18 Big Ten Conference Championships (the last in 1967). In 1890, the Gophers hosted Wisconsin and crushed the Badgers 63–0. With the exception of 1906, they have played each other every year since. The 117 games played against each other is the most played rivalry in Division I-A college football. I like to think of it as a calmer and lesser talented version of the Ohio State - Michigan rivalry, but a heated rivalry just the same.
Overall the school owns National Championships in basketball, men’s & women’s hockey, baseball, golf, outdoor track, and most recently the 2007 NCAA wrestling championship.
Minnesota has only been to 11 bowl games (and only two Rose Bowls) in their 120+ years. Along with Indiana, they are the only two remaining Big 10 schools I have never seen play in a Rose Bowl. Maybe to make up for this lack of post season games they created a lot of unique traveling trophy games every season: Little Brown Jug (Michigan), Floyd of Rosedale (Iowa), Paul Bunyan's Axe (Wisconsin) and Governor's Victory Bell (Penn State). But as you might expect, they only have a winning record in one of these games (the Iowa pig trophy).
As a baseball fan, I would be remiss in mentioning that the Minnesota is typically strong in the conference and has recently produced two MLB Hall of Famers. Dave Winfield played both basketball and baseball at Minnesota. He was drafted by four teams in three professional sports and played 22 years in the majors. Poor Winfield had to wear basically the same ugly uniform with the Gophers as he did with the San Diego Padres in his first couple of years. Paul Molitor was also a Gopher baseball player before he launched his 21 year hall of fame career with the Brewers. Pretty impressive baseball legacy for a northern school.
Famous Gophers: Famous Gopher alumni include 19 Nobel Prize and 3 Pulitzer Prize winners. Famous names include actors Eddie Albert, Loni Anderson, Jessica Lang, and Henry Fonda (he dropped out). TV News man Harry Reasoner. Singer Bob Dylan (he also dropped out). Grammy-nominated Musician, Yanni. Dungeons and Dragons creator Dave Arenson. Inventor of the classic Magnetic Poetry, Dave Kapell. Gor-Tex inventor, Robert Gore. Former Michigan Governor Jim Blanchard. The inventor of the battery powered pacemaker, Earl Bakken. The doctor credited with the first human heart transplant, Christiaan Barnard.
Nine members of the 1980 Miracle US Olympic Hockey team were Minnesota Golden Gophers, including coach Herb Brooks. Professional Wrestler Ric Flair. Pro Football Hall of Famers Bronco Nagurski, Alan Page (Law School) and Bobby Bell.
Minnesota has produced one astronaut (Deke Slayton) and NASA’s first female flight director (Michele Brekke). They don’t have any US presidents, although they can claim five time presidential loser Eugene McCarthy. They have also had two US vice presidents, both of which ran for President and lost (Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale).
The Game: Until coughing up a game to Northwestern last week, Minnesota had been one of the top feel-good teams in the country. Last year they went 1-11 (0-8 in the B10) under 1st year coach Tim Brewster, including a loss to 1-AA team North Dakota State. This year they have already won 7 games and are headed to a nice bowl.
Last year Michigan easily beat the Gophers without the services of either Chad Henne or Mike Hart. This year I wish I could say something positive, but we are well on the way to become the worst in the Michigan history. I have no confidence we can score enough points or stop them if we do. They lead the nation in creating turnovers and we, well, turn the ball over a lot. As a result, I have every expectation that Yost's Jug is going to spend the long cold lonely winter in Minneapolis -- and our stairway to 2-10 hell takes another step towards the flame.