by Jeff Fecke • 11/22/08 • Like all Minnesota Gophers football fans under the age of 60, I’m a casual fan. Oh, there are some septugenarian die-hards out there, who can still remember seeing Murray Warmath coach, back in the era when Minnesota football didn’t suck. But I grew up in the Metrodome era, and the Metrodome era has been abysmal for the maroon and gold.
The Golden Gophers never should have been playing in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in the first place. They had a perfectly cromulent stadium on campus, Memorial Stadium, which is where I saw my very first college football game, probably the year before they tore the place down. Moving to the Dome was the brainchild of Sid Hartman and the old white guys’ club, who thought that the ideal way to build support for a college football team was to move the games two miles west of campus, where they could be the third tennant in a pro football stadium that, while certainly a respectable place to see a game, lacked the sort of intimate, historic feel of the best college fields.
Maybe it wouldn’t have mattered if the Gophers had been good, but they weren’t; a year after the stadium opened, they lost to the the eventual national runner up Nebraska Cornhuskers 83-14, an impressive feat, especially considering the Gophers scored first. Over the years, the Gophers have managed to balance blowouts with heartbreakers, whether losing to Division I-AA North Dakota State or blowing a 21-point, late-third-quarter lead to Michigan, in a game that could ultimately have catapulted the Gophers to their first Rose Bowl since the 1960s. And of course, there was the time that Iowa clinched the Rose Bowl here, and their fans — who significantly outnumbered the Minnesota partisans — stormed the field and tore down the goalposts.
Basically, what I’m trying to say is that if you’re surprised the Gophers lost to Iowa by 55 points in tonight’s Dome finale, well, you haven’t been paying much attention over the past 26 years. I guess we can just be happy that unike in the dismal Jim Wacker era, at least the Gophers will be playing in a meaningles mid-December bowl game in somewhere like scenic Detroit.
Next year, the Gophers move to TCF Bank Stadium, whose naming rights were purchased by Minnesota GOP financier and TCF president Bill Cooper. (Cooper’s bank paid $35 million to the state of Minnesota for the rights, but not to worry — TCF is getting 10 times that in the financial bailout, so, you know, they’ll be okay.) Whether the Gophers are better in that stadium than the Dome is anyone’s guess, though it’s hard to imagine they’ll be much worse. At any rate, farewell Metrodome; granted, all the best moments in the Metrodome belong to the Twins and Vikings, but the worst — the Gophers will always own those. Well, except for the 1999 NFC title game. But we don’t speak of that.