first_imgWhen the Minnesota Golden Gophers come to town for Saturday’s game against the Badgers, it will be like two ships passing in the night.Wisconsin is a program struggling to find itself in its third season under head coach Bret Bielema. The legacy left by former coach and current Athletic Director Barry Alvarez is a mere memory at this point.Minnesota, on the other hand, is putting the dark days behind its program. Gone are the 1-11 seasons (although not by much) and the days of watching bowl games from home. Here to stay is a new attitude around the Twin Cities campus — and the Gophers can thank head coach Tim Brewster for that.If I sound like a promotion for Golden Gopher athletics, I apologize. The fact of the matter, however, is that this newfound change in our neighbors to the west is actually a good thing for the Badgers and their fans.As a Minnesotan myself, I’ve been keeping up on the state’s attitude toward the team — and for the first time in a while, fans are actually supporting their beloved rodents.It helps that they’re winning this year, as the Gophers have built a 7-3 record just a year after that previously mentioned one-win season. But what has also helped to garner support has been the construction of the new TCF Bank Stadium, where Minnesota will play its games on campus starting next year.The addition of the 50,000-seat facility will mean the Gophers will no longer have to play their games off-campus in the antiquated and rather depressing Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, a 26-year-old stadium. The plastic blue seats and a dingy Teflon roof make for a less-than-desirable atmosphere at a college football game.I had the opportunity to sit down with Brewster before the season at July’s Big Ten Football Media Day in Chicago to ask him about what these changes meant to the team and the campus. I could have sworn the man was a cheerleader in a former lifetime, as everything he fed me was with a “rah-rah” mentality.But, nonetheless, the second-year coach made some good points.“I think it’s vitally important to us. The University of Minnesota’s had one of the best traditions in college football: six national championships, 18 Big Ten titles. None of it’s been won downtown at the Metrodome. It was all won on campus,” Brewster said. “I think that it’s going to allow us to reconnect with the tradition and history that makes Minnesota so great and the fact that it’s right in the middle of campus.”Minnesota should draw more fans to its games now that the students have no excuse for not being able to make it to the stadium. Besides, college football is meant to be played outdoors. Can you name another university that plays indoors?Neither can I.Aside from what the new field will do from a fan’s standpoint, the thing that may affect everyone else in the Big Ten will be what Minnesota does for recruiting.How does that affect the Badgers? Think about it.Minnesota has had trouble keeping the best local talent within the state’s borders. Several recruits have chosen Wisconsin over the Gophers in the past several years — guys like linebacker Blake Sorensen and wide receivers David Gilreath and Isaac Anderson. Brewster also missed out on top recruit Willy Mobley, a defensive end who chose Ohio State after seriously considering Minnesota.It’s tough to blame these and other recruits for heading out of state. If you’re a college football player, the last place you want to call your home stadium is the Metrodome, and Brewster knows that.“Kids want to see a commitment,” he said. “They want to see a commitment to facilities financially, and we’re certainly doing that.”The prospect of the new stadium has already come to fruition for Brewster in the recruiting game, as his most recent class was rated in the top 25. That could spell trouble for schools like Wisconsin down the road as the program at Minnesota will finally be able to keep its own kids at home.The rivalry between the Badgers and Gophers is the oldest in Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I) history, as the two have met in 115 games. Since I’ve been here at UW, the Badgers have managed to maintain Paul Bunyan’s Axe, winning three straight times.But the tides could be turning. Don’t be surprised if you see warning signs Saturday afternoon.Tyler is a senior majoring in journalism. Think the Wisconsin-Minnesota rivalry is the best one at UW? Let him know at [email protected]last_img

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