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Word on the street is that Bill Martin approached Minnesota about scheduling a non-conference game between Michigan and Minnesota in 2010, in particular, to open the renovated Big House on September 4.  From a diary post on mgoblog by user “rastafari”:

I sat with Bill Martin at lunch today. He said that he tried to get Minnesota (as a non-conference game) for the opener in 2010 but they declined. Aside from that he said it will be a BCS school but still yet unknown.

Not that a guy named rastafari isn’t a rock of journalistic credibility, but I sought out verification from a slightly more reliable source.   I contacted Minnesota athletic director Joel Maturi and he was (very) kind to speak to me about it:

MVictors: Recently word came out that the possibility of a game in 2010 in Ann Arbor was discussed between Minnesota and Michigan officials.
Maturi: In the renovated Big House.

MVictors: Yes. Did that come up?
Maturi: Yes it did.

MVictors: Were you interested?
Maturi: There are different kinds of scheduling. When you’re Minnesota and you’re trying to improve your program and to be successful, I’m really thankful to coach Brewster for his willingness to play a tougher schedule.  Saying that, we had already scheduled Southern Cal for next year [2010].  I’m not a real brilliant guy, but I’m not so sure it’s in the best interest of Minnesota football to play Southern Cal and Michigan in back-to-back weeks.   Non-conference, so-to-speak.   As a result, if we had not scheduled Southern Cal I would have been very interested.   But we had already inked Southern Cal, which again I applaud coach Brewster for improving our schedule, but you don’t want to improve it too much.  I’m not so sure Ohio State or Michigan would do that either.

Bill proposed it. I thought it was intriguing because the honest truth is, I still needed a game for next year and so did he.

MVictors: Did this come up during the Big Ten meetings?
Maturi: It was just a couple weeks ago and Bill and I might have spoken on the phone prior to that.  It hasn’t been a very long time.

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Before I reached Maturi, I spoke to another gentlemen inside the athletic department who mentioned that a game this season (2009) at the new TCF Stadium was also discussed at some point.  I asked Maturi about this as well:

MVictors: Did you discuss the possibility of Michigan playing at Minnesota this season, in 2009, at the new stadium?
Maturi: We had already scheduled The Air Force Academy when Bill mentioned that. I think he said that the first game against Minnesota in 1924 at Memorial Stadium might have been against Michigan, and it’d be the right thing to do that again. I believe we were already along in our scheduling for 2009, but Bill and I did discuss that.

MVictors: So that was a few years ago.
Maturi: Yes it was.

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As an aside, word is that Bill Martin gave Maturi a donation for a campus stadium back in 2003.  I asked:

MVictors: Is it true that Bill Martin gave you one of the first donations for the new stadium?  Do you still have it?
Maturi:
I have his check right on my desk. I have not cashed it. [he pauses, shuffling papers around. I believe it’s under the glass on his desk]  “October 9, 2003, University of Minnesota Athletics, $100, new on- campus football stadium, Bill Martin.” That was written [during the 2003 game] and at that time the Gophers were ahead by 21 points if you can remember that game. He was all ticked off that we were in the Dome on a Friday night [due to the Twins playoff game]. I told him, “Bill, I can’t do it until I get a new stadium.”  This was long before the dream that we had became a reality. In many ways you can say he gave the first donation for a stadium.”

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Update 6/5:  The Minnesota Star-Tribune is now reporting the story of the talk of the 2010 game (scroll down, then to page 2), with a nice mention of MVictors but no link.    Update #2ESPN.com is discussing this story as well.

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7 Comments

  1. Excellent sleuthing! According to Gophersports.com, it looks like Minn opened Memorial Stadium on October 14, 1924 against North Dakota. Only fitting, then, that they’d open their new stadium against…. Air Force. Good on Bill Martin for floating the idea. That would have been fun to open with Minn. If they ever beat us again, we ought to slip them a fake jug and add a little spice to the rivalry.

  2. Yes…if Minnesota ever beats Michigan again. I mean you have to look all the way back to the year 2005 for the last Minnesota victory.

  3. And therein lies the sarcasm.

  4. On stadium openings, there usually was a distinction between the first game, and the “dedication” game. The latter was a bigger opponent I assume meant to ensure the place was packed.

    For instance, Michigan “dedicated” the Big House against Ohio State…
    http://mvictors.com/?p=2123

    ..but actually Ohio Wesleyan was the first game played in the Big House in 1927:
    http://bentley.umich.edu/athdept/football/fbteam/1927fbt.htm

    For Minnesota, it looks like Memorial Stadium was dedicated with the Illinois (Red Grange) game:
    http://www.startribune.com/local/17350169.html

    I believe Michigan played in the dedicated games for the Horseshoe in Columbus and Illinois’ Memorial stadium (maybe that’s where Martin was confused).

  5. Fantastic post! And it’s just great that AD Maturi was willing to speak so candidly with you!

    • Thanks Andrew. I had to find out about this. I tried some contacts at Michigan and even folks that handle scheduling at Minnesota: no one knew about or would confirm the 2010 conversation. I was fortunate to get to Maturi who might be the greatest guy in the world, btw

  6. Pingback: ESPN’s Rittenberg on Maturi conversation

  7. Pingback: CollegeFootballTalk.com - Minnesota and Michigan Discuss Non-Conference Games

  8. This is great reporting. Thanks for doing it!

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