Today the Minnesota Golden Gophers announced several changes to their future football schedules. Notably, the Gophers paid $800,000 not to play a home-and-home series against North Carolina in 2013 and 2014 in order to schedule non-BCS opponents.
Minnesota’s Jerry Kill is in his second year as the Gophers’ head coach and is attempting to change the culture of a program that used to be a perennial National Title contender. Kill also has a different scheduling philosophy that former Minnesota coach Tim Brewster. Brewster was interested in scheduling quality opponents whereas Kill is scheduling cupcakes that will get Minnesota to a bowl game. I understand the benefits of a playoff season friendly schedule. However, as a football fan I want to see quality games not cupcakes. Also I have trouble justifying paying $800,000 to back out of a football game against North Carolina. I understand the Tarheels are having a favorable season this year but still… c’mon.
Gopher athletics also announced today that the University of Minnesota and University of North Carolina football programs have cancelled their two-game, home-and-home series scheduled for the 2013 (at UNC) and 2014 (at TCF Bank Stadium) seasons. Minnesota is currently working to secure opponents for those dates.
On the other hand, Minnesota is opening their season on the Thursday before Labor Day for the next four years. While I am disappointed by the opponent downgrade of the Gopher’s schedule, I applaud the season opening Thursday night games. The Thursday night opener will attract more national exposure than an opening Saturday game opposite more popular B1G teams. Kill is a good coach and seems to have the Gophers on a path to a better brand of football.
Athletics officials have reached an agreement with the Minnesota State Fair that will see the Gophers open the 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 football seasons at TCF Bank Stadium on the Thursday night before Labor Day. The games were originally scheduled to take place on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend. Minnesota will now host UNLV on Thursday, August 29, 2012, Eastern Illinois on Thursday, August 28, 2014, South Dakota State on Thursday, Sept. 3, 2015, and New Mexico State on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016.
Two other future opponents were also confirmed today. Minnesota has added Kent State to its 2015 schedule and will host the Golden Flashes on Sept. 19, 2015, while South Dakota State is scheduled to visit TCF Bank Stadium on August 29, 2019.