Minnesota coaches travel last leg of 2018 Gopher Road Trip

Gophers coaches reflect on past years and looked ahead to upcoming seasons.

P.J. Fleck converses with Macaille Mahoney Hafner, left,
Fynn Bakke and Henry Mayer at Fleck's table during the Gopher Road Trip at the Legacy of the Lakes Museum on Thursday, May 24 2018 in Alexandria, Minnesota.

Easton Green

P.J. Fleck converses with Macaille Mahoney Hafner, left, Fynn Bakke and Henry Mayer at Fleck's table during the Gopher Road Trip at the Legacy of the Lakes Museum on Thursday, May 24 2018 in Alexandria, Minnesota.

Drew Cove

Nearly every time Minnesota football head coach P.J. Fleck ends a public appearance, he utters a few of his team’s slogans. On Thursday, he said his signature “Row The Boat” catchphrase on the last stop of the 2018 Gopher Road Trip.

The Gopher Road Trip — a four-day, two-leg, nine-stop road trip across the state — stopped in Alexandria, Minnesota to gave fans and supporters alike the chance to interact with and listen to Gophers coaches. Speakers reflected on past athletic successes and looked forward to upcoming seasons.

Fleck was the last coach to speak at the event held at Alexandria’s Legacy of the Lakes Museum. Despite the 90-degree heat, many Gophers fans attended to see the group the University sent their way.

“It is my pleasure to welcome them and say, ‘thank you for coming to Alexandria,'” Alexandria Mayor Sara Carlson said. “They saved the best for last.”

Many other coaches also attended to spoke about their programs, including men’s golf director John Carlson, rowing head coach Wendy Davis, swim and dive senior associate head coach Terry Ganley, men’s basketball head coach Richard Pitino and men’s hockey head coach Bob Motzko.

To kick things off, athletics director Mark Coyle spoke on success across Gopher athletics. He emphasized the 

University’s ninth-place ranking in the Director’s Cup, a competition that compares athletic success between Division-I schools.  

Coyle also shared the importance of Athletes Village, which was paramount in hiring Fleck to coach the football team. He added that Fleck would not have come to Minnesota if the $166 million facility didn’t exist. 

When Fleck came up to speak, he talked about the football program’s recruiting class and his team’s academics.Fleck said his players have broken the program’s all-time GPA record in each semester his staff has been in Minnesota. 

Fleck said he wants to bring success to the field as well. 

“I want this program to win championships, over and over,” Fleck said. “I do not want it to get to a point where we peak and then that’s it … and if it doesn’t happen that year, we come straight back down. That’s not why I came here.”

Motzko was on his first trip as the head coach of the men’s hockey team, and discussed the team’s strengths and the direction in which he hopes to take it.

“We’ve got two goaltenders,” Motzko said. “We have goaltending that can help win us some hockey games and they can help build us some confidence.”

Motzko said he wants to focus on the team’s defense next season.

Pitino has been on more road trips than Fleck or Motzko. He shared his hopes and original expectations for where the men’s basketball team should be.

“I am going into my sixth year. I can truthfully tell you that I thought we were going to turn the corner in year four and year five,” Pitino said. “[This coming season], I believe it is the most talented team we have had, top to bottom.”