Home schedule opens amid struggling sales

Minnesota is going the extra mile to attract fans and fill TCF Bank Stadium.

Samuel Gordon

In football, the intensity of a crowd can fuel the home team. The energy the crowd creates is referred to as the 12th man.

Minnesota doesn’t have one.

Several disappointing losses and the lack of a game-day atmosphere have discouraged fans from packing the stands in recent years, despite the addition of TCF Bank Stadium on campus in 2009.

Gophers head coach Jerry Kill and athletics director Norwood Teague have been working to change that.

Minnesota will host New Hampshire on Saturday in the first of three consecutive home games. Kill spoke to 5,500 first-year students last Friday at orientation in an effort to gather support for this year’s team.

“I haven’t been here that long, been here one year,” Kill said of the rally, “but it was a much bigger crowd than it was last year when I talked to that group of people, and they were very enthusiastic.”

His fan recruitment isn’t over, either. Kill and Teague plan to walk around campus Friday to meet fans and hand out Gophers tickets and memorabilia in hopes of increasing student attendance.

“In building a program, you’ve got to do more than just coach,” Kill said. “I’ve got to get out there and get people on board. We have to do a whole lot of things to get things — and then we have to win with it. Winning solves a lot of

As of Wednesday, the Gophers had sold 3,100 student season tickets, according to the Star Tribune — far below their final goal of 8,000. Teague said it’s important the team plays well and sets the tone for the rest of the home schedule.

“I think it’s going to be really important as it relates to the freshmen,” Teague said. “I want to see them coming out big-time. It’s important to set a tone with them.”

Minnesota will likely be favored in its first three home games, all of which are against nonconference opponents. MarQueis Gray, Gopher senior quarterback, said having a raucous crowd is a big asset.