Future of U sports teams could rest on local telethon

by Brian Hall

Minnesota Athletics Director Joel Maturi and Save Gopher Sports fund-raising campaign members announced Tuesday they will hold a telethon to raise the remaining money to save the Minnesota men’s and women’s golf and men’s gymnastics teams.

Since its launch in April, the fund-raising campaign has already amassed $1.5 million of the $2.7 million needed to keep the three sports alive at the University.

The remaining $1.2 million must be raised by the Feb. 1, 2003 deadline set by former University President Mark Yudof.

Yudof originally announced the elimination of the three athletic teams in April 2002. But he was convinced by supporters to allow time for sufficient funds to be raised and prevent the sports from being cut.

In doing so, Yudof said two goals must be met. The fund-raising campaign has already completed the first: pulling in $900,000 before June 2002. Second is reaching $2.7 million in donations by Feb. 1, 2003.

Maturi said if the $2.7 million mark is met, the three teams will once again be made a part of the 25 University athletic programs, and fund-raising will not turn into a year-to-year effort.

“I want everybody to understand that when we achieve that goal, it puts those sports off-limits as any other sport is at the University of Minnesota,” he said.

However, Maturi also said if sports must be reviewed for possible elimination, any of the 25 programs – including the golf teams and men’s gymnastics – will be considered.

If the full $2.7 million is not raised, the money will either be returned to the respective donors or, if they choose, contributed to the athletics department. Maturi also said in no way will the $2.7 million goal be reduced.

University athletics, in partnership with KARE-11, have set the telethon for Dec. 15, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on KARE-TV Channel 11. WCCO-AM (830) radio will co-broadcast from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

“This announcement is why we are ecstatic,” said Harvey Mackay, the campaign co-chairman. “This will be the push that will get us there.

“Our goal is to not only hit it, but exceed it. The key is – it takes these three sports off the chopping block.”

A silent auction will also be held in conjunction with the telethon. The auction will take place on gophersports.com. Tickets, memorabilia and apparel will be available for bid online.

The telethon will be hosted in-studio by Paul Magers and Randy Shaver. Meanwhile, Belinda Jensen and Rick Kupchella will be on location at the Mall of America. Minnesota coaches, players, cheerleaders and the pep band will also attend.

“We want to help this great University raise the money that is needed to save these sports,” said John Remes, president and general manager at KARE-11. “The best way we can do that is to lend our airwaves, our studio and talent so that we can contribute to this cause.”