Saturday, the Gophers, Iowa and Wisconsin played home games against Troy State, Akron and Buffalo. The highest-ranked team was 89th, and the home teams won by an average of 36 points. The difference between these events was attendance. The crowd in Madison numbered 75,401, while the Hawkeyes played before 54,471. The Gophers’ attendance: 31,393.
Last week, Denny Sanford donated $35 million toward a new University football stadium. Since then, another $1 million was donated. This brings us to another stadium discussion, but this time, it is different. Those involved are seriously attempting to fund the stadium with private donations. People will have concerns about the possibility of an on-campus stadium, but there are so many benefits that one cannot help but get excited about the possibility.
The attendance numbers are only the start. In sheer numbers, we support the Gophers less. But the bigger loss is that it seems like
only small parts of the University community enjoy college football. If you go to a game in Iowa City, Iowa, or Madison, Wis., where stadiums are on campus, you quickly see more football enthusiasts. Typical football fans not only go to the game, but they are out on campus before, enjoying themselves at cafes, bars and tailgate lots. This is not the case here.
As University President Bob Bruininks remarked Friday, this gift is only the start. Other donations must match it in order to reach the goal. However, the stated goal of $100 million should be raised with limited public money. Academic needs must take precedence; students cannot afford continued tuition hikes. The state, running a budget deficit, should hesitate before funding stadiums. We should note, however, that the University is a nonprofit, state institution, unlike the Twins or Vikings, which have owners to fund a stadium and, later, profit from it. If any group were to receive priority for receiving state money for a stadium, it should be the University.