Gophers coaches and AD talk change within programs, facilities

Gophers coaches and staff concluded their annual Gopher Road Trip on June 7.

Head coach P.J. Fleck speaks at the Grands at Mulligans in Sartell, MN on Wednesday, Jun 7. Gophers Athletics staff traveled across the state of Minnesota and visited 15 locations.

Chris Dang

Head coach P.J. Fleck speaks at the Grands at Mulligans in Sartell, MN on Wednesday, Jun 7. Gophers Athletics staff traveled across the state of Minnesota and visited 15 locations.

Jack Warrick

The 2017 Gopher Road Trip — where Minnesota coaches travel the state to speak to fans — had its final stop in Sartell, Minnesota Wednesday afternoon at the Grands at Mulligans golf course.

Athletics Director Mark Coyle and eight Gophers head coaches spoke about the 2016-17 season and about the future of their teams.

Fleck focuses on recruiting

It’s been 50 years since Minnesota football has won a conference championship. New head coach P.J. Fleck said recruiting can change that.

“This team has been through a lot, so it’s about bringing the team together and it’s about recruiting,” Fleck said. “Last night, I flew out … to Chicago to a camp to recruit and flew right back on the Gopher Road Trip.”

The Gophers had a 58th-ranked recruiting class for 2017, according to 247Sports. Minnesota’s class for 2018 is currently ranked 19th.

Coyle: New Athletes Village will be a game changer

The new $166 million Athletes Village facility is expected to be finished in January 2018, Coyle said.

“It’s going to be a phenomenal facility that will impact all 750 student-athletes in all 25 sports,” he said.

The Athletes Village project includes five new facilities, including two for football, a basketball training facility, a track and field stadium, and a Land O’ Lakes Center for Excellence, an educational and dining facility for athletes.

Volleyball gains fourth-ranked recruiting class

Minnesota is coming off its second consecutive appearance in the Final Four, but the team has yet to win the NCAA National Championship.

The Gophers lost six seniors, including the AVCA National Player of the Year, Sarah Wilhite.

Minnesota’s 2017 recruiting class was ranked fourth nationally by prepvolleyball.com. The No. 5 recruit Stephanie Samedy and the No. 16 Jasmyn Martin are ranked the highest individually.

“We’ll be young, but we’ll certainly be talented and have a chance to be good,” said head coach Hugh McCutcheon. “It kind of depends to how our incoming group adjusts to the rigors of collegiate athletics.”

Expectations are high for men’s basketball

Last year’s Gopher Road Trip, head coach Richard Pitino said his next season could be his best with the Gophers, coming off an 8-23 record the year before.

Now, Pitino is talking about expectations after the team went 24-10 overall and 11-7 in 2017.

“My message to the team last year was, ‘don’t listen to anybody. Everybody thinks you’re going to stink,’” Pitino said. “This year it’s, ‘don’t listen to anybody. Everybody thinks you’re going to be good now.’ None of it matters.”

The Gophers have all but one rotation player returning for next season. Recruits Isaiah Washington and Jamir Harris also add to next season’s roster depth.

Other prospects on the road

Other coaches in attendance included women’s basketball coach Marlene Stollings, softball coach Jessica Allister, women’s hockey coach Brad Frost, women’s soccer coach Stefanie Golan and men’s golf coach John Carlson.

The women’s basketball team went 15-16 in the 2016-17 season, and added a new assistant coach, Marty McGillan, in May.

Allister led the softball team to a historic season, with a 56-5 record along with a Big Ten title and a NCAA Tournament appearance.

The women’s hockey team made its 10th straight NCAA Tournament appearance, while the women’s soccer team also went to the NCAA Tournament.

The men’s golf team went 10th in the Big Ten Tournament this year after going 11th the year before, third in 2015 and first in 2014.