Letter: We challenged ourselves to go to one event from every Gophers sport — it was a great experience

Our kids loved it, too.

The crowd cheers at the start of the Gophers' game against the Oregon State Beavers on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016 at TCF Bank Stadium.

Bridget Bennett

The crowd cheers at the start of the Gophers’ game against the Oregon State Beavers on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016 at TCF Bank Stadium.

Dear Mark Coyle,

This school year we took on a challenge to attend at least one event for each University of Minnesota varsity sports team. Our ‘Year of the Gophers’ began in August with women’s soccer, and will end on April 30 at the rowing event in Wisconsin. After completing eight degrees from the University of Minnesota between us, we have for a number of years discussed bringing our three families on this full tour of all Gophers sports teams; one event for each of the 23 varsity programs.

We are writing to share some details of the overwhelmingly great experiences we have had over this athletic year. We will be attending softball and baseball this weekend, where our kids will earn their 21st and 22nd sport stamps in their Gophers passports before heading to Madison, Wisconsin for our women’s rowing grand finale.

We’ve expanded our fandom well beyond football, men’s basketball and men’s hockey. From watching the Gophers women’s volleyball team defeat Michigan in five close sets in the nearly sold out Sports Pavilion, to watching the Gophers wrestling team defeat Wisconsin in the final match in the same building two months later, we got our money’s worth at every sport beyond the three moneymakers.

The kids were mesmerized by the divers and gymnasts. It’s been great to witness women’s sports in person and be able to continue to follow them (when available) on the Big Ten Network. Our boys and girls benefit from this, and we were all happy to see football players supporting the volleyball team, basketball players at swimming and diving and so many more Gophers athletes supporting each other.

We signed our kids up for Goldy’s Kids Club, but the University’s dedication to children goes far beyond the discounts from that program. Our kids raced Goldy at the Roy Griak Invitational (cross country) and the Jack Johnson Invitational (track & field), danced with Goldy at women’s hockey, enjoyed the marching band and tailgating before the football game and some skated with the Gophers women’s hockey team in Ridder Arena. Goldy took photos, signed autographs and climbed through an inflatable obstacle course with the kids at the Roy Griak.

We confirmed a few obvious things along the way:

1. Kids are not great spectators of golf.

2. Goldy Gopher is the best mascot in the NCAA.

3. There are bunches of dedicated Gophers fans for every sport.

4. The FULL Gophers athletic program is among the best in the Big Ten and the NCAA.

5. When we do this again in a few years, we will be tailgating before each of the 23.

Ski-U-Mah,

Nathan and Rachel Bode

Charlie and Lacey Robinson

Chris and Briana Weber Robinson

Editor’s Note: This letter has been edited slightly for style.