Some think Gophers’ record will affect stadium fund raising

Stadium campaign official Dave Mona said donors will likely fund a stadium no matter the team’s record this year.

by Branden Peterson

Two weeks ago, more than 62,000 Gophers fans packed the Metrodome, turning it into a rowdy party for the nationally ranked, 6-0 team.

But after the team lost, and then fell again Saturday to Michigan State, the Gophers have fallen to 6-2 this season. Only 38,778 fans attended the game Saturday – about 24,000 fewer than the Michigan game, when tickets were in high demand.

University officials said the impact a football team’s success would have on a potential stadium funding drive is unclear, but at another school a losing football season did not hamper a stadium drive.

University chief financial officer Richard Pfutzenreuter said it is logical to believe the Gophers’ performance will impact financial support in a possible stadium campaign. Yet the question is really how a 10-2 season might affect fund raising compared to a 6-6 season, he said.

“I think having a wining record, and putting a winning team on the field, is always a help,” he said.

Stadium campaign official Dave Mona, also known as the broadcast voice of Gophers football, said possible stadium donors will likely still give to a stadium no matter what the team’s final record is this year.

“Because a stadium is something for 100 years, I’m not sure it’s going to work to their detriment,” he said.

A lot of support for the team and a possible stadium fund-raising drive could depend on the last four games of the year and a possible bowl game invitation, he said.

The Gophers’ next four opponents – Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Iowa – have a 13-17 combined overall record. That should give the Gophers a good chance for a couple of additional victories this year, Mona said.

Snagging victories was tough for Southern Methodist University in the 1990s, yet the school was still able to raise $57 million from stadium supporters.

Although the private university has not had a winning football season since it announced plans to build the stadium in 1997, people still gave money to fund it.

“For us, it really didn’t make a difference,” Southern Methodist University associate athletics director and spokesman Brad Sutton said.

Seeing the Gophers nearly sell out the Michigan game made Minnesota Student Association President Eric Dyer optimistic that students would consider taking on extra fees to help pay for the possible project, he said.

But after the team’s last two losses, Dyer said he is concerned students will be less willing to contribute to the facility if the team keeps suffering losses.

“I worry about it every day,” he said. “You’d like a built-in fan base that’d stick with a team in good seasons and bad seasons. The good thing is when we start winning, everyone starts coming out of the woodwork.”