Gophers, Twins schedule conflict puts two football games in limbo

Branden Peterson

Though the football season opener is still three weeks away, the Gophers already might be in jeopardy of losing home-field advantage in two games.

For the second consecutive year, the Gophers’ home schedule might have to be shuffled for the Minnesota Twins.

The University already changed the date of its homecoming game to Nov. 1. Now, Major League Baseball might cause the Gophers to relocate or reschedule two games if the Twins appear in the American League Championship Series and the World Series.

The dates in conflict are Oct. 11 and Oct. 18, when the Gophers face Michigan and Michigan State, respectively.

A similar situation in 2002 forced the Gophers to play two games on Thursdays, which cost “a couple hundred thousand dollars” in ticket revenue, University Athletics Director Joel Maturi said.

Maturi said he wants the games at home to give fans the opportunity to see the team play here.

“If it’s about the money, I’d go to Michigan tomorrow,” he said. “It’s about playing in your own stadium.”

Michigan and Michigan State have told the University they will not play on Thursdays this year, Maturi said.

While repetitive scheduling conflicts at the Metrodome might cause financial losses, playing on different days or moving games could also damage player recruitment and the team’s fan base, he said.

Maturi said it is a unique situation that the University shares a stadium with two professional sports teams. Schedule conflicts will likely strengthen a case for an on-campus stadium, he said.

Jim Balgooyen, a Michigan athletics official, said the school typically earns $4 million in ticket sales per football game. Craig Fahey, a University athletics business manager, said the University averages less than $1 million per game.

Since all Big Ten schools share ticket revenues, Maturi said it is possible the University could make more money if the games were played in Michigan.

The Twins have contractual scheduling priority at the Metrodome, leaving the Gophers to react to league decisions.

Maturi said he is doing what he can to keep games on the same day, but “we all need to understand (the playoffs are) the showcase for Major League Baseball.”

Major League Baseball spokesman Patrick Courtney said the league’s schedule was available to college football planners, and the University set games in conflict with the league.

“We’ve listened and we’re in the process of trying to figure what we can do, with the full understanding that the Twins have the rights to the game,” he said.

Possible doubleheader

The Metrodome can give both teams a playing surface in the same day, said Bill Lester, the executive director of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission.

Playoff baseball games would be played at either 4 p.m. or 7 p.m., Maturi said, which leaves the option for a football game to be played in the morning.

Lester said Metrodome staff can convert the field from football to baseball – or vice versa – in approximately four hours.

If Major League Baseball had the Twins play at 4 p.m., Maturi said the University would need to play at 6 a.m. That’s not an option, he said, but he would consider a 10 a.m. start.

If the Gophers do not change playing dates, Maturi needs a guarantee from Major League Baseball that the Twins would play at 7 p.m.

Maturi said the league might be hesitant to decide who gets the 7 p.m. time slot so far in advance from the playoffs because they do not know who will be playing. The league typically reserves the later starting time to the game that will earn the highest television ratings.

If either of the games is moved outside the state, the University will distribute refunds, Maturi said. He will continue discussions with Major League Baseball officials this week.

Branden Peterson welcomes comments at [email protected]