Outdoor stadium intrigues Mason

by Michael Dougherty

Usually, media luncheons with Gophers football coach Glen Mason are pretty straight forward. Questions and comments about the secondary or Ben Hamilton’s knee or the weekend’s upcoming opponent are the norm.
Usually the luncheons are on Tuesdays. But the Gophers have the week off, Masons weekly meeting with the media was moved to Wednesday and the topic of conversation was something out of the ordinary.
A nasty seven-letter word that most Minnesotans have added to their list of four-letter no-nos was brought into the mix at the luncheon: stadium.
The Twins want one. The Vikings want one. The Wild are building one. And the Gophers? Sure. Why not?
Mason was asked about his preference — indoor or outdoor — and, after adjusting his tie and taking a hard swallow while accusing the reporter of “trying to get me in trouble,” the third-year coach began his tightwire act.
“My personal preference,” Mason started, “I’d rather play in a stadium on our own campus, on a Saturday afternoon at 1:30, on a beautiful sunshiny day that’s about 65 degrees — that’s all I want. Oh yeah, and a win.”
Mason said he gets asked about playing in the Metrodome everywhere he goes. He added that a new outdoor stadium would help recruiting, which ultimately helps build a winning program.
But he also said it is not just about winning and losing.
“It’s everything that goes with the whole game-day pageantry,” Mason said. “One of the great things about the Big Ten Conference is the game-day pageantry that surrounds football. It’s what keeps bringing back those alumni and supporters back to your campus six, seven times a year, year after year after year.
“It’s not a game, it’s an event, and it starts the night before the game, the morning of the game, before the game, during the game and after the game — it’s the whole deal. If we could do something like that that would enhance what we’re doing and make our program better — I’m all for it.”
Mason pointed out the $150 million his alma mater, Ohio State, is putting into its football stadium just to add 2,000 seats and to improve the facility. He said Penn State was spending $100 million. Purdue is also upgrading its football stadium with an estimated cost of $55 to $60 million.
He said there is an “importance and a demand there,” and although a team doesn’t necessarily have to rely on new facilities for recruiting in order to stay competitive, it is a large part of it.
“But the other part is that the people (fans and alumni) keep coming, and I think we are lost in that area,” he said.
Mason also had a counter argument for the most popular argument in favor of the Metrodome: the weather in Minnesota.
According to Mason, the weather argument doesn’t hold any water. Mason argued that the weather here isn’t any different in November than it is in other Big Ten cities like Iowa City, Madison, Ann Arbor or Columbus.
And finally, Mason spoke about a recent speech he gave at Edina Country Club when he was asked about the possibility of the Gophers building an outdoor stadium.
“I said we play in the Dome and it’s great because that’s where we play,” he said. “But I said besides being the head football coach at Minnesota, I am a taxpayer. And I said speaking from a taxpayer’s standpoint, if we’re going to take tax dollars and build a new stadium, let’s build one for the Gophers because we’re not going any place.
“We’re not going to threaten to move to Mankato if you don’t give us free hot dogs or something. And I got a standing ovation — I really did. And I think the people bought into that sentiment.”

Michael Dougherty covers football and welcomes comments at [email protected]