Mason, stadium issue, animate media day

David La Vaque
Coach Glen Mason made his way through the majority of Friday’s football media day press conference in an uneventful fashion.
The fourth-year coach addressed his inexperienced quarterback, injured running back and departed defensive catalyst without much animation.
But when asked about his involvement in the local stadium debate, Mason spent the next six minutes emphatically proving he is no longer avoiding the subject.
“I try and stay out of the political end of it,” Mason said, “but I am paid to speak on behalf the football program and what I think is best.
“We don’t want a new stadium — we need one. We don’t have one.”
Since 1982, the Gophers have played their home games at the Metrodome, sharing the facility with the Vikings and Twins. The Gophers are the only team in the Big Ten in such a situation.
They’re also the only team in the conference who plays off-campus. Mason says this deprives the program, as well as the University’s students and alumni, of resources many other schools provide through an on-campus stadium.
“I really think the University of Minnesota is missing the boat,” Mason said. “I’m not just talking about what it does to your football program, but there is nothing else that acts as a vehicle to bring people back to your campus every year.”
The multitude of events taking place year-round at the Metrodome pose problems to Mason’s recruiting efforts as well.
Last season, Mason said on only one of his six recruiting weekends was the Metrodome available for a visit by prospective student-athletes.
“If we have our own stadium on campus, when we have a recruiting weekend we won’t have a tractor pull or a music festival,” Mason said.
Working against the Gophers’ stadium hopes is the location of the University itself.
But while located in the Twin Cities professional sports market, Mason doesn’t feel the Gophers need to share a facility with those teams.
“Just because we’re in the Twin Cities and the Vikings are here, we have to share a stadium? It doesn’t make any sense to me,” Mason said.
Mason believes if the University was located elsewhere, there wouldn’t be a stadium issue.
“If the University of Minnesota wasn’t located in the Twin Cites, let’s say it was located in St. Cloud or Duluth or Mankato or wherever, what would we have? We’d have a 70,000 seat stadium on campus.”
Though a solution is presently out of sight, Mason and the program hold an all-important card in terms of public appeal. Taxpayers leery of losing a professional franchise have no such worries with an academic institution.
“This University is owned by the state,” Mason said. “Regardless of what happens, you’ll never hear me saying, ‘If we don’t get a stadium, I’m moving my ballclub.'”
Overall, Mason’s primary goal is to stick up for a program that he has committed to under contract for the next seven seasons.
“I don’t want the coach who follows me, whoever it may be, to say, ‘You know that guy who used to coach here, Mason, he should have spoke up for the good of the program.'”
Asad No. 1
Four months after a solid performance in April’s intrasquad game, Mason confirmed what most assumed: redshirt freshman Asad Abdul-Khaliq is the Gophers starter at quarterback.
“He’s going to line up number one and we’re going to ask him to do the things at the very least that he did at spring practice,” Mason said.
What Abdul-Khaliq did was show himself to be an accurate, strong-armed passer out of the pocket.
Abdul-Khaliq was expected to compete with senior Andy Persby for the starting role. Persby, however, decided to pursue a career in professional baseball after being drafted in June by the Minnesota Twins.
Though he has yet to take a snap at the Division I level, Mason calls Abdul-Khaliq, “a pretty cool customer. He’s got a lot of confidence, and he’s got ability.”

John R. Carter is the sports editor and welcomes comments at [email protected]
David La Vaque welcomes comments at [email protected]