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Players, coaches and fans react to cancelation of Gophers football annual spring game

The last time Minnesota held a spring game open to the public in Huntington Bank Stadium was in 2018.
Image by David Stager
Football head coach P.J. Fleck during the Gophers’ Pro Day on March 14. Minnesota will hold an open practice to the public on Thursday, April 11, at 4:30 p.m. at Athlete’s Village.

Gophers football announced in March the replacement of its annual spring game with two spring practices, one open exclusively to members of Dinkytown Athletes, a NIL collective partnered with Minnesota’s athletics department.

The last time the Gophers opened their spring game at Huntington Bank Stadium to fans was in 2018.

Three of the last five spring games were played indoors. The 2020 game was canceled due to COVID-19 and the 2021 game was played under COVID-19 guidelines with a reduced crowd.

Gophers head coach P.J. Fleck said he decided to scrap the game for exclusive practices because he wants to keep operations in-house.

“I want to keep things inside the best I possibly can keep things inside,” Fleck said. “The way college football is changing, we’re going to have plenty of scrimmages, what we do and what we are allowed to, inside our walls.”

The Gophers hosted their Dinkytown Athletes members-only practice on March 23 and will hold their open-house practice on Thursday, April 11, at 4:30 p.m. in their indoor facility at Athlete’s Village.

Fleck urged fans during a March 20 press conference to join Dinkytown Athletes, adding that their contribution will give them access to future events with the team.

Travis Spaeth, a member of Dinkytown Athletes who attended the March 23 practice, was unfazed when asked about the status of this year’s spring game.

“It doesn’t bother me,” Spaeth said. “I follow enough of the 247 [Sports], so I get some information. Any time they did have a spring game, it was pretty vanilla offense.”

Spaeth added the information gathered by Ryan Burns of 247 Sports gave him more insight into the team than a public spring game.

Gophers linebacker Cody Lindenberg said seeing the support of the Dinkytown Athletes members showing up to the practice was “amazing.”

“I know it’s not the greatest weather, but they came out here and took time out of their day to come and watch us and support us, so we couldn’t be more grateful,” Lindenberg said.

In addition to the non-membered fans, the University of Minnesota’s Marching Band, labeled the “Pride of Minnesota,” also fell victim to the cancelation of the waning tradition.

The last time the Marching Band participated at a spring game was in 2021. Due to COVID-19 guidelines and a reduced crowd, only the seniors in the band were permitted to attend the game.

Senior alto saxophonist Colton Bauer said he did not have an opportunity to participate in a spring game throughout his enrollment at the University.“I’m really sad for my class because we’re never going to experience the spring game,” Bauer said. “I feel like [hosting a spring game] would get a lot more hype around the team.”

Bauer added witnessing an in-person preview of the upcoming football season is another benefit of hosting a spring game.

“Seeing what the team is going to look like next year,” Bauer said. “Getting a preview of next year, I think that’s cool to see in person.”

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  • Sully
    Apr 30, 2024 at 11:47 am

    They are doing this to avoid Michigan staffers coming over to film

  • Jackie
    Apr 6, 2024 at 4:37 am

    Has there ever been more bluster from a perennial middle-to-bottom feeder?


  • Paul Orndorff
    Apr 5, 2024 at 10:45 am

    How about just the crazy idea of pumping the fans up for the upcoming season??
    Nebraska virtually fills their stadium (which of course holds thousands more) and makes a fabulous fun day out of it.
    Minnesota will never compete with the spirit or interest by the fans based on this approach.