The University of Minnesota Gophers Coaches Caravan rolled into Brainerd Wednesday, not only to build up support for Gophers athletics, but also to say thanks to those who have supported them in the past.
Two coaches present were head men's basketball coach Dan Monson and head wrestling coach J Robinson, who both viewed the trip as a small way to give back to their supporters.
"People talk about we're out to drum up more support and I think it's more to get out and thank our support," Monson said. "There's a lot of people outside the Twin Cities that live and die every game and support our teams. I think we need to get out and acknowledge those people and thank them for doing that."
Robinson believes the coaches caravan is something that is long overdue.
"I think that the people in the outlying areas are important to the University of Minnesota," Robinson said. "I don't think we do enough of this. For me, these are my types of people. These are the type of people I want to be around because once you get their loyalty, they'll be loyal forever.
"There's nothing like being here and saying 'We care.'"
Both coaches said one big advantage of coaching at Minnesota is that it's the only Division I school in the state, making it easier to keep in-state talent at home.
Monson, who was successful in landing one of the most sought after players in the country in Rick Rickert and will be one of many coaches vying for Hopkins star Kris Humphries, knows how important it is to get Minnesota players to stay put.
"If you can keep the players in the state, then you can compete nationally and that's something that has been a priority since I got here," Monson said.
One hot-button topic that has been on everyone's minds has been the proposed cuts in the athletic department.
As coach of one of the only three sports that brings in revenue for the university, Monson said he understands the rationale behind the cuts, but doesn't necessarily agree with them.
"I think cutting sports is unfortunate because it's such an opportunity for teams and kids," said Monson. "It's so hard to get those sports back once you've lost them."
The ever-outspoken Robinson, who has guided the Gophers' wrestling team to consecutive national championships, blames poor management by administration as to why the athletic department is in trouble.
"There's been some bad decisions made by the central administration and they're trying to turn it on the athletic department," Robinson said. "We have one of the best athletic departments in the country and we need to be dwelling on how to make a better department, not cutting sports.
"Central administration is micro managing right now and they don't have the knowledge, or the idea, of what's going on and they need to get out of it."
"There's so many positives going on with the athletic department that what they did was terrible. We have national champions in hockey and wrestling. Why don't we, as an athletic department, be the best we can be?"
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