Recent Articles

Greater diversity unlikely in post-Borton Gopher women’s basketball



Thus far, Gopher AD Norwood Teague is two-for-two in firing coaches in consecutive years. He fired Pam Borton as the school’s women’s basketball coach, seemingly less than 24 hours after her last game last week. She got the ziggy in less time than Tubby Smith got axed around this same time nearly a year ago. Borton was my fifth coach I covered as the longest tenured Gopher women hoops beat writer, She had her faults — no coach is perfect, and for whatever reason, she couldn’t convince too many local Black females to play for her.  

Former Gopher Leah Cotton, who played for Borton (2010-13), recently spoke to the MSR while in town for the team’s Senior Night March 2. Continue Reading →

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Inclusive candidates for Borton’s replacement



The news wasn’t even an hour old before a local daily newspaper posted on their website a list of possible candidates to succeed Pam Borton as Minnesota women’s basketball coach. Not one, however, of the eight current head coaches and six assistant coaches suggested for the position was of color. The Gophers probably hadn’t gotten back in town after last Thursday’s loss at South Dakota State before Minnesota AD Norwood Teague simply inserted the final date on Borton’s “Dear Jane” dismissal letter — the same type letter that former coach Tubby Smith received last year. Every time I saw Teague at a Gopher game during the season, he looked like he was just counting days, hours and minutes before he could zap her out. The former coach had been on shaky ground since last season. Continue Reading →

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Tutor exposes fake classes at major university




Mary Willingham has received death threats from social media users. She’s looked at by some with disdain. All because she decided to step forward and help bring to light what was going on at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC). Willingham, then a school’s academic tutor for UNC players, finally let it be known that she was the “unnamed source” for a local reporter’s investigative reporting on the school having set up fake classes, changed grades and awarded worthless degrees for football and basketball players — too many of them were Black — for at least a couple of decades. “I want to do right by them because I was part of the problem,” says Willingham during an MSR phone interview on the “hundreds” of UNC players she worked with during her seven years as a tutor. Continue Reading →

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Was it Tubby Smith’s fault?

Gophers miss 2014 NCAA Basketball Tournament


A year ago this month, the Minnesota Gophers Men’s Basketball team played in the NCAA Basketball tournament. The African American Head Coach, Tubby Smith, had retooled the team. It was on the move again. But even when 15-1, Star Tribune started a series of negative, anti-Tubby columns. To his credit, Sid Hartman didn’t agree (writing the day before Smith was fired that it would be a “big mistake by the Gophers”). Continue Reading →

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Playoffs for the Wolves? Forget about it!

The Timberwolves have already guaranteed themselves a better season than last year when they won just 31 games. Not many teams can say that in this town — not the Vikings, Twins, Gophers men’s basketball, Gophers women’ hockey. As for the Wild, we’ll see. The Timberwolves with 34 wins are hanging around the .500 mark. That is good for 10th place in the rugged NBA Western Conference. Continue Reading →

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March madness continues



The National Invitational Tournament (NIT) has a rich storied history dating back to pre-World War II days. The Women’s NIT since 1998 has tradition as well — just not as long as the men’s. However, present-day hoops fans and snobbish media types give both the Rodney Dangerfield treatment:

No respect for either of them. While there are those who only see one tournament, and while the men’s NCAA annually gets marathon King Kong coverage and barely Timberbell-like coverage on the women’s side, this reporter gives four-fold attention to the two bigger tournaments, as well as the NIT and WNIT. Both men and women Gopher squads this week are in their respective NIT sweet 16 — the men play Southern Mississippi Tuesday at Williams Arena, and the women go to South Dakota State on Thursday. Continue Reading →

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NCAA shot still pending for Gophers women (updated)


INDIANAPOLIS — The waiting game is now underway. Minnesota (20-12) is .500 (1-1) thus far this post season. The women’s basketball team will know this Monday whether or not their proverbial “body of work” has earned them their first NCAA at-large berth since 2009. Nearly everyone who the MSR talked to here in Indianapolis last week thinks they have:

“I think Minnesota deserves to be in the NCAA Tournament,” says Nebraska Coach Connie Yori, whose league tourney champion Huskers twice defeated the Gophers this season, including a 13-point win in the Big Ten quarterfinals March 7. “With the strength of our league and their RPI (38), I think they need to be in the NCAA Tournament.”

The Gophers are 7-3 in their last 10 games, including a first-round overtime win after being down 16 points in the second half over Wisconsin. Continue Reading →

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Nielsen report reveals racial divide in sports media viewership

Blacks, Latinos and Asians on average spent more time visiting sports sites on the computer and watching sports videos on the computer last year than the U.S. average, says a new Nielsen report. Nielsen’s 2013 Year in Sports Media Report found that “television is not the only medium where sports consumption is on the rise. The average amount of time spent visiting sports sites and accessing sports content on mobile phones in April 2013 increased by double digits compared to 2012.”

It also showed a 10-year growth in sports programming from 35 billion available hours in 2003 to over 116 billion in 2013. Sports consumption by Blacks, Latinos and Asians, however, fluctuated last year in the following three categories examined last year, according to the Nielsen report.  

Visiting sports sites on a computer (hours:minutes)

• April 2013: U.S. (1:25); Blacks (2:12); Asians (1:47); Whites (1:19); Latinos (1:02)

• September 2013: U.S. (1:45); Asians (1:56); Whites (1:47); Blacks (1:45); Latinos (1:17)


Watching video on a sports site on a computer

• April 2013: U.S. (35 mins.); Blacks (46 mins.); Asians (43 mins.); Latinos (36 mins.)

• September 2013: U.S. (36 mins.); Asians (1:05); Blacks (47 mins.); Whites (33 mins.); Latinos (30 mins.)


Accessing sports content on a smart phone

April 2013: U.S. (1:08); Latinos (1:31); Whites (1:10); Asians (1:00); Blacks (44 mins.)

September 2013: U.S. (1:32); Latinos (1:45); Asians (1:42); Whites (1:35); Blacks (1:15)


Watching sports on TV

The Nielsen report also broke down fan viewing demographics by race/ethnicity. Continue Reading →

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M.A. Mortenson not up to the task for an NFL stadium

Construction manager track record in construction: junior varsity

In these columns a year ago, I called attention to the concerns making the Minnesota Vikings uncomfortable with the selection of M.A. Mortenson as construction manager for the now over $1 billion Vikings stadium, concerns shared also with the NFL. Nothing against Mortenson. It’s a really nice square peg, but they are trying to fit it into a round hole and it doesn’t fit. Mortenson, great at smaller venues (see below), is out of its league with the Vikings, lacking the expertise, experience, and success history with projects of this size and magnitude. Contrast this with those the Star Tribune reported as rejected (January 21, 2013): Hunt Construction, of Scottsdale, AZ, builder of nearly 50 professional sports venues, including NFL stadiums (two with retractable roofs), and Skanska, the international firm that has also built NFL stadiums. Mortenson has built none. Continue Reading →

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March Madness begins



Let’s be perfectly clear from the start — this and all subsequent columns are March Madness cliché-free. We won’t be talking about dancing or getting tickets punched here. The Gophers women basketball team plays Thursday in the 2014 Big Ten women’s tournament in Indianapolis — they face 11th-seeded Wisconsin at approximately 8 pm local time. Minnesota (19-11, 8-8 Big Ten) as the sixth seed goes into Indy on a modest two-game winning streak, but more importantly, especially for further post-season considerations, the Gophers have won seven of their last 11 contests. Although the team finished with a positive conference record for the first time since 2009, from now on U of M’s “second season” record must stay above .500. Continue Reading →

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