By Charles Hallman
Calling all Black Minnesota Golden Gopher alumni!
The second annual African American student-athletes reunion will be held September 16-17. Around 80 Black former players attended last year’s inaugural get-together, recalls U of M Special Events Director Linda Roberts. She hopes to double that attendance this year.
The theme this year is “Our History, Our Legacy, Our Future and Our University of Minnesota.”
“I think it’s very important that you have that sense of belonging” to the school’s athletic legacy, no matter what sport or what era you competed in at Minnesota, says Roberts, the former Gopher basketball player in the late 1970s whose banner hangs inside Williams Arena.
Like with all reunions, “It’s an opportunity for former athletes to network with others…to play catch-up” with each other, she adds. Roberts also hopes to have former Gophers Tony Dungy, McKinley Boston and Dave Winfield speak during the reunion via video teleconference.
Among the scheduled events are an evening reception on campus, and each Gopher alumnus can get a ticket to attend the Minnesota-Miami (Ohio) football game on Saturday, September 17.
“Our goal is to get as many people as possible to come back.”
Post-Mike Hebert era begins this week
Three of the Minnesota women’s volleyball team’s non-conference opponents are ranked in the preseason top 25.
First up for the Gophers, whose 2011 season begins Friday at the AVCA Showcase in State College, Pennsylvania, is second-ranked Southern California. No. 4 Texas visits the Sports Pavilion for two matches on Sept. 2-3; then the U of M faces 14th-ranked Northern Iowa at their tournament Sept. 10.
“You learn what your faults are — you can only learn this when you play the best teams,” admits sophomore outside hitter Ashley Wittman, one of 10 returnees from last season’s 26-9 squad that reached the NCAA Sweet 16.
Most notably absent this season from the sidelines is legendary longtime coach Mike Hebert, who retired last December after 15 seasons, 35 seasons overall.
The Gopher program “has Mike Hebert stamped all over it,” notes U of M Interim Head Coach Laura Bush, who had been an assistant coach the previous three years. Bush played for Hebert at Illinois (1987-90) and has nine years of head coaching experience at Auburn (2002-07) and Marquette (1999-2001).
Bush was raised to her interim position until Hugh McCutcheon, the current USA women’s volleyball coach who was hired to succeed Hebert, joins the Gophers after the 2012 Olympic Games next September.
“There still is a lot of Mike Hebert influence in me,” states Bush, who is among a small group of Division I assistant coaches to have both played and coached in a Final Four.
The Gophers were picked by the coaches to finish fifth in the Big Ten, which now includes Nebraska. “I think the preseason poll is pretty accurate… The number-five [spot] is pretty good for us,” says Bush, whose ultimate goal is to hand over a solid team to McCutcheon when he finally comes on board next year.
Her main objective is for Minnesota’s 14-player squad to be healthy and at full strength at season’s end, and possibly be invited to play at the Sports Pavilion, which hosts the NCAAs later this fall.
“We have a lot of work to do — an every day goal,” concludes Bush.
For more information on the Gopher reunion, contact Linda Roberts at 612-626-7857, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to email@example.com.