Sports Odds & Ends
If you played sports at the University of Minnesota and earned a letter, you’re automatically in the school’s M Club.
“We talk every day about how fortunate we all are… You made this place better than you found it,” said U of M Athletics Director Mark Coyle as he spoke at the Sept. 16 M Club Hall of Fame induction ceremony at the Gophers’ football stadium’s Club Cambria. The room had the incoming 11-member Class of 2022, family members, existing HOFs and others.
“We appreciate what you did for our program,” stressed Coyle.
Clyde Turner (basketball) and Ron Johnson (football) were part of this year’s class along with Brazilian native Paula Gentil (volleyball). The three now make it 35 Hall of Famers who are people of color. Of them, 34 are Black.
“There was diversity in this class of inductees,” noted Julie Manning, deputy athletics director and senior women’s administrator. “Diversity is so important because it promotes creativity, unique perspectives, and new opportunities. We are very intentional about being a champion of diversity and inclusion, and we live that every day.”
Turner, who died August 9, was inducted last week posthumously. His basketball exploits (1971-73) were legendary, but his post-Gopher life even more so.
“He did so much for so many,” said Matasha Turner of her father and his influence on the community of his adopted hometown for over four decades as a social worker and youth advocate, most notably his 35 years of youth basketball camps.
“It was the longest [running] in the Twin Cities,” she pointed out proudly, “and this is one of his most passionate [endeavors].”
“It was a really significant basketball camp” that also emphasized education and life skills, added Mack Turner, Clyde’s brother.
“Clyde was just one wonderful individual guy that had integrity,” said Rick Upchurch, Class of 2001. “He showed it each and every day.”
Johnson played football (1998-2001) and set several receiving records. He joins his wife, former Gopher track star Shari Marks Johnson, who was inducted in 2012.
“I’m just really excited for him, and I think it’s just important for me that we are honoring him and celebrating him this weekend,” said Shari of her husband, who is a television analyst and co-host for Gopher and Vikings football and hosts his own podcast show. “I’m just thankful that he’s been recognized for that here.”
A Detroit native, Johnson admitted that coming from a city that’s majority Black to Minneapolis and the U was a cultural adjustment, but he quickly adapted to his new environment. “It was just fun,” he told the audience.
Before the event, Johnson told the MSR, “I think the biggest thing [was getting] a college education, I don’t think I ever thought about the Hall of Fame, it never came up. My wife went in 10 years ago, and so that was a great moment.”
Now a vice president at Johnson & Johnson in Atlanta, Gentil told us, “It’s been 20 years since I first got here.” The late Minnesota coach Mike Hebert recruited her to be the school’s first designated libero or defensive player in anticipation of the NCAA changing the rules and allowing this position to become a regular part of college volleyball in 2002.
“I had to tell him three times before he understood that I was signing and I was gonna come here,” recalled Gentil (2002-05). “I committed on the spot. And I just loved it. It’s so great to be back.”
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.