Big Ten

Minneapolis trying to bring CFP title game to Big Ten Country

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Minneapolis trying to bring CFP title game to Big Ten Country

If you're a Big Ten fan living in Big Ten Country, bowl games usually don't come with a home-field advantage.

Only two bowl games are currently played inside the admittedly expanding borders of Big Ten Country: the one at Ford Field in Detroit, most recently known as the Quick Lane Bowl, and the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium in New York.

But that's it. Weather plays a big factor, of course. Who wants to go to a Midwestern city covered in ice and snow in late December when you could go to Florida or Southern California?

But Minneapolis, a major Midwestern city that's actually home to a Big Ten campus, is looking to change that. Not only do the Twin Cities want to bring a bowl game to Big Ten Country, they want to bring the biggest of the bowl games, the College Football Playoff national championship game, to Big Ten Country.

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Minneapolis announced Tuesday that it is launching a bid to host the 2020 College Football Playoff national championship game. The game wouldn't be played outdoors at TCF Bank Stadium, the home of the Golden Gophers, but rather at the new — and currently under-construction — home of the Minnesota Vikings.

That stadium is already slated to host the 2018 Super Bowl and the 2019 Final Four. Could the 2020 national title game be next?

It's status as an indoor venue certainly helps, as Minnesota in January has to be one of the least-desirable travel destinations in the country. But Midwestern cities have proved to be excellent hosts for big-time sporting events. Indianapolis, which announced it won't be bidding for an upcoming national title game, plays annual host to the Big Ten Championship Game and just wrapped up a highly lauded staging of the Final Four last month. Indy has hosted a Super Bowl, proving its worth as a big-time winter football venue right in the middle of the polar vortex-plagued Midwest. Minneapolis and Detroit have previously hosted Super Bowls, too. Chicago just concluded its first hosting of the NFL Draft in 50 years and will host an NCAA tournament regional next year. Indy and Chicago also trade off hosting duties for the Big Ten men's basketball tournament.

Now Minneapolis is trying to get in on the action, and a gleaming new stadium ought to help.

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“We bid for these super-sensational events because they provide jobs, because they bring people from all over the country, in fact all over the world to the stadium to tout the virtues of living in Minneapolis, even in January,” Minnesota governor Mark Dayton said at the announcement, his quote published by the Star Tribune. “I’m very optimistic that we can make a competitive bid.”

The Star Tribune points out that cities bidding in the College Football Playoff's "bidding cycle" means they're in the running for the championship games in 2018, 2019 and 2020. But Minneapolis specified that it's targeting just that 2020 game. The report also lists Atlanta, Jacksonville, Fla., Miami, San Antonio and Santa Clara, Calif., as other cities expected to bid.

And the city is getting some help from its current college football superstar:

Kill has done nothing but win in the past couple seasons, so perhaps his involvement will bring the Twin Cities some good fortune.

Pat Fitzgerald, Lovie Smith in top 10 of an intriguing college coach list

Pat Fitzgerald, Lovie Smith in top 10 of an intriguing college coach list

Northwestern and Illinois’ college football programs are ranked in the top 10 this year.

Kind of.

One esteemed name in the college football ranks has placed Wildcats head coach Pat Fitzgerald atop the list of the all-time greatest college coaches…ranked as players. Illini coach Lovie Smith ranks at No. 10.

Rich Cirminiello, Director of College Awards for the Maxwell Football Club, compiled the list and he is an excellent follow on Twitter. He has several other noteworthy lists of interest, including the top college football players who are now coaches in the NFL. Psst…spoiler alert: several local connections are on that particular list as well, including Saints head coach Sean Payton (QB, Eastern Illinois) and Ron Rivera (LB, California).

But back to Coach Fitz, who bleeds purple and has emphatically put the NU football program on the map since the mid-90s. He was a two-time All-American in addition to receiving consecutive Bronco Nagurski, Chuck Bednarik and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors as a linebacker (1995-96). He helped guide the Wildcats to the ’96 Rose Bowl. Since becoming the team’s head coach in 2006, he has led the program to nine bowl games (four wins).

We all know Lovie Smith’s coaching legacy with the Bears and his rebuilding of the Illinois football program, but did you know how much he dominated as a college player? He played for Tulsa from 1976-79, racking up 367 career tackles primarily as a safety. He was a three-time All-Missouri Valley Conference award winner and earned a second-team All-America mention in 1978. He was also named MVC Newcomer of the Year after he tallied 90 tackles as a freshman.

[MORE: Lovie Smith, Mike Tirico discuss systemic racism 

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, who passed for over 11,000 yards in seven seasons as a Chicago Bear, ranked No. 2 on Cirminiello’s list. In a follow-up tweet, Minnesota’s P.J. Fleck, who dominated as a wide receiver at NIU and at nearby Kaneland High School, came in at No. 20. Western Michigan’s Tim Lester —a star player at Wheaton Warrenville South HS— is in at No. 7.

Who said that the Land of Lincoln didn’t have top college football talent?

Northwestern Wildcats athletic department begins phased return to campus

Northwestern Wildcats athletic department begins phased return to campus

Professional, collegiate and prep sports have been on hold in Illinois since mid-March but it looks like there may be more light at the end of the tunnel. This time, in Evanston.

Northwestern University announced Thursday that a phased reopening of the athletic department, in tandem with NU’s overall policy for a return to campus, will include student athlete workouts on Monday June 22.

The relaunch of athletics at Northwestern during the COVID-19 pandemic comes as the state of Illinois is progressing in its own planned reopening, as dictated by Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

The sports medicine staff, athletic trainers and student-athletes with post-injury needs were welcomed back earlier this month and other select groups will be admitted back to campus next week.

Athletes will be required to complete a full physical upon arrival in Evanston on June 22. They will be screened before entering on-site facilities by means of a wellness check and a no-touch temperature scan.

Facility access will be managed through one entrance and exit. Locker facilities and lounges will remain closed, though, along with dining centers.

[MORE: Shortened NFL preseason puts big group of players at a disadvantage]

The Wildcats football team, along with both the men’s and women’s basketball programs, are penciled in to begin those voluntary workouts a week from Monday. Each unit should have plenty of motivation once they hit the playing surface.

Head coach Pat Fitzgerald and company are eager to put last year’s 3-9 mark behind them. On the hardwood, Chris Collins’ group needs a quick bounce-back after an 8-23 mark last season while the women’s team, under the tutelage of Big Ten Coach of the Year Joe McKeown, are looking to build off a stellar 2019-20 campaign. They won the their first conference championship since 1989-90 and boasted a school record 26 wins.

 

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