Big Ten 2010 // The Impact of TCF Bank Stadium on Gopher Football

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Tim Brewster would love for you to know that, if you go back 50-100 years, the Gopher football program has a tradition of winning and Big Ten Championships.  The problem, of course, with that statement is that you do have to go back at least 5 decades to find evidence of that storied tradition. 

Any mystique around the Gopher football program was quashed by the proverbial wet-blanket that is the white baggy atop the Metrodome.  Absolutely nothing about that place felt like college football.  Despite the University’s best efforts to promote the team and change the atmosphere inside the Dome, they couldn’t cover up the fact that leaving Memorial Stadium (The Brick House) in the first place was simply a bad idea.  A bad idea that was compounded when The Brick House was torn down in 1989.

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Wouldn’t it have been nice if the list of hostile Big Ten environments had gone something like this:

The Horseshoe

The Big House

Happy Valley

Camp Randle

Kinnick

The Brick House

Instead Gopher fans got the Metrodome, and Gopher opponents got to make fun of us.

The Gophers rarely sold out a game in the Metrodome, and when they did it was only because of the influx of tourism dollars for the weekend coming up from Iowa City, or coming west from Madison.  I can tell you that one of the worst sounds that I have ever heard in my entire life, and believe me, I heard it many times, was when Wisconsin or Iowa would score a touchdown in the Metrodome against the Gophers.  To hear the fans of the enemy cheering, with no band to support them, and nobody in my direct vicinity cheering either, was absolutely harrowing.  It made me sick… and I can still hear it.

I tell you all of that, so that you can understand how absolutely important the opening of TCF Bank Stadium (The Bank) was the die-hard Gopher fans.

The fall of 2009 was a very exciting time to be a Gopher football fan as TCF Bank Stadium brought Gopher football back to campus from the sterility that is the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. (As a side note, the Metrodome is actually now called Mall of America Field, which is just weird.  If there is anything that could have made the Dome more sterile it would be adding a sponsor as uninspiring to sports fans as the Mall of America.)  The excitement surrounding the opening of The Bank was palpable, especially among Gopher fans who had sat in the blue sea of seats at the Dome for so many painful years as season-ticket holders. 

One of the most difficult things about moving into the new stadium for the Gophers is tradition… what stays, what goes… what needs to be created?

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For traditions to stick they need to come about organically, not artificially.  Months prior to The Bank opening, Gopher fans were discussing on Gopher Hole what the nickname for the stadium would be.  I clearly got caught up in the naming as well, as I now prefer to refer to the stadium as The Bank.  But how artificial is it to give the stadium a nickname before there had ever been a game played there?

The fact of the matter is that the Gophers have only played one season in The Bank, and those traditions have not had a chance to be built yet.  The university and the students are both working to build some tradition, but it will take time.

The good news about TCF Bank Stadium is that the players and the students love it.  The student section in The Bank is much more active than the student section at the Dome.  And the players seem to be very proud of their new home.  There also seems to have been at least some impact from The Bank on recruiting, as several have mentioned the new stadium as part of their reason for joining the Gophers.

The Gophers went 4-2 in The Bank in its inaugural season, getting beat by Wisconsin and Cal.  While there is no doubt that The Bank has a chance to be a very special place for fans for many generations, the question still hanging over everyone’s head is: what impact will this new venue have on the program?  

As with most things surrounding Gopher football, the expectations among die-hard fans, are high, but the results are very much still in question.

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