Living in Gopher country the past few years, I have witnessed their apathy first hand. Six games into the football season, they could care less about their team. Early January, they stop watching Gopher basketball. They have one of the elite wrestling programs in the entire nation, yet you wouldn’t know it by the support their squad receives. The University itself even gave an extension to their football coach who thrives in mediocrity. Glen Mason was even quoted earlier in the year claiming that he was still in the process of rebuilding the Gopher program, 10 years after taking command of the football team.
The Gopher vs. Hawkeye game on Saturday (11/18/06) just about made me throw up from the point of view of college football fan. Here is a team in Minnesota who is finally playing good football, getting wins on the road, and has a chance to become bowl-eligible with a win over their arch-rival and slumping Hawkeyes from the University of Iowa. You'd think that the rivalry in itself would promote a good turnout for the supporters of the Maroon and Gold, but not so.
Start of the game, there are THOUSANDS of empty seats in the lower level where Gopher "patrons" normally sit. The SE corner seats of the upper deck of the dome didn't even get sold! A Gopher/Hawkeye game and the dome can't even sell it out!
The game is underway and it's time for a pivotal stop for the Gophers, "GET LOUD", pleads the scoreboard as loud music pumps into the dome. The roar (or lack there of) wasn't felt by a single person playing or watching the game. Pathetic. The Iowa faithful, cheering for the most disappointing Iowa team in this millennium was at least twice as loud and once again took over the dome... ON A DOWN YEAR FOR THEIR PROGRAM. What a sad state of affairs this Gopher fan base has become!
As the game progressed and Iowa became the eventual loser, you'd think the sheer joy of Gopher fans FINALLY getting Floyd back, FINALLY having a "One Up" on the Hawk fans would have been enough for them to cheer about. Not so. As the game clock expired and the elated Gopher football team (congrats to them on a terrifically played game, by the way) rushed the disappointed Iowa sidelines to claim their reward, I saw the fire and excitement in the Minnesota players and coaches. It radiated; they were on Cloud Nine. They had done it; they have finally beaten the Hawkeyes. Time to celebrate with all the fa... oh wait... where are they? Where are the fans? Oh, that's right. The majority of the little Gopher fans that had shown up to the game had made their way to the exits before the 4th quarter was even over.
As the Gopher football team paraded their newly acquired trophy around the Metrodome, the apathy continued to spew from the Gopher fan base. The 100th game in this timeless rivalry had been won by the Minnesota Golden Gophers and no one was around to help celebrate. I sat in my seat amazed, not because I had just witnessed one of the poorest Iowa football seasons in recent memory come to a close, but the fact that a Minnesota team that had put so much energy and heart into a win wasn’t able to share their joy with their fans.
Because of those events, even in losing, I was proud to be a Hawk Fan. Hawkeyes will stick by their team through thick and thin, and it has been extremely anorexic this year. Iowa and Minnesota were disappointing last year, yet after Iowa retained Floyd for the fifth straight year the field was full of Iowa fans showing their support. I have witnessed a few non-apathetic Gopher fans, though. Some have taken the lead and started up “Fire Glen Mason” websites and blogs (http://fireglenmason.blogspot.com), while I personally witnessed one gentleman selling “Fire Mason” t-shirts for $10 following the Gopher victory over Iowa.
Iowa finished the season 6-6 (2-6), losing 5 out of their last six games, and finished 9th in the Big Ten. Minnesota finished the season 6-6 (3-5), winning 4 out of their last 5 (as well as 3 in a row), and finished 6th in the Big Ten. The Big Ten has 7 bowl eligible teams, and you can bet that Iowa will receive a better bowl bid than Minnesota. Why? All you need to do is look at the stands following the last game of the season.