MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota’s cancellation of two non-conference matchups against North Carolina cost the school $800,000 and plenty of bad publicity.
The university took a big step on Tuesday toward gaining that back. The Gophers will play a home-and-home series with TCU instead.
“To get somebody with a program at that level, and that brand, is going to be terrific,” athletic director Norwood Teague said.
Coach Jerry Kill’s desire to protect the confidence of his young players in the developing program prompted the decision to back out of games with the Tar Heels in 2013 and 2014. Instead of traveling to Chapel Hill, N.C., on Sept. 7 this season, the Gophers will play at New Mexico State. The home game in that series against the Aggies isn’t until 2016, though, so there was still an opening to fill for 2014.
Minnesota will now get $500,000 from TCU for going to Fort Worth, Texas, next year. When the Horned Frogs play at TCF Bank Stadium for the 2015 season opener, the Gophers won’t owe them anything. Also, TCU assumed the contract Minnesota had to host South Dakota State on that date for a guaranteed $400,000. Executive associate athletic director David Benedict said TCU will either try to play SDSU or pay the Jackrabbits the buyout if that can’t be worked out.
Kill didn’t think the Gophers would be ready to play North Carolina this year, even though in 2012 they beat Syracuse, a major-conference team that went 8-5 and blew out West Virginia in a bowl game. By 2014, though, they’re apparently confident about facing a team like TCU. The Horned Frogs went 47-5 from 2008 through 2011 in the Mountain West Conference, including a 13-0 season in 2010 that ended with a Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin. The Tar Heels were 31-21 during that span.
Last year, TCU went 7-6 and lost to Michigan State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl after moving into the Big 12 Conference. North Carolina was 8-4 and ineligible for a bowl game. TCU lost 56-53 in overtime last year to Texas Tech, which trailed the Gophers in the waning minutes of the Meineke Car Care Bowl before rallying for a 34-31 victory in Houston.
Had the TCU games come together as the UNC series ended, Minnesota probably would’ve avoided some criticism.
Kill and TCU coach Gary Patterson were previously assistants at Pittsburg State in Kansas in the late 1980s, so they’ve known each other for decades.