Gophers coach Kill gives away tickets to students
By: By Dave Cambell, AP Sports Writer, Superior Telegram
MINNEAPOLIS — New Gophers football coach Jerry Kill has been making a strong first impression in Minnesota with his relentless approach to rebuilding the program.
Kill took his outreach even further Friday by walking around campus and giving away free tickets to students. University officials tagged along and posted pictures on Twitter and Facebook of Kill shaking hands and handing out candy bars and vouchers for the tickets with Gophers cheerleaders close by to distribute maroon and gold trinkets. Athletics department personnel also provided free pizzas Thursday evening for students in the residence halls to build up some go-Gophers good will.
Minnesota's home opener is Saturday against New Mexico State. After a 3-9 finish last season by the Gophers, the seats aren't selling as fast as they did when TCF Bank Stadium first opened two years ago. So Kill has been trying to do his part to create some excitement for the game and for the season.
He urged the university to create a tailgate area specifically for students in front of the stadium, a one-block stretch of Oak Street that will be closed to traffic about three hours before the game. That has been dubbed "Block G." Kill will lead the team on the "Victory Walk" through that area, the ritualistic arrival by the Gophers before each game designed to enhance the pregame buzz.
Jason LaFrenz, assistant athletic director and head of ticket sales and marketing for the university's athletic department, said Friday afternoon it was difficult to determine exactly how many tickets remained for the game because students were still buying theirs — and some are certain to wait and walk up and buy them right before kickoff. There are 10,000 seats — one-fifth of the stadium — set aside for students, but several thousand were left for the season.
LaFrenz said the school sold "hundreds" Friday alone, partly because people didn't realize tickets were still available.
"It's going to be 80 degrees and sunny, and it's coach Kill's first home game," LaFrenz said. "There's a lot of optimism surrounding the team after the USC game, so things are looking up."
Kill has done what he can.
Quarterback MarQueis Gray rhetorically asked on his Twitter account how many players could say their coach cares about the students "as much as much as our coach does?? NONE!!!"
AP Sports Writer Jon Krawczynski contributed to this report.