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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

2012 or Bust

Just a few notes as we head toward this weekend.

1)  Jim Rueda of the Mankato Free Press has a nice feature on former Minnesota State (nee Mankato State) baseball and men's basketball stand-out Gene Glynn, who has been named field manager of the Minnesota Twins triple A affiliate Rochester. The story is located here.

2)  Chad Brownlee (former Minnesota State men's hockey defenseman) cracked the Canadian Country Music top ten charts last week with his single Love Me or Leave me.  If you take a look a little further down on the list, you'll see that another Brownlee song has just entered the charts at #41. His recently released video for (Christmas) Baby, please come home is located here.

3) Men's hockey this Friday (Dec. 30) vs. the U.S. U18 team here in Mankato with the Mavericks wearing a special edition camouflage jersey in a salute for Miliary Appreciation Night.

School starts up again Jan. 9 and our first home event for 2012 is Jan. 7 when track hosts the Alumni Open.  Our basketball teams are on the road with games at MSU-Moorhead (Jan. 2), UM-Crookston (Jan. 3) and Southwest Minnesota State (Jan. 7). Women's Hockey is at Bemidji State (Jan. 6-7) and Men's Hockey is at St. Lawrence (Jan. 6-7). Jim Makovsky and his wrestlers are at the National Duals Jan. 7-8.  The weekend of Jan. 13-14 is chock full of home activity with several home events.  Be sure to check out the schedule at msumavericks.com for additional information.  Or you could just jump there by going here.

Until then, Happy Holiday's from all of us at Minnesota State Athletics. It's great to be a Maverick!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Merry Christmas from the Mavericks!

Thought we might post some of these.  Maybe they would make great Christmas gifts.  Several former Minnesota State student-athletes have gone onto professional careers in sports and have their own baseball, football and hockey cards.

From our collection, and pictured above, are former Minnesota State tight end/receiver Tywan Mitchell, former MSU righthanded pitcher Gary Mielke, former MSU infielder Jerry Terrell, former MSU multi-sport star Bob Will, and former Maverick men's hockey forward David Backes.

Mitchell, who played football for the Mavericks from 1995-98, played in the National Football League with the Ravens, Cardinals and Lions and was inducted into the MSU Hall of Fame this year. Tywan's card is available here for $2.95*

Mielke, who was the North Central Conference Pitcher of the Year for the Mavericks in 1985, spent four years in Major League Baseball with the Texas Rangers from 1987-90.  He was inducted into the MSU Hall of Fame in 1999.  An assortment of Gary's cards are available here, ranging from .25 to $3.83.*

Jerry Terrell, a native of nearby Waseca, Minn., was an infielder at the school from 1965-68 before turning pro and enjoying an eight-year MLB career with the Minnesota Twins and Kansas City Royals.  He was inducted into the MSU Hall of Fame in 1981. One of Jerry's cards is available here for $2.95.*

Bob Will, who played baseball, football and basketball at Mankato State College from 1952-58, toiled in the outfield for the National League's Chicago Cubs from 1957-1963. He was inducted into the MSU Hall of Fame in 1966. A cool-looking Bob Will Topps card from 1959 is available here for $5.00*

Named captain of the National Hockey League's St. Louis Blues in the summer of 2011 and a member of the U.S. Olympic men's hockey team in Vancouver in 2010, David Backes was a member of the MSU men's hockey team from 2003-06.  There are probably a 1,000 cards for sale on the internet for David Backes.  Here's one you can buy right now for $1.25*

Here's hoping you and yours enjoy a terrific Holiday Season!

*does not include shipping

Monday, December 5, 2011

Catching Up With an Alumni

Former Minnesota State softball player Abby Morris has transitioned from a student-athlete at Minnesota State to a graduate assistant at the University of Missouri.  A four-year standout with the Mavericks, Morris left Minnesota State as the school's career leader in walks (79), runs scored (153), and stolen bases (61) and was third in career on base percentage (.421).  A native of Johnston, Iowa, Morris spoke with Mavblog about her new role at the Missouri.

Mavblog:  Abby, you wrapped up your playing career at Minnesota State in 2010.  Take us through when you have left Minnesota State and where you are now?

Abby Morris: Post graduation and following the completion of softball season (which ended too early), I packed everything up, said goodbye to a University and city that was beyond generous to me, and headed back home to Urbandale, Iowa. Thanks to my awesome parents, who seem to have a revolving front door, they let me live with them for a year while I “figured my life out.” Trust me that definitely does not happen overnight. Having a Psychology degree, a father and sister who are counselors, and a passion for people, I had an interest in Mental Health Counseling. 

With that in mind, I pursued the field of counseling and was given the opportunity to work as a Remedial Counselor in a school-based counseling agency. Although I learned a lot and am thankful for the opportunity, I always felt like something was missing. That something, I discovered later, was athletics and being part of an athletic department. 

This past January, I was back in Mankato visiting friends/coaches/etc. I vividly remember sitting in Coach Meyer’s office explaining to her that I loved the part of my job which involved working with individuals, but didn’t love other parts. I expressed how I missed softball and just being around athletics in general. Coach then introduced me to the field of Academic Affairs/Life Skills departments inside an Athletic Department. She read the job description and I instantly was drawn to it and almost immediately felt this was my calling. I thanked her and headed back home with this intense drive of somehow getting into this field. Every day from that point on, I checked NCAA for job postings. 

A few weeks later, a Graduate Assistant position at the University of Missouri in the Total Person Program (TPP) opened up. I quickly filled out all the necessary application requirements, gathered my reference letters, and sent everything in. Leaving it out of my control and trusting it was not in my hands, I received a call saying I was given an interview. Guess I did alright on that and that is where I am now. I started the Grad Assistant position in the TPP and began my Master’s program. I am loving it all and soaking in every experience possible.

Mavblog: What is your job title at the University of Missouri and your duties? 

AM: My job title at Mizzou is Graduate Assistant in the Total Person Program (a holistic approach involving academics, student athlete development, career planning, social responsibility, and community service). I work specifically in academics with the football, soccer, and gymnastic teams. My specific duties involve assisting the full-time coordinator for my sports with anything and everything she may need help with. Personally, I work study tables, mentor students, schedule classes, check classes, am part of our Honorary Coaches Program, plan Faculty-staff luncheons, and any other odds and ends that manage to keep me extremely busy! Oh, and then when I find time, I do my schoolwork.
Morris was a member of four MSU teams which qualified for the NCAA
Division II tournament playing both the outfield and second base.
Mavblog:  How has working inside a college athletic department changed your opinion on how an athletic department functions? 

AM:Participating as an athlete in an Athletic Department really doesn’t give you the most accurate or clear view of how the department functions. Now that I am physically working inside the Missouri Athletic Department, I have a pretty good idea of how things work (or so I like to think). Obviously I do not know everything that goes on, but being part of full-Faculty staff meetings and being in communication with people from different areas of the Athletic Department, I have learned a lot. 

I have seen the importance of every single person, from the Graduate Assistants to the Athletic Director himself, everyone has a purpose and is a function of making Mizzou Athletics the best they can be. All individuals must have the same vision, goals, and means of reaching those goals; otherwise there will be inconsistency and lack of unity. Each person must support each other at the end of the day, whether they agree with certain decisions or not. Not one decision is made impulsively or without speaking with the team, coworkers, etc to make sure all parties are on board. 

With all of the scandals that have gone down at Division I Universities within the last couple years, all Athletic Departments must protect their image and work their hardest to do things the right way. Because nobody is perfect, when things do not always go smoothly or right, it is important to accept consequences, stay positive, and move on. College athletics are constantly in the spotlight, especially in a city that has the #1 Journalism school in America (aka Columbia). There are students everywhere who are trying to get that big story, so it is our job to represent Mizzou well and stay consistent to the vision of the Athletic Department.

Mavblog:  You have been at Missouri during an interesting time as it has announced it is leaving the Big 12 for the SEC, tell us how that progress all went about?

AM: How did I know this question would come up?!  I suppose it is a rather big deal with Missouri leaving the Big 12 for the SEC. Working internally in the Athletic Department, it was interesting going through this process. I say that because each day there would be a new rumor or headline in the news about Mizzou’s decision, when really no decision was made for a few months. I wish I had some juicy details to share, but all I can say is that our Chancellor and Athletic Director worked their tails off for several days in a row trying to decide which conference would be the best fit for the University. They wanted to make sure the conference would be one in which we could excel in all facets (academically, athletically, socially, medical-research wise, etc). From the very beginning, the administrators had set out guidelines that must be fulfilled in order for them to make a decision. 

Once they felt that all of those were covered, and of course once the SEC extended and invite to us, they decided that the Southeastern Conference is going to be the best fit for Mizzou, starting in Summer of 2012. I am looking forward to this transition. Although on a daily basis for myself, not much will change for me, there are some academic rules that will affect our program slightly, but ultimately at the end of the day, they are all still student-athletes who will have to go to school. I am excited to be part of two different conferences during my time here at Mizzou and am anxious to see how we compete!

Mavblog: Did you ever think when you signed up to be a graduate assistant that you could potentially be a part of something that is one of the major talking points in college athletics and will most likely be a key cog in the ever-changing landscape of Division I?

AM: The landscape of Division I athletics is most definitely evolving due to all of the conference realignments that have taken place over the last few years. When I was hired for this job, I really didn’t think about that aspect of it, but it for sure is changing several things about Division I athletics. I think that some of those long-standing traditions that Universities have had will fizzle out and new traditions will take place. I know at Mizzou for example, the Border Showdown between Mizzou and KU may no longer be played every season (due to us leaving for the SEC and KU not wanting to keep that tradition). Also, now that we are moving into the SEC, one of their “rules” is that fans cannot leave the stadium once they are in. Mizzou has always allowed tailgaters to leave at halftime and come back in so I believe this could really affect our crowd. With the SEC never having a team leave their conference in its history, I am pretty excited to be moving into that conference. It seems to be stable, well reputable, and all-around excelling. 

Mavblog:  One of the sports you oversee is football?  How are those study tables?
AM: Study hall for football, as with most of the other sports at Mizzou, are a big part of the student-athlete’s week. All freshmen are put in 8-hours of mandatory study hall. Within those 8 hours, they are plugged in with a Mentor (big-picture person who helps them stay organized) as well as a class-specific tutor for each one of their courses. If they are not meeting with their mentor or tutor, they have “free” hours in which they can either study in the lab, individual study rooms, or quiet study. When they first enter our academic wing, they insert their hand into our hand scanner which clocks them in and out. We pull a report several times a day to make sure they are still present, and were on time. Each morning, we send a report up to the Football Staff saying who was tardy, left early, or was absent. From that point on, they decide how they want to deal with each athlete. Our study is objective-based, meaning that each Sunday when they meet with their mentor, they fill out a weekly to-do list. They must get all of these objectives crossed off by one of our staff members by the end of the week. We feel that this gives them more direction and purpose while they are in study hall. 

Mavblog:  Have you thought of your plans following the University of Missouri?

AM: To be honest, I haven’t really thought that far ahead yet. Being in my first semester down here at Mizzou and still having a year and a half remaining, I am just really living in the moment and soaking in everything. Every day I am learning new things and building relationships with people everywhere. With how much I am enjoying it however, I think it is safe to say I would love to continue working somewhere in Student-Athlete Affairs in the Athletic Department. Whether that be in Academics, Student Athlete Development, Life Skills, etc, I am really interested in all of them at this point. This job as a whole seems to be a great fit for my interests and personality, so continuing on this path is a goal of mine.

Mavblog: How did Minnesota State – academically, athletically and personally – prepare you for this new adventure in your life?

AM: Academically, MSU prepared me extremely well. Being in the Health Education and Promotion Master’s Program, we can basically take any electives that we want and essentially choose our “emphasis track.” Using my Psychology Bachelor’s degree, I am doing the Psychology/Sports Psychology track and have found so far this semester, that my undergrad classes prepared me better than I ever would have expected. Many of the things discussed in class, I have already been educated on and it feels great to come in with that knowledge and keep up just fine in class.

My classes at MSU most definitely pushed me academically and challenged me in ways that have made Graduate School very manageable. Athletically, although I am no longer using the skills I developed while playing ball, I mentally understand what the athletes are going through. Being a student-athlete at any level is a stressful, but enjoyable experience. Not only do you have to perform well on the playing field, but you also have to do well in school while staying out of trouble and essentially “doing the right thing” at all times. Athletes are set to a higher standard than the average student because they are constantly in the spotlight. This brings more pressure, more eyes, and more people to impress. I am able to empathize with the student-athletes I work with and completely understand (for the most part) what they are going through on a daily basis. 

Personally, I grew in many ways during my time at MSU. Being on my own and exploring what it is like to be independent can really help a person come into their own. I embraced the independence, responsibility, and opportunities I was given and am forever grateful for. I credit the Athletic Department as a whole at MSU; for because of how much I enjoyed being part of it, it made me want to have a career in one. I have no regrets or things I wish were different during my time at Minnesota State.

Mavblog: What’s the one thing you miss most about your time at MSU?

AM: Definitely not the frigid cold weather! Seriously though, there are several things I miss about MSU. I miss playing ball competitively and having to workout everyday (it’s not as easy when nobody is forcing you to be there). I miss all of my teammates who became my family away from home. From the road trips to hanging out on the weekends in good old Kato, I have so many memories that will stay with me forever. I am very thankful for all of the people and opportunities I was given at MSU; it built on the foundation of who I am today.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

On the Griddle

A pair of NCAA postseason appearances and now a visit to the Mineral Water Bowl in four seasons. Not too shabby! 

Minnesota State coach Todd Hoffner has led his Maverick football program to a 33-13 mark during his time in Mankato and in addition to a trip to Ashland, Ohio in 2008 (Ashland downed the Mavericks 27-16), the Mavericks hosted a NCAA postseason game vs. Hillsdale in the 2009 NCAA tournament (Hillsdale won 27-24 in overtime at Blakeslee Stadium).  The Mavericks of 2011 will travel to Excelsior Springs, Mo., to compete in the Mineral Springs Bowl where they will square-off against Northeastern State University (Okla.).

Hoffner's record in four seasons at the Maverick helm stands at 33-13.

The Mineral Springs Bowl pits the top team from Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference not making the NCAA Division II tournament vs. the top team from the Mid-American Intercollegiate Athletics Association (MIAA).  Information about the game can be found here.

A couple of other significant things happened for  this program along the way this year. Most notably the school-record 7,011 fans for Homecoming in a 24-14 win over Winona State on Oct. 1.  And a thrilling 27-26 home win over Augustana in a Thursday night game televised nationally by CBS Sports Oct. 27.

A pretty good year, all in all and the trip to Missouri will serve to give the program additional positive exposure.  And along with giving the underclassmen additions reps and game experience, will provide the seniors with a tremendous way to close out their careers.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Has it Really Been a Decade?

Kevin Buisman
Why yes, it has!  Named Minnesota State's director of athletics in July of 2002, Kevin Buisman leads a department that includes 20 sports and more than 500 student-athletes. MSU has hosted two NCAA championship events during his tenure and in addition to a national championship by the women's basketball program in 2009, the Mavericks have proven to be a juggernaut in the Directors' Cup standings - the metric used to determine the top athletic departments in the country. 

MavBlog took some time to talk with Kevin recently.

MavBlog: When you came to MSU in the summer of 2002, you were taking a job after a successful four-year run as an assistant Director of Athletics at the University of Northern Iowa. Looking back, can you recall what your expectations were upon coming to Mankato?

KB: As I recall, when I first started, I was really excited about the opportunity to finally run my own program and the great potential I saw for our teams at Minnesota State. As I said during the interview process for this position, I believed MSU Athletics was sitting on the “launching pad” and was simply looking for someone to put the countdown sequence into motion. I felt very fortunate to be at the controls.


MavBlog: MSU Athletics has steadily risen up the Directors' Cup standings in the last ten years. Beginning with a 22nd-place ranking in your first year, the Mavericks ascension has been steady and impressive - 20th in 2003-04, tenth in 2004-05, 8th in 2005-06, 4th in 2006-07, 3rd in 2007-08 and 2nd in 2008-09. What has been the key to MSU continually moving up the ladder on a national basis?

KB: I think our rise in the Director’s Cup standings has been due to a combination of things. First, I think it begins with President Davenport’s vision for a program committed to excellence and broad-based success. To his credit, President Davenport has helped provide a lot of the resources to make that possible. Next, it takes an outstanding coaching staff to identify, recruit, and retain great student-athletes. Another major factor has been the dramatic improvement of our women’s programs. We have really invested in our women’s teams and as result, we are experiencing strong finishes on a more consistent basis and they have made some major contributions to our overall success in recent years.

MavBlog: At the time you joined MSU the Mavericks were members of the North Central Conference and the Western College Hockey Association was rolling along, boasting a half century of stability. There are several questions regarding these conference affiliation developments. How soon did you see the breakup of the NCC coming and how has the subsequent reaffiliation to the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference gone?

KB: Not long after I started at MSU, I think it was becoming pretty evident that the North Central Conference was in trouble with regards to its long-term viability, with several schools wanting to leave the league to pursue Division I status. As things began to wind down in the NCC, we evaluated our options and decided that remaining in Division II was the best option available at the time. Since that decision, I think it has been a fairly smooth transition for us into the Northern Sun. The NSIC has offered a nice home for our programs and we have competed very effectively there in recent years.


MavBlog: The WCHA will stay intact for this year and the next, but then things change drastically with several teams leaving and others coming aboard. What challenges does the men's hockey program face in the coming years as a result of this?

KB: Recently, the name of the game in college athletics has been “CHANGE”. At a broader level, there have been some major developments mostly driven by money and television related to basketball and football contracts that have dramatically changed the landscape for many of the major Division I conferences.

Television and money were also driving forces in changing college hockey, as major donor money made the start-up of Penn State hockey a reality and the programming needs of the Big Ten Network hastened the formation of member-driven affiliation in that sport. From there, it unwound pretty quickly with the start-up of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, which then put the rest of the members of the WCHA and CCHA into play in terms of finding future homes for their programs.

As noted, there are major changes ahead for college ice hockey beginning with the 2013-14 season. As remaining members of the WCHA, we will now be more closely aligned with other schools of similar resources, which should immediately make us more competitive. Because of that, I believe we will be better positioned to compete for conference titles and postseason playoffs and thereby also contending for NCAA championship bid opportunities.

The changes will also impact us financially. The new alignment is more geographically diverse, so we will see some additional expenses there. Our recruiting will also change a bit, so I anticipate some added costs there. On the revenue side, the loss of revenue related to the Final Five will be significant. And while we won’t have some of our “marquee” opponents like Minnesota, UM-Duluth, North Dakota, and St. Cloud in here as conference opponents, we are optimistic about establishing scheduling relationships that will create a non-conference schedule that is very appealing to our fan base and that will be good for us at the gate.


MavBlog: Every athletics department in the nation is facing rising costs from everything from tuition, equipment, travel and salaries. At the same time, there are factors such as diminishing allocations and the shaky economy. How is your department working to address these challenges?

KB: Budget and finance are issues that are never going to go away and are a factor for every intercollegiate athletic program in the country—from the largest to the smallest. Each and every year, a growing proportion of our budget will need to come from self-generated revenues. To that end, we are currently negotiating an opportunity to outsource the sales of our marketing inventory and corporate partnerships, as we see this as the best possible strategy to fully leverage the complete potential of those opportunities.


MavBlog: Tell us about the student-athletes at MSU relative to programming you've invoked outside of the field of play. How have you and your staff worked to ensure that they have an all-encompassing experience during their time as Mavericks.

KB: The quality of the experience is often dictated by the recruiting process and by having our coaches committed to identifying prospective student-athletes that our equipped to not only compete effectively, but to also hold their own in the classroom. Minnesota State athletics is branded by the tag line “Building Champions”, which outwardly communicates the expectations we have that our student-athletes will achieve at a high level both in sport and in life by excelling competitively, in the classroom, and in the community. Hopefully, the experiences of our student-athletes transcend competition and helps prepare them to become future leaders, both professionally and in their community.


MavBlog: Can you point to a couple of moments during your time as the Director of Athletics that you can point to where you've felt your proudest?

KB: There have been a lot of bright spots along the way, but the run to the 2009 national championship in women’s basketball will always hold a special place. It was an amazing season fueled by a highly committed group of young women who personified passion, desire, and teamwork, which was ultimately capped by an unbelievably gritty and inspired performance in the championship game.

On a broader basis, I am also very proud of the academic record of our student-athletes. Each semester we consistently have nearly 200 student-athletes or more on the Dean’s List with a 3.50 GPA, which is quite an accomplishment. I also take a lot of pride in being able to balance our commitment to gender equity with broad-based success across all of our programs. To maintain proportionately in participative opportunities, while also consistently placing in the Top 10 of the Director’s Cup requires everyone’s cooperation in working together to achieve common goals.


MavBlog: In October of 2007 you had to deal with the death of a young female cross country student-athlete, Caty Delwiche, who tragically passed away after being struck by a car while out on a training run. Can you describe what that was like?

KB: Caty’s passing was the single most difficult thing I have ever dealt with professionally. I remember getting the call from Coach Blue and being overwhelmed by the emotion of the moment, while also struggling with how to provide leadership during this difficult time. I don’t think there is anything that can prepare you for dealing with this kind of tragedy and you can only hope that your best is good enough in trying to determine how to guide others through their pain, suffering, and loss.

It’s amazing the impact that Caty has had on me. Ironically, she was a freshman and being early in the school year, I had not yet had the opportunity to meet her before the accident. And despite the lack of an established personal relationship, she continues to have a profound effect on my life. I think about her often when I pass the memorial site on Warren Street or when I see the commemorative plaque in Highland. Caty Delwiche was quite a remarkable young woman and exemplified all of the best virtues in life. As a parent of two young daughters and as Director of Athletics, I think all you can hope for is the same from your own children and the other student-athletes who will follow in the legacy she leaves behind.

MavBlog: During your time here the department has hosted several regional NCAA events, along with the NCAA Division II wrestling national championship tournament in 2004 and the NCAA Division II indoor track & field championships in 2008. The school is preparing the host the national track & field meet again in March. What's your philosophy regarding hosting these events?

KB: We have been blessed with some truly great facilities and as good stewards of the resources we have been provided, I think that hosting these championship events provides an outstanding platform to not only showcase our programs, but the University and Greater Mankato, as well. Our fans and business partners also invest a lot in our programs and the economic impact of these events also provides an excellent way to acknowledge and give back to all those who help to support Maverick athletics.


MavBlog: What are your hopes for your teams in 2011-12?

KB: As is always the case, you hope for the best in terms of the student-athlete experience. It’s not always about winning and losing, as there are some many valuable “life lessons” that are part of sport, along with the bond that develops amongst players and teammates and ideally those personal relationships extend long after their careers as Maverick student-athletes end. I do, however, think we have some individual programs that have an excellent chance to be very successful and to compete very effectively during the regular season schedule and into the postseason. As a department, we would like to get back into position to win the NSIC All-Sports trophy and return to a Top 10 finish in the Learfield Sports Director’s Cup competition.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

In the News - 2011 Halloween Edition

A few items for you to digest as Oct. 31st approaches.

Longtime Northern State director of athletics and former men's basketball coach Bob Olson has announced that he will retire at the end of the 2011-12 school year.  Olson has spent a total of 37 years in the school located in Aberdeen, S.D.

Minnesota State's football team will play its final regular-season home game of 2011 when it hosts Augustana this Thursday evening at Blakeslee Stadium.  The game will be broadcast live by the CBS College Sports Network and is available on Charter Mankato Channel 412, DirectTV Channel 613, Dish Network channel 152, MediaComm channel 171, Comcast channel 854. Our release regarding the broadcast is located here.  In addition to game action between the Mavericks and the Vikings, the MSU women's soccer program will be the subject of a halftime feature.

Speaking of the Maverick women's soccer program, coach Peter McGahey's crew currently owns a 13-1-2 record and is undefeated in NSIC play with a 10-0-1 mark. Positioned to capture a NSIC title, the Mavericks are also poised to make a run in the NCAA Division II postseason tournament. The NSIC tournament is slated for Nov. 2-6 with NCAA regional action scheduled to get underway Nov. 11.

After posting a tenth-place finish at the regional meet a year ago, longtime men's cross country coach Mark Schuck did a bit of retooling with his program that has paid off in spades this fall.  Led by the insertion of a couple of NCAA Division I transfers into the lineup in juniors Garret Eklof and Joshua Mellman, who both came from Iowa State, and the addition of freshman Josiah Swanson (Fond du Lac, Wis.), MSU captured team titles at St. Olaf and Black Hills State.  The Mavericks, who finished second at the 2011 NSIC meet in Moorhead, Minn., Oct. 22nd, boast a fifth-place regional ranking and are rated 13th in the nation.  The 2011 NCAA DII Central Region Championship meet is scheduled for Nov. 5 in Denver, Colo.  Meet information is located here.

The MSU women's cross country team, which also participates in the NCAA DII Central Region Championship meet Nov. 5 in Denver, Colo., finished fifth at this year's NSIC championship meet and has reason to be optimistic about its future.  The Mavericks had ten individuals post PRs at the league meet with ten of its 12 competitors at the event competing as freshmen or sophomores.

Disconcerting news out of Alabama-Huntsville with the school deciding to discontinue its NCAA Division I men's hockey program at the end of this academic year.  The Chargers, who captured NCAA Division II titles in 1996 and 1998 and made appearances in the NCAA Division I tournament in 2007 and 2010, come to Mankato for a pair of nonconference games with the Mavericks Dec. 9 and 10 in what we will assume will be the last meetings between the two schools. A synopsis regarding the developments at UAH is located here.

And, don't forget that it's Trick or Treat With the Mavericks Sunday, Oct. 30th in Taylor Center, 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. Admission is free and plenty of Minnesota State student-athletes on hand to play games and hand out candy to the kids.

It's great to be a Maverick!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Scars & Victories

As we have written previously, former Minnesota State team captain Chad Brownlee has been making the transition from college hockey and professional hockey player to rising Canadian country music artist.  Two days ago, in Hamilton, Ont., Brownlee was presented with the Rising Star Award at the Canadian Country Music Awards.

Brownlee, who released his self-titled debut album last fall, has had several of his songs shoot up the Canadian country music charts and he's done a couple of videos along the way for songs that appeared on his album - Day After You and Carried Away.

Shane Frederick wrote about Chad's recent success in today's Mankato Free Press (Freddie also highlights David Backes being named captain of the St. Louis Blues in this column) and that is available here.

About a year ago we contributed this to Minnesota Hockey Magazine.  Enjoy.

Guitar Hero - December • 2010

He’s not sure when, but at some point Chad Brownlee realized it was time.  And while it took both of his hands to hold the guitar, it was now the guitar that had a hold of him.

Chad Brownlee was a hockey player and had been one since he was really little.  He was good at it almost from the beginning and quickly rose through the youth hockey ranks in Kelowna, British Columbia.

Soon the junior hockey bird dogs started to take notice and is wasn’t long before he left home as a 17-year old to play for Vernon of the British Columbia Hockey League.  He spent two years with the Vipers and was selected by Vancouver in the sixth round of the of the 2003 National Hockey League draft.  His parents, Al and Laura, had instilled the need for education and when the coaches at Minnesota State offered him a scholarship that would allow him to continue his schooling while preparing for a shot at professional hockey, his career path seemed determined.

Something else was lurking, however.  His parents had given him a guitar when he was 17 and he had an aptitude for music. He liked it and it liked him. Still, there was school and the Canucks were waiting.

A defensive-defenseman, he scored four goals and had seven assists in 135 career games with the Mavericks and his 201 penalty minutes placed him 13th on MSU’s all-time list.  He earned a degree in psychology and, best of all, he met his future bride when he started dating a Maverick women’s golfer from Red Wing, Minn., named Katie Mettling.

Brownlee enjoyed his four years in Mankato, but it was here that the plan began deviate.

He had started to write and play his own songs, playing mostly for the guys on the team. And in his last year with the Mavericks, he wrote an ode in memory of Anthony Ford, a young local youth hockey player who, unfortunately, lost his battle with leukemia at the age of nine. The song, entitled The Hero I See, was part of the reason Chad was nominated for an NCAA hockey humanitarian award.

After graduating from MSU, he went to camp with the Canucks and the guitar was along for the ride.  It was still there with him months later when he was riding the bus as a member of the Idaho Steelheads of the East Coast Hockey League. 

“My shoulders were shot and with my style of play, it made it difficult to do what I wanted to do,” said Brownlee.  “I had lost my identity as a player and at that point it was becoming tough to enjoy the game . It (hockey) had always been the most important thing in my life. But I realized it was time give something else a try.”

The transition from hockey player to country music performer then started in earnest.  Following the end of the season with the Steelheads, Brownlee went back to British Columbia, hoping to break into an industry in which many try, but very few actually make the big time.

“I guess I kind of jumped off the cliff hoping I would land on my feet,”  he said. “I knew I had to play and started going to open mic nights. I didn’t know anyone in the music industry, let alone other musicians and wasn’t sure about the genre. I asked questions and started building relationships. Eventually I was introduced to Mitch Merrett. He had worked in country music for ten years.  Now, in addition to serving as my manager, he’s also my co-writer and lead guitarist.  Meeting him was the key.”

So far, so good.

After a couple of years dedicated to song writing, Brownlee released his first album in August of 2010.  One of the songs from the self-titled album, Hood of My Car, reached number 16 on the Canadian Country Music charts and he was a finalist for the Canadian Country Rising Star Award (top newcomer) at the 2010 Canadian Country Music Awards. At the 2010 B.C. Country Music Awards in October, Brownlee was honored with three awards. He was named male vocalist of the year, songwriter of the year (with Mitch Merrett and Kelly Archer, for Hood of My Car), and the Ray McAuley Horizon Award winner.

And so it continues for the former blueliner. He’s been touring Canada with other acts and the crowds have been getting larger. The album is moving up the Canadian country music charts, he’s made a of video for one of his songs and the future appears to be bright.

“We’re going to continue to write and perform,” said Brownlee about the road ahead. “The next steps happen after you make great music.  We talk about that all the time.  We want to write great songs and want to perform great music.  But the music has to come first.”

Brownlee’s website is located at chadbrownlee.com and his songs are available on iTunes.

It's great to be a Maverick!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

One in the Bank

MSU's Joey Keillor won a NCAA
DII steeplechase championship in
So we're a week into it now with competition officially started for our football, volleyball, soccer and women's golf teams.

And, as pointed out by Scott Nelsen, we're off to a pretty decent start with our programs racking up an impressive 6-1-1 mark.  This includes a 4-0 start by the volleyball crew at a tournament hosted by Alaska-Fairbanks.  Peter McGahey's women's soccer program is 1-0-1 after claiming a 4-1 win over Augustana and earning a 1-1 tie with #1-rated Grand Valley State.  Following those performances, the volleyball team moved up to #12 in the national polls, while the Maverick soccer team made its debut at #21.

Our men's and women's cross country team are set to embark on their 2011 seasons beginning tomorrow (Friday, Sept. 9) with the Oz Memorial at the University of Minnesota's Les Bolstad Golf Course.  This year's team photos and mugs, by the way, have been uploaded at the Maverick men's cross country and women's cross country team roster pages.

The men's golf team will be the last of our fall teams to get going with the first competition for that crew slated for Sept. 11-12 at the Fall Preview taking place at Troy Burne in Hudson, Wis.

And so it continues. Our first home football game is slated for Saturday with Northern State making the trek from Aberdeen, S.D., for a Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference tilt.  The MSU grounds crew had done a tremendous job of preparing iconic Blakeslee Stadium for the home opener. Take a look.

We should also mention that former Minnesota State All-American and national champion Joey Keillor stopped by the office a couple of days ago. Joe, who won a NCAA Division II steeplechase championship in 1995, is being inducted into our Hall of Fame at the end of this month.  He still runs competitively and according to Mark Schuck, is turning in times for the mile in the 4:20 range.  Needless to say, he looks like he could win another national steeple championship if it was held today.  Here's a Q & A on Joe from a couple of years ago - it's provides some great insight on one of MSU's all-time great distance runners - Running Minnesota - Joey Keillor.

Be sure to check out msumavericks.com for all the information on all of our sports.  You can also find additional information on our facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/maverickathletics) and Twitter account (msumavericks).

It's great to be a Maverick!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Jump around

Jim Dilling won four NCAA high jump
titles during his career at Minnesota State
Jim Dilling,  a Minnesota State high jumper who captured the NCAA Division II outdoor title in 2005 and 2007 and indoor national titles in 2006 and 2007, isn't quite done yet.

A five-time All-American during his MSU career, Dilling claimed the USA national outdoor track & field high jump championship in 2007 and competed at the world championships as a member of Team USA that same year.  He's battled through injuries since then, but judging by recent results, finally appears to be healthy again.  The Fon du Lac, Wis., native was in Mankato this past week and stopped by for a chat.

What's being going on in your career since you left MSU in 2007?
JD:  Well, after the 2007 season, where I finished up at MSU and then made the USA world team, I met Cliff Rovelto (head track & field coach at Kansas State and head high jump coach for Team USA) and became friends with Jesse Williams (USC high jumper), who was training with Coach Rovelto. So I moved to Manhattan, Kan., and have been based out of there the last three-four years.  I originally went to train for the 2008 Olympic Trials and stayed.  Around that time I began to deal with some foot injury issues and some issues with my achilles tendon.  I tried to deal with that nonsurgically for about a year, but then I ruptured the bursa sac at the 2009 USA championships and had an MRI where they found a tear. I had surgery in fall of 2009 and another in March of 2010.  So, I basically sat out for 16 months and missed the 2010 USA championships. But I started training again last year, opened with my first meet this past February and had my best opening-height ever (7-4.25) at the Kansas State Wildcat Invite.  Then I placed fifth at indoor nationals and trained for outdoor nationals where I went 7-5.34 - my best result since the 2007 season.

What are you doing now?
JD:  I just got back from Europe after six weeks of competing.  Now we'll go back to Kansas to train for a couple months to train for the Pan Am Games, which take place in Mexico in October (he's a member of Team USA).  After that I'm coming back to MSU work on my master's, to help coach the Mavericks and to train for my last season.

Last season?
JD:  Well, possibly my last season.  The Olympic Trials for 2012 London are in Eugene in July. We'll give it a shot there and see how it goes.

What are your chances?
JD:  We'll see what happens that day.  You have to jump two rounds and you have to finish in the top three at the end. I've met the world standard (7-5 3/5), so that's my goal.

Here's a question.  Cuba's Javier Sotomayor set the high jump world record in 1989 when he became the first to clear 8 feet (in 1993 he upped his record to 8-0.5)  Can anyone approach that these days?
JD:  That's a good question, I don't know.  At his time, Sotomayor was Usain Bolt - someone with freakish talent and way better than anyone else in his event.  Someone who comes along once every century.  You never know, there's a few guys.  Ivan Ukhov has consistently been going 7-9, 7-10 indoors this year.

Eventually, Jim, long-term, what's in store?
JD:  We'll see. I have these short term goals now.  If you recall, I came here originally to play football and ended up high jumping, so you never know what life is going to hand you.  I'd like to take this high-jumping thing as far as I can. 

It's great to be a Maverick.  Be sure to follow us on twitter at @msumavericks.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Gone Fishin'

Minnesota State asst. women's hockey coach Jon Austin
(pictured second from the left) captured the 2011 Fort Frances
Bass Championship title in July.

Minnesotan's aren't just known for hockey or for loving the Vikings and the Twins (or the Mavericks!).  As you may know, they also like to fish.

Several members of the Minnesota State Athletics department are active and experienced outdoorsmen and women.

One such Maverick coach earned the 2011 Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship title, which took place July 17-23 on Rainy Lake in Ontario.

Along with his fishing partner Richard Rud, assistant women's hockey coach Jon Austin finished in a tie for top honors with a three-day total weight of 52.42 pounds.

A short story regarding Jon's victory is located here.  You will note that it's kind of difficult to determine who Jon's main sponsor is as we don't see any ads located on the sweatshirts he's wearing. Congrats to our own Fishin' Magician!

Monday, August 8, 2011

You could have a bumper car, bumping

Jim Dilling
A couple of notes as we move forward through the dog days of August.

Former Minnesota State high jumper Jim Dilling, the 2007 USA Outdoor Track and Field national champion, has battled through injuries the past couple of years, but appears to be healthy and now ready to resume his career at the international level.  A five-time All-American and four-time national champion (two indoor, two outdoor) for the Mavericks,  Dilling finished 12th at the Viersen Internatinionales Hochsprung meet held in Germany Saturday with a 2.18 meter effort (actually tied for fifth, but finished 12th on misses).  Dilling was sixth with a leap of 2.26 (7-5 3/4) at the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships held June 26th in Eugene, Ore.

After moving up from rookie ball Kingsport of the Appalachian League, former MSU righthanded pitcher Bret Mitchell debuted for the Brooklyn Cyclones of the Class A New York-Penn League Sunday.  Mitchell, who had gone 5-1 with a 2.95 ERA and struck out 38 batters in 39.2 innings for Kingsport, went the first 4.2 innings and gave up one earned run and six hits as the Cyclones claimed a 6-4 win over the Staten Island Yankees.  Mitchell played one season for the Mavericks and helped lead MSU to league and regional championships and a spot in the NCAA Division II national tournament before getting drafted in 2010 by the New York Mets in the 12th round (362nd overall).

It's great to be a Maverick!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Not Forgotten - Korey Stringer

Korey Stringer 1974-2001
When it comes to weather, those of us who live in Minnesota are extremely familiar with a couple of "extended stats" numbers other than temperature and wind speed to determine how it feels outside. In the winter it's wind chill which measures the effect of wind on air temperature. Simply put, the windier it is, the colder it feels. In the summer heat index combines heat and humidity. The more the humidity we have, the warmer it feels.

The weather in Mankato today is what you would expect for this time of year.  It's the morning of August 1st and the temperature is heading toward 90 degrees and while the humidity stands at 87%, it's continuing to rise.  The air feels heavy and if you're outside for an extended period of time, without any exertion, you will sweat through your shirt.

It was like this ten years ago and the Vikings were in camp on campus.  Hot and humid with the heat index well into triple digits.

That night, my wife Lori was watching the six o'clock news and said "Hey, Perry (Dyke) just said that they took Korey Stringer to the hospital today."

Stringer was a 27-year old offensive tackle coming off of an All-Pro season. Checking in at 6-4 and 335 pounds, the former Ohio State Buckeye had suffered heat stroke after a full-pads, full-contact practice on a day when the heat index in Mankato was nearly 110 degrees.

I responded to Lori with a casual "No need to worry. Those big guys always struggle with the heat this time of year and one or two of them always end up in the hospital during camp.  They'll pump him full of fluids, cool him down and he'll be back on the field in a day or so." 

It seems so flippant now.

At about 4:00 a.m. the phone rang in our house.  I used to occasionally get calls at that time in the morning from my college buddies.  No so much anymore and in the rare times those calls come now, it's usually not good.  This was one of those times. It was Tom West from the Vikings media relations department. I can't remember his exact words, but he was calling to say that Korey Stringer had passed away and that the Vikings would need some assistance with the media attention the organization was expecting with the developing story.

And, obviously, it was a big story.  Stringer was one of the top young offensive linemen in the National Football League on a team that included high-profile players such as Duante Culpepper, Randy Moss and Cris Carter.  Later that day, the national media descended on Mankato and MSU and at a press conference held in the Centennial Ballroom (the largest room we had available to accommodate the large contingent of journalists), Denny Green, Carter and Moss all gave testimonials to Stringer. It was sad and gut-wrenching and I'll never forget Moss struggling through a tear-filled ten minutes at the podium in trying to convey his sentiments for his fallen teammate.

Things have changed since that day. 

Green and Culpepper are both out of the NFL, reunited with the United Football League's Sacramento Mountain Lions last fall.  Carter is an analyst for ESPN and Moss is a free agent, looking for a team to play for after spending the 2010 season with three different teams, including a short-lived four-game stint with Minnesota. 

Stringer's death brought about major changes to how NFL teams run training camp and, in particular, heat stroke prevention.

"The awareness has became greater, certainly (relative to heat stroke prevention and recognition)." said Jeff Chambers, MSU's director of sports medicine. "It changed our approach. We've became more acutely aware of signs of heat stroke. We were doing a lot before, but now there's much more stress on rehydration, monitoring weight loss, practice duration and timing, etc."
It's ten years today and, hopefully Korey Stringer's passing wasn't in vain with lessons learned and no Viking falling on the Blakeslee Stadium practice fields. 

Post post Note:  About an hour after I posted this, Randy Moss announced that he was retiring.  I also thought I might add these links -  Vikings honor 10th anniversary of Stringer's death & Vikings Remember Stringer.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Where or where.

MSU's Blakeslee Stadium & Highland Complex in 1962
Named for former athletic director and coach C. P. Blakeslee, who spent forty years at MSU (1921-1961), Minnesota State's iconic football field - Blakeslee Stadium - opened in 1962 and undoubtedly harkens back to a different era.

In response to its burgeoning enrollment during the late 1950s-early 1960s, the school was making the transition from its lower campus (Valley Campus) location to upper campus (initially known as Highland Campus).  In addition to the football stadium and spreading over 240 acres, new construction also included Crawford and McElroy dormitories, Wilson Campus School and the physical education complex, which included Highland Arena (renamed later in honor of Bob Otto), the Highland Pool complex and the Field House (later renamed in honor of Bud Myers). The student union and other buildings had yet to be constructed.

It took until the 1970's, but eventually the entire campus shifted to the area atop the hill. Many of the buildings that used to make up the school's campus have been repurposed with Old Main now serving as an independent and assisted living option for choosy seniors and the Searing, Buck and Cooper dormitories now known as Cherry Ridge and Colonial Square apartments.

In the last ten years on the newer campus, change has also been afoot with Otto Arena retrofitted and now serving as the center piece to MSU's excellent campus recreation offerings. Myers Field House was torn down and totally rebuilt. Beautiful Taylor Center came online in 2000, but Blakeslee Stadium remains mainly untouched from its original state.

An earthen berm was added on the south end a few years ago, but the stadium still seats around 6,500 and the cramped press box still crowns the stands on the west side of the field.  The sight lines are unmatched. Unlike many football facilities from this era, Blakeslee was built with out a track so fans get an unusually close up view of the action and the original concessions, bathrooms and ticketing areas give the facility an old-timey feel.  The fields that MSU legends Bernie Maczuga, Jim Leitzke and Bob Bruer patrolled sported real grass, as does the Blakeslee turf of 2011.

So when you take a look at this list trumpeting the Top Six College Football Stadiums in NCAA Division II, remember this.  There's something to be said for character and charm.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Carrying On

Thought we might take a look at this year's National Hockey League Draft, given the fact that it's taking place in St. Paul at Xcel Energy Center.  A place our Mavericks are familiar with having played a trio of WCHA Final Five games there (1999-00 vs. Minnesota and 2002-03 vs. Minnesota and Minnesota-Duluth), along with a regular-season game vs. Minnesota in 2004-05 and again vs. the Golden Gophers in Nov. of 2008 in the WCHA Minnesota College Hockey Showcase.

While no current Mavericks are expected to be selected this year, a total of 12 former and/or current members of the purple and gold have been chosen, beginning with defenseman Tom Anderson when he was picked in the seventh round, 111th overall by the California Golden Seals back in 1974.

A few notables regarding MSU's draft history.  Of the 12 selections, four have played in the NHL (Tim Jackman, David Backes, Travis Morin and Jon Kalinski). Forward Tyler Pitlick owns the distinction as the highest MSU draftee at #31 and in Justin Jokinen, one is a current Maverick. Ten of the draftees were native Minnesotans and two were Canadians (Chad Brownlee and John Kalinski).

SIDEBAR - Brownlee's recently-completed video for his new single Carried Away is available here.

Here's a look at MSU's draft history over the years.


Yrs @ MSU
Drafted By
Tom Anderson*
Eric Burrill*
NY Rangers
Dan Brettschneider*
Tim Jackman
Jake Brenk*
David Backes*
St. Louis
Chad Brownlee*
Travis Morin
Jon Kalinski
Andrew Sackrison*
St. Louis
Justin Jokinen*
Tyler Pitlick

*selected while a member of high school or junior team

Lots of 2011 NHL Draft coverage available here.

Enjoy the weekend. It's great to be a Maverick!