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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Pro Hoops - Margenthaler Era

Travis Nelson, now playing professionally in
the Czech Republic with Pardubice, was an
All-American for Minnesota State in 2009-10
The Minnesota State men's basketball teams have averaged more than 21 wins a season and appeared in the NCAA postseason in eight of the last nine years. 

And with the success that our men's basketball program has had under Matt Margenthaler, in which Minnesota State has racked up 254 wins from 2001 through the end of the 2012-13 season, it's no surprise that many student-athletes are getting opportunities to continue playing following their college careers with the Mavericks.

One former Maverick, Jermaine Brown, who played on Margenthaler's first MSU team in 2001-02, just recently retired after six seasons touring with the Harlem Globetrotters. Jamel Staten, who played for Margenthaler from 2003-05, is still at it, having hooped it up in China and now Bahrain. 

Spread out world-wide, several former players have found employment in Europe. There's a couple currently playing in Slovenia and a two others in Luxembourg.  One in Brazil, one in the Dominican Republic, another in Australia and, yes, one in the U.S.

Thought we might take a quick look at where some of these players have ended up after time well spent in Mankato, both retired and current.

Jermaine Brown (2001-03)  Harlem Globetrotters (retired)
Luke Anderson (2002-07) Dnipro (Ukraine), Minn T'Wolves Summer League, D League (retired)
Tony Thomasson (2003-07) Muenchen (Germany) (retired)
Paris Kyles (2005-07) Stalowa (Poland) (retired)
Jamel Staten (2003-05) Beijing Aoshen (China), Monama (Bahrain)
Corey Easley (2005-06) Perry Lakes (Australia)
Atila Santos (2006-08) Palmeiras (Brazil)
Harry Boyce (2008-09) Santiago (Dominican Republic)
Travis Nelson (2008-10) Sentjur (Slovenia), Pardubice (Czech Republic)
Cameron Hodges (2009-11) Red Miners (Luxembourg), Tajifun (Slovenia)
Jefferson Mason (2009-11) Contern (Luxembourg)
Marcus Hill (2007-11) Texas Fuel (ABA)
Jarvis Williams (2012-13) Black Star Mersch (Luxembourg)

Happy Holidays! It's great to be a Maverick.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Minnesota State Athletics Christmas 2013

Merry Christmas from all of us here at Minnesota State Athletics.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Frenchman

Don Amiot served as MSU's
Director of Athletics from

Not the kind you find in your pocket when you're about to go to bed.

But the kind of change that occurs during the course of a 14-year career as director of athletics and if there's one word that defined Don Amiot's time in that role at Minnesota State which began in 1988 and ended in 2002, it was change.

"If there's one thing I've learned is that change is constant," said Amiot.

Indeed.  During his time in charge of Maverick Athletics, it must have seemed like an everyday occurrence.

When he first came on board the Maverick men's athletic department was separate from the women's and Amiot coupled with Georgene Brock, the women's AD, to run things. When Brock retired in 1999, Amiot oversaw both departments. He was involved with the developent and building of the Mankato Civic Center (now known as Verizon Wireless Center), which opened in 1995. The school added women's soccer in 1996 and women's hockey became a reality in 1998.  The men's hockey program transitioned from NCAA Division III to Division I and was accepted into the Western Collegiate Hockey Association beginning in 1999-2000. Taylor Center came online in 2000 and a new Myers Field House opened the following year.

And while he can't take credit for it, the school that was known as Mankato State became Minnesota State University, Mankato in 1998.

Now, more than ten years removed from the day-to-day running of the department, Amiot says he looks back on his time with great pride.

"We had our challenges, certainly," he said from his Mankato home. "But we worked hard every day to respond to what those were.  We were able to get things done and it's great to see how far things have come since then."

Pointing to the success of several current teams the Crookston, Minn., native feels the Mavericks will continue to ascend.

"Things continue to evolve. With the break up of the North Central Conference and the move to another league in the Northern Sun, unquestionably, that's affected things.  I don't know how anyone can look at the overall success of the programs and say that that's a bad thing.  I watched the football game Saturday online and, while you certainly didn't like to see the game end the way it did, it's incredible to think what those young men have accomplished over the course of the last two seasons.  And they should continue to be one of the top teams in the country the next year and the year after that." 

"The key has always been putting good people in charge of programs.  And the school has done that." said Amiot. " I look at when we hired Matt Margentler to run our men's basketball program in 2001. He hadn't been a head coach at this level, but he brought a tremendous amount of energy and the timing was right.  He's surrounded himself with great people like Mike Schott and it's not a coincidence, especially with Taylor Center, that the men's program is considered one of the best in the country."

Although Amiot and his wife, Jo, still have their home in Mankato, they spend three or four of the winter months at their Arizona residence near Apache Junction. "There's a number of Minnesotans there, including Ron Hybertson (former MSU professor who served as the school's faculty representative during Amiot's career). And we enjoy visiting our grandkids in the Twin Cities and Madison (Wis.)."

It's great to be Maverick!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

See Yah at The Rink

Former MSU forward Bill Techar and
coach Don Brose on the outdoor rink.
The Minnesota State women's hockey team is scheduled to play the University of Minnesota Jan. 17th in an outdoor game played at TCF Bank Stadium. They won't be the first college team from Mankato to have played some outdoor puck.

The photo to the left looks like it's gone through some sort of Instagram process.   Only it hasn't.  This photo doesn't need any filtering to make it look like something from yesteryear.

Because it is from yesteryear.

The player pictured in the photo, Bill Techar, played hockey for Mankato State for the first four years of varsity hockey from 1969-70 to 1972-73. One of MSU's first "great" players, the Hibbing, Minn., native was team Most Valuable Player, team captain and an All-American as a senior.

On Techar's left is Don Brose, who guided the MSU's men's hockey program in its infancy before it was granted varsity status in 1969-70 until the 1999-2000 season, MSU's first year as a member of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.  Brose coached the Mavericks to a 536-335-79 record in 30 seasons behind the bench.

The picture shows Techar and Brose facing north and in the background is Searing Center which served as a MSU student housing community.  This building is still there, but was converted to an apartment building a decade ago and is now known as Cherry Ridge. Techar is wearing leather gloves and tube skates, while Brose looks dapper in his sport coat and horn-rimmed glasses.

The men's hockey program called the outdoor rink, which was located just off of Glenwood Avenue as it winds its way towards downtown, home for the first four years of club hockey and then from 1969-70 through 1973-74 prior to the opening of Mankato's first indoor rink - the Ice Palace (now called All Seasons Arena). The Mavericks still practice at All Seasons, but play their home games in newly-renovated Verizon Wireless Center.  Verizon seats nearly 5,000 fans and is located adjacent to Riverfront Drive in downtown Mankato.

Don Brose stands where the MSU hockey rink used to sit.
Old Main appears in the background as Brose looks southward.
"When I first came here," said Brose, "there were no outdoor rinks in Mankato and we rented an outdoor rink at Gustavus in St. Peter.  Eventually our first outdoor rink was built on what used to be the MSU football field and this was where we practiced and played for the first few years of varsity hockey."

The flat piece of land that must have been ideal for building a rink, is still there, but sits unused.  Immediately to the north looms Old Main, another remnant of an earlier era, which has been repurposed into a retirement community.

No boards. No lights. No scoreboard or stands.

Just memories from an earlier time.

It's great to be a Maverick.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Project

Minnesota State senior quarterback
Jon Wolf is a regional finalist for the
Harlon Hill Trophy, which goes to
the top NCAA DII football player in
the nation
It was announced last week that Minnesota State senior quarterback Jon Wolf is one of seven players in Super Region 3 under consideration to advance to the Harlon Hill Trophy national ballot. The Harlon Hill Trophy honors the NCAA Division II College Football Player of the Year. 

There are four super regions in NCAA DII and the top two players from each super region, based on voting conducted by sports information directors in each region, advance to the national ballot when regional voting concludes on November 22.  The sports information directors vote again on the eight national finalists with the winner of the 2013 award announced at the 28th annual Harlon Hill Trophy Presentation Banquet Friday, December 20.

As one of the top multi-purpose quarterbacks in the nation playing for an undefeated and number-one ranked team in the country, one would think that Wolf would receive a lot of consideration for this award.

The Oak Forest, Ill., native presents an unusual package of size and athleticism.  With 1,047 yards and 13 touchdowns along the ground, statistically Wolf is MSU's top rushing threat. And in the Mavericks' 11 games this year he's completed 63.4 percent of his passes with 104 completions on 164 attempts for 15 touchdowns.  Importantly, he's only thrown one interception and his passing efficiency rating stands at 180.4.

His numbers would be even more impressive if it not for MSU claiming several victories by large margins, which has meant he's not calling the signals for entire games. In the recent win over Upper Iowa, for example, the Mavericks held a 49-0 lead at the end of the first half and eventually won 73-7.  Wolf played the first two quarters during which he ran for 201 yards on ten carries and completed five-of-eight passes for 77 yards. The 201 yards are the most ever by a MSU quarterback.

"Jon has truly been a difference maker on a championship contending team," said head coach Aaron Keen. "His ability to lead the team as our quarterback, to throw the ball and run the ball so effectively against defenses designed to stop him has been remarkable. He's quiet but competitive and a perfectionist when it comes to making plays.  It's been special to see him develop.  He's grown up with us and it's been fun to watch."

Including Wolf, a total of seven Minnesota State players have appeared on the regional Harlon Hill ballot.  A pair of them, quarterback Jamie Pass in 1993 and wide receiver Josh Nelsen in 1994, advanced to the national ballot.  Nelsen finished seventh in the final tabulations.   Pass, not unlike Wolf, was a threat to run and throw and ended up third in the final balloting.  At 6-4 and 230 lbs., Wolf is taller and heavier than Pass and he runs a different offense. Pass threw the ball 490 times in '93 for 30 touchdowns and more than 3,700 yards and racked up 4,261 yards in total offense in 13 games as a senior. Wolf is closing in on 3,000 yards in total offense in 11 games with the play-offs looming.

Any way you slice it, Wolf undoubtedly ranks as not only one of MSU's best, but also amongst the best in the nation.

It's great to be a Maverick.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


Senior Nicole Bennett, a four-year letterwinner with the
Minnesota State women's swim team, has taken full advantage
of her time in Mankato.
A senior captain with the Minnesota State women's swim team, Waukesha, Wis., native Nicole Bennett's four-year career with the Mavericks has run the gamut.

Majoring in sport management and mass media and carrying a 3.40 grade point average, Bennett has taken full advantage of her time in Mankato.  Not only has she done the job in the classroom and with her team.  She's also assisted within the department of athletics during the school year and taken the initiative to find work during the summer that would relate back to her major.

How did you decide to come to MSU?
Bennett: "I had read information online about Maverick swimming and came on an unofficial visit during the summer during Viking training camp.  During that time I met coach Owens and thought that really this might be a place I should consider. After that I started doing some additional research and saw that there was a good sport management program.  I then came back on an official visit and got to meet some of the team members. Basically I verbally committed on that trip.  I had taken a look at some other schools but didn't consider going anywhere else. It was a the type of deal where I wanted to go to a program where I would have a chance to improve and I could see that coming here.  I wanted to go to a program in which I could make a difference and make strides and improvements within the team."

You're in your fourth year with the Mavericks.  Has it gone like you thought it would?
Bennett: "It has flown by and can't believe after my more than a decade of swimming, I will be done in February.  I knew that the longer college season (compared to high school) wasn't going to be an issue for me coming in and it hasn't. I've had a chance to do some things during the summer (in college) that I wasn't doing in high school.  I've been in our distance training group for four years and some one new every year has coached us with different graduate assistants, but they've all been great and I have nothing to say but good things about the coaches we've worked with.  They deserve alot of credit for what we've done here. They've been very relateable and took time out to specify workouts towards me."

Outside of swimming, during your time at MSU, you've been busy. Speak about some of the things you've done during your time in Mankato.
Bennett: "Ever since my freshman year I've taken high course loads.  Typically 16-19 credits, plus summer credits. So basically, for the most part it's been class, studying, practices and competition. With sports management, I've had opportunity to work with the Milwaukee Brewers (summer of 2012) and in 2012-13 worked in MSU Athletics on the development side. I worked with the Northwest Arkansas Naturals (AA affiliate of Kansas City Royals) on a game day internship this past summer, and this school year I've been interning in athletics communications at MSU (relating to mass media and sport management majors). Every year I've done Swim With the Mavericks which consists of two six-week sessions with kids aged two through eight. With that program I've had the opportunity to have met numerous families within the community and that's helped me grow as a person.  I don't take that for granted and it's been lots of fun."

Swimming highlights.
Bennett: "Well, this year's still in the works, but last year I finished in the top eight in all three of my individual events at the mid-season taper meet in Rochester and swam a lifetime best in the 100-yd breast there. Then, I also swam three individual events at the NSIC championship meet and finished tenth at the 400-yd IM.  I was a member of NSIC All-Academic team last year and am pretty proud of that. My sophomore year I placed 10th in 200-yd breaststroke at Minnesota Challenge meet.  And as a freshman I swam at Midwest Collegiate Championships and I finished 7th in 400 IM and 8th in 200 IM."

You're going to going to graduate in the spring. Then what?
Bennett: "I'm still trying to figure that out.  I've worked in pro baseball for two summers and have really liked the experience.  I love the game - I grew up twenty miles away from Miller Park and it was truly a dream come true to work for the Brewers two summers ago. I've had good experiences within intercollegiate athletics, so grad school down the road is a possibility or something else along those lines if that works out. I have some connections at the University of Arkansas as a result of working with the Naturals, but I have nothing set in stone. I think once my swimming career gets done, I'll have some time to sit down and consider some of these things."

What types of memories will you take with you once it's all said and done?
Bennett: "Going from a coed team to a just a women's team following my freshman year was not something that I expected coming here.  But after it happened, and talking with Coach about potentially going somewhere else,  and after looking for a short time, I was reminded of why I came here in the first place. By staying and experiencing change, it was a good lesson.  Change is something that always happens.  It's constant.  And although it wasn't an ideal situation at the time, it made me appreciate what we have. My sophomore year was the year with most change and we're stronger now.  Our coaches have done a good job of recruiting, bringing in people with right attitudes and mindsets.  The team chemistry the past two years is better than my first two years. Late nights, road trips, who was swimming beside me in my lane in practice.   Those are the things I'll remember the most."

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Don't Know What You've Got...

Mike Sullivan had broadcast 504 consecutive Minnesota State
men's hockey games prior the 2013-14 season
Having the opportunity to work with several radio personalities over the years, we can tell you that we are a fortunate bunch here in Mankato.

And this is especially so with the case of Minnesota State Athletics and the folks we work with on that front. 

When I first came to town in the mid-1980's, Casey Lloyd was already firmly ensconced and a veteran of calling Maverick Athletics for more than 15 years.  The average life span of an elephant is 50 years, and with the exception of four or five years along the way when our contract shifted from one entity to another in the mid-1990's, Casey has been along for the ride with our football and men's basketball teams for nearly five decades.  FIVE DECADES!  Most elephants don't live that long.  Casey brings a wealth of knowledge about us that can only come with that breadth of work.  A 1971 MSU graduate and inducted into our Hall of Fame in 1998, you never know when Casey might interject an anecdote from the 1978 men's basketball season or a story about former quarterback Doug Thompson into one of his broadcasts.  His recall is amazing and he can name every good restaurant between here and Des Moines.

Barry "The Bear" Wortel has been working at KTOE since 1973 and over the course of his career has become revered for the work he’s done in providing play-by-play sports coverage for Loyola and East and West High Schools, Barry's career arc extends back to coincide with the careers of Maverick coaching legends such as Rummy Macias, Dean Bowyer, Lori Meyer, Mary Willerscheidt, Dan Runkle, Dan McCarrell and Don Brose. He's interviewed our coaches on his weekly Saturday Benchwarmer Show and the Mankato native also an institution when it comes to providing daily insight during the annual Minnesota Viking training camp. Barry was a member of the 2013 Minnesota State Athletics Hall of Fame induction class.

Dating back to the start of the 2000-01 and not including exhibition games, Mike Sullivan had worked 504 consecutive Minnesota State men's hockey games prior to the start of the 2013-14 season.  During that 13-year span he was the only person to be in the rink for every one of those 504 games.  And in addition to providing play-by-play coverage for Maverick Football up until the start of the men's hockey season, he has also worked a morning shift five days a week at Oldies KXAC 100.5 and during the summer months, called home games for the Northwoods League Mankato Moondogs. Mike's preparedness and passion for his profession undoubtedly make him one of the best in the business.

Mike has yet to call a MSU game this year and on Monday underwent surgery to remove a cyst located near his vocal chords. Following recovery, we're optimistic he'll be back calling Maverick men's hockey games sometime around Christmas.  For those who follow the team, this is good thing.  Because not unlike Casey and Barry, Mike's a pro.  Get well soon, Sully!

It's great to be a Maverick!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

No longer flying under the radar

Senior quarterback Jon Wolf leads #2 Minnesota State into
into Saturday's game at #7 Minnesota Duluth
Is the match-up between our second-ranked Mavericks and undefeated and #7-rated Minnesota Duluth this Saturday the biggest regular-season game in the history of Minnesota State Football?

Certainly a game of this importance this early in the season is unusual on a number of levels.

Minnesota State, which has never been rated higher than third in the American Football Coaches Association poll prior to this year, carries a 13-game Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference winning streak into this weekend.

The Mavericks, who are off to a 2-0 start this year, haven't lost a regular-season game since the end of 2011 season when they dropped a 31-19 decision at, you guessed it, Minnesota Duluth.  Prior to that contest, D2football.com had the Mavericks rated 24th and the Bulldogs tenth.

I've expounded on this before, but in 1993 Minnesota State was rated eighth heading into Homecoming Weekend when #1 North Dakota State visited Mankato.  The underdog Mavericks, who had never beaten the Bison at Blakeslee Stadium, prevailed 28-27 in an exciting come-from-behind victory.  MSU moved into a tie for third in the nation following the win, then dropped to #11 after falling at North Dakota (20-9) the next weekend.

The 1992 campaign saw MSU get off to a 4-0 start and a #7 ranking on Sept. 28 before a 7-0 loss to St. Cloud State dropped the Mavericks to #11.

In 2009 the Mavericks were rated in the top 25 for the entire season, peaking at #4 after winning its first ten games.  MSU lost its 11th game of the year (26-21 at unranked St. Cloud State) before hosting a NCAA play-off game vs. Hillsdale.  The final poll that season had the Mavericks ranked 14th.

Minnesota Duluth has won two national titles in the last five seasons and Minnesota State, which went 13-1 last year and played in the national semi-finals, is no longer flying under the radar.

So, yeah. This is Saturday's game is big. There have been big regular-season games before. Perhaps this one is the biggest.

It's great to be a Maverick.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

What'd You Do This Summer?

Maverick junior Assem Marei played for Eqypt this summer and
will again in 2014 when the Egyptians play in the World Cup
While most college students are taking classes or working during summer vacation, Minnesota State junior forward Assem Marei was playing on the Egyptian national team in the Federal International Basketball Association Africa 2013 tournament in the Ivory Coast.

After going 0-3 in pool play games at the tournament, Marei helped Egypt to a first-round play-off win over Tunisia before a one-point victory Cape Verde placed the team in the tournament semifinals.  The Pharaohs held off Senegal, 70-63, to advance to the tournament finals. The semi-final victory was crucial as it secured a spot in the 2014 FIBA World Cup, which will be in Spain next year.

The Egyptians, who eventually fell to Angola in the tournament championship by a 57-40 margin, returns to the World Cup for the first time since 1994.

The Cairo native was a key factor for the Egyptians in the FIBA quarterfinal win over Sengal hitting nine-of-ten shots en route to scoring 22 points and grabbing 17 rebounds. He finished the seven-game tournament averaging14.6 points and 11.6 rebounds per game at the tournament. His outstanding performance garnered him top-rebounder honors along with a spot on the all-tournament team.

About playing on the national team at just 21 years old Marei said, “It’s a great opportunity and is great to be seen by a lot of clubs.” While some dream of one day representing their country to him it’s a reality. Marei mentioned “It’s an honor playing for your country and having your country’s name on the front of your jersey, qualifying for the World Cup is a dream come true.” 

Although it was important for Egypt to do well in the FIBA Africa tournament, that wasn’t even a thought going into the tournament for Marei who looked at it one game at a time. When asked what his ultimate goal was, he replied, “I’d like to play in the NBA and making the Olympics would be a dream come true.”

Marei, who started all 33 games for MSU in 2012-13 and averaged 13.6 points and a team-leading 7.3 rebounds per game, was named All-Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Second Team in his first year with the program.

Marei’s journey this summer gave him an experience unlike any other for most NCAA Division II student-athletes. Head coach Matt Margenthaler said, “It also gives great exposure internationally and great recognition not only to our basketball program, but to our University.”
      - contributed by Danielle Schugel, Minnesota State athletic communications intern

- 30 - 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Trav Weighs In

Minnesota State ranked 4th in last year's Directors' Cup
standings.  The Mavericks expect similar results this year.
What a difference a year can make. It’s that time of year again, and there is a certain buzz around campus, especially in athletics. The 2012-13 academic year was nothing short of amazing and I was truly fortunate to be a part of such an exciting year.

As my last, first day of school has come and gone I sit here and reflect on my last seven years of schooling, more specifically the last five years that I have worked in college athletics. I received my undergraduate degree from Black Hills State University and worked in the athletic department during its transition from an NAIA school to an NCAA Division II institution prior to attending MSU to pursue master’s degree.

I have seen hundreds of college sporting events around the country and I can say that I’m truly proud to be a Maverick. The support system that MSU has in its athletic department from the top down is incomparable to most other Division II institutions, as is the support staff and athletes themselves. There is something behind the term “Maverick Pride."

It’s the pride in succeeding on and off of the field of competition. Not only did Minnesota State finish fourth in the directors cup standings last year (the award given to the most successful Division II school), but it also had 95 student-athletes honored with the fifth annual Division II Athletic Directors Association Academic Achievement Awards for the 2012-13 school year.

It is for these reasons that there is great anticipation within the greater Mankato area for the 2013-14 athletic seasons.

Here is a snippet of what is to come. The women’s soccer team comes off of a successful year with a deep run in the NCAA tournament and is under the direction of first-year head coach Brian Bahl. The volleyball team qualified for the 2012 conference tournament and returns a very strong defensive backcourt and is looking to improve on some of its highlights from a season ago, which includes defeating the six-time national champion Concordia-St. Paul. Who could forget about the football team, which was one game away from competing for a national title.

MSU hosted 10 home football games last year, there are many schools that don't host 10 home football games in a two year span and wide receiver Adam Thielen is currently battling for a roster spot with the Minnesota Vikings after coming off of a very successful Maverick playing career.

Being a South Dakota native, I have never been exposed to hockey, but that is another great example of Maverick Pride. It was a team that had a new coach, new ideas, new systems and ended up having one of its best years, qualifying for the national tournament where it fell to the fifth-rated team from Miami (Ohio) in a regional tournament game played in Toledo. The success they had on the ice also helped multiple student-athletes get that much closer to their dream of playing professional hockey - notably team captain Eriah Hayes signed with the San Jose Sharks.

So as you can see from the win column from all of the MSU athletic teams, it is great to be a Maverick, but being a Maverick goes far beyond the field of competition, it’s also about being great in the community and the classroom.

I encourage you to continue to support these amazing young adults in all three phases and recognize their achievements on and off of the field.

Travis Langer • Minnesota State Athletic Communications Graduate Assistant

Friday, July 26, 2013

SKOL! Training Camp • Training Camp • Training Camp

The Minnesota Vikings have been coming to Mankato for
summer training camp since 1966.
I'm assuming that for the most part this is the "quiet before the storm" time on most college campuses.

With the Minnesota Vikings arriving this week for the 47th consecutive summer, we really can't say that's the case here at Minnesota State.

Not only does the arrival of the Purple & Gold bring a litany of fans, but also a bevy of Twin Cities and national media.  Several thousand people per day visit Minnesota State and Mankato to attend the daily work outs, which this year are scheduled to run July 26 through August 15.

Some interesting developments regarding the Vikings and this year's camp include the inking of a new three-year deal keeping them coming down 169 the next three years. Given the fact that the Mankato CVB estimates that the annual economic impact of the annual camp runs about $5-million per, obviously, it's kind of a big deal. The last year of the new agreement in 2015 coincides with the 50th year of the relationship and some details about the new contract appear HERE.

Another story line to follow will be how former Minnesota State wide receivers LaMark Brown and Adam Thielen fare as camp attendees.

Brown, who spent one season with the Mavericks after transferring from Kansas State, signed as undrafted free agent with the Atlanta Falcons last year. After getting released on August 31, he was signed by the Buffalo Bills practice squad but was released shortly thereafter. On December 10, 2012, Brown was signed by the Vikings as a practice squad member. The Free Press interviewed Brown at the start of camp and that story is HERE.

Thielen enters his first NFL training camp after a solid college career that saw him finish near the top of several school career receiving categories including finishing second all-time at MSU in receiving yards (2,674), second in receptions (192) and third in touchdown catches (19). Thielen signed with the Vikings after posting a strong showing at the Vikings' Rookie Minicamp held in Eden Prairie, Minn., in May. He's been impressive in a short period of time and a lot has been written about him heading into camp including stories HERE, HERE and HERE.

In the event you do the twitter thing, Brown's twitter handle is @L_Brown87 and you can follow Thielen at @athielen19. Mankato Free Press correspondent Chad Courrier provides daily fodder at @chadcourrier and the Freep's daily blog is located at http://freepresstrainingcamp.blogspot.com/

And in the event you're interested in attending training camp in Mankato, you might want to have a look at the Vikings training camp page prior to coming down and that is located HERE.

Lastly, another former Maverick, lineman Junior Aumavae, is in camp with the New York Jets and he's on twitter at @aumavae_J.

It's always great to see our former players doing well and we wish LaMark, Adam and Junior well the next several weeks.

It's great to be a Maverick!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Watching the Dust Settle

This photo of MSU's Gage Towers is from the 1960s.
It was June 29th, 2013, just over two weeks ago, that Minnesota State's venerable Gage Towers came a tumbling down.

Gage, which served as the on-campus home for more than 50,000 students since opening for business in 1965, stood as one of the most recognizable landmarks in the greater Mankato and Southern Minnesota area.

For those of you who had made the southern trip down Hwy 169 at night, the lights atop Gage served notice that you were getting close to town.

It's likely that if you went to MSU you either lived there at some point or were best buddies with someone who did.  You might have met your wife or husband there.  Your kids might have lived here. You probably remember having pizza delivered there and getting letters from your mailbox there. Former students have mentioned water gun fights, elevator issues, the radio station in B tower, bunk beds, funny hall directors and tossing various items out of windows.

If you needed to give someone on-campus directions, Gage was often used as a reference point.

The implosion didn't take to long and there's plenty of video available online in the event you'd like to have a look including HERE, HERE and HERE.

The Minnesota Vikings, who report for their 2013 summer training camp July 25th, have also used Gage as their residence since selecting Mankato for their preseason workouts back in 1965. And not only will the Vikings' organization have to sleep and eat in unfamiliar digs beginning this summer, but the fans who attend training camp will undoubtedly notice something amiss.

They say it's going to take about 30 days to clean up the rubble, essentially erasing the remaining vestiges of the 135-foot towers that cost $2.57 million to build.

It's going to a lot longer than that to erase the memories.

Requiescat in pace Gage Towers
It's great to be a Maverick!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Still Competing, Still Pursuing

Minnesota State junior Chris Reed capped off the 2012-13 year
with a 13th-place finish in the shot put at the USU Track & Field

by Nick Burns, interim Asst. Director, Minnesota State Athletic Communications


The 2012-13 Minnesota State athletic season will go down as one of the most successful and memorable seasons in the history of MSU athletics. Several teams made trips to the NCAA Tournament, including several athletes made their mark in individual competition.
One such individual was junior Chris Reed (Omaha, Neb.) of the Minnesota State men’s track and field team. Reed would go on to claim four All-American awards this past season, en route to a national championship in the shot put event in the 2013 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships.
Recently, Reed competed in the 2013 USA Track and Field Championships in Des Moines, Iowa, where he finished in 13th place in the shot put event with a heave of 62’ 0.25” against the best completion in the country.
“It was such a high level of competition,” Reed said. “All of the best throwers from the United States were there so it was a great feeling to compete against them.”
More than 800 athletes competed at the 2013 USA Track and Field Championships, with the hope of being selected to compete at the IAAF World Championships in Moscow, Russia.
“Right after I won the national championship I was selected to compete at the USA Track and Field Championships,” Reed said. “It was just a great feeling to compete against and talk with guys that I have only been able to watch on TV.
“Being able to shake Adam Nelson’s hand and talk with him after he received his Olympic gold medal was really cool,” Reed said. “Overall, it was a fun experience and it also showed me that I’ve got more in me and this competition brought it out of me.”
His performance at the USA Track and Field Championships is another feather in the cap of Reed, who has had one of the most successful seasons a Maverick has ever had.
Reed began his year with an All-American honor at the 2013 NCAA Indoor Championships, where he finished second in the shot put. Reed, who was named the NSIC Indoor Field Athlete of the Year, kept his momentum going into the outdoor schedule where he earned the USTFCCCA Central Region Field Athlete of the Year award.
During the 2013 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, Reed would find himself competing in three events including the hammer throw, the discus and the shot put.
Competing in the hammer throw event, Reed set an MSU record with a throw of 194’-8” for a seventh-place finish, en route to becoming the first Maverick to secure an All-American award in the event.
He earned his second All-American honor with a seventh-place finish in the discus with a toss of 175’-5” on the second day of competition, but Reed saved his best performance for last.
On the final day of the NCAA Outdoor Championships, Reed capped off his season with a national championship in the shot put event, shattering the MSU school record with a mark of 65’-7”. He became just the fifth Maverick to win a national championship and the first since Jim Dilling won the high jump event back in 2007. He is the only Maverick to win a national championship in the shot put.
Reed is the first Maverick to claim three All-American honors in the same championship since Moo Muhammad accomplished that feat back in 1989.
Definitely not a bad season, but rather, a season that will be remembered just like MSU’s whole 2012-13 season.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

And That's a Wrap

Minnesota State claimed seven conference titles in 2012-13

The Boys of Summer officially concluded the 2012-13 school year of competition for Minnesota State Athletics last weekend with their second-place finish at the NCAA Division II Baseball Championship tournament.

What a run for head coach Matt Magers and the Mavericks as they rolled to a Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference tournament title and captured the NCAA DII Central Region tournament championship en route to a 42-9 record. Magers, who owns a 215-66 record in his five seasons at the helm for the Mavericks, was named National Coach of the Year by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association.  Senior right-handed pitcher Harvey Martin was named National Pitcher of the Year by the NCBWA, Daktronics and the American Baseball Coaches Association. Like Martin, junior pitcher Jason Hoppe was named an All American (Hoppe by the NCBWA, Martin by the other three organizations already mentioned). Hoppe also established a NCAA record for consecutive scoreless innings pitched at an incredible 55.1. Senior catcher Ben Keller, an Academic All-American, earned his second career Elite 89 Award, which goes to the student-athlete with the highest grade point average at NCAA championship events for their sport.

Today we announced that senior tennis player Brandi Dohmen has been named an Academic All-American. In doing so she becomes the eighth Minnesota State student-athlete to accomplish the feat this year. Since we began keeping track of such things, the most Academic All-Americans we've ever had in a season was four in 2004-05.

Back in December I did a blog post relative to the start of the year because it was a great beginning for our teams with football finishing third in the country, women's soccer claiming a NCAA regional crown and men's cross country placing 20th.

The success achieved in the fall continued on into the winter with men's hockey making the national tourney for the first time in ten seasons, men's basketball won the NSIC regular-season and post-season titles and hosted the regional tournament, women's basketball advanced to the NCAA regional tournament for the second consecutive year, men's indoor track won the NSIC title and placed fifth at NCAAs and wrestling placed eighth at the NCAA tournament.

And then onto the spring where the softball team claimed the NSIC title and hosted the NCAA subregional and men's track and field won the NSIC title and finished 12th at the NCAA championship meet. Baseball finished things up by playing in the national championship game June 1.

We'll wait until NACDA's announcement comes out, but it's expected that we'll have a top-five finish in the Directors' Cup final standings.  Not bad considering that there are more than 300 schools at the DII level and a healthy improvement on last year's 21st-place finish.

It should also be pointed out that it was a banner year academically with the aforementioned eight Academic All-Americans, six Myles Brand Award recipients (NSIC Award for student-athletes with cumulative 3.75 or better GPA), nine WCHA Scholar-Athletes (SAs with at least 3.50 GPA), 195 student-athletes named academic all-conference and 57 Maverick Achievement Award recipients (senior scholar-athletes).

By any measure, a tremendous year for Minnesota State Athletics.

Only 61 days until the first day our football team can officially start practicing!

It's great to be a Maverick.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Tradition - We Wear Our Hats Backwards

The Mavericks celebrate their 2013 NCAA DII Baseball
Central Region Championshp
Many college sports teams have certain things that they do that are considered traditions to their programs.

Certainly many of the most famous ones come from large football programs such as Ohio State's Dotting the i. Texas A&M has Midnight Yell and its 12th Man. Auburn has War Eagle, Colorado runs out its buffalo mascot Ralphie and Clemson football players touch Howard's Rock before each game.

Big-time college basketball does it as well.  Fans sing Rocky Top at Tennessee and there's the Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk chant at Kansas.

Small schools do it, too. Taylor University does Silent Night, in which students remain silent until the men's basketball team scores its 10th point, at which point they go completely crazy. A youtube video from Taylor's game in 2012 has nearly 1.8 million views.

The traditions at Minnesota State aren't quite as famous, but the Mavericks do have a few of their own. Ours are a little more subtle.

A few years back a Victory Bell was installed in the northwest end of Blakeslee Stadium and following each home win the Mavericks all take a turn doing their Quasimodo impression. We sing "Ole" following our goals at Verizon Wireless Center and the team does a stick salute to fans following the conclusion of each home series.  And while I can't name them all, our softball team has its own list of songs and chants that have evolved over the years.

One of the things our baseball team has done over the years is only done following championships.  I don't think it's something the Mavericks talk about. Just something that has been organic in that it was silly and it happened once and they just started doing it again because it happened again the next year.  And the next.  And the next.  This would be the "we wear our hats backwards after winning another title" tradition.

Not cocky.  Just something our guys do. Alot. One of my favorite traditions.

It's great to be a Maverick.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Random Thoughts: Walking on Sunshine

Nope.  Not another thought or post regarding weather-related issues our spring sports have battled in 2012-13.

Instead, a bevy of items for your perusal.

Senior tennis stand-out Brandi Dohmen was presented with
this year's Georgene Brock Award as Minnesota State's top
senior female student-athlete. Pictured with Dohmen is Bob
of Federated Insurance (MAA corporate partner)
and Kevin Buisman, MSU's Director of Athletics.
The 27th annual Maverick Achievement Awards Dinner took place last Sunday in the CSU Ballroom.  In addition to recognizing this year's 58 Maverick Achievement Award recipients (senior student-athletes with cumulative GPAs of 3.0+), awards for the top senior athletes and top senior student-athletes were announced and presented. Over 900 student-athletes have been recognized as Maverick Achievement Award recipients since the program was inaugurated in 1987. Tennis stand-out Brandi Dohmen, who has a 3.98 GPA and is majoring in spanish took home the Georgene Brock Award as the top senior female student-athlete and baseball catcher Ben Keller (4.00 in mechanical engineering) won the Don Buchanan Award as the top senior male student-athlete.

We had a tremendous turn out for the annual spring football game held this past Saturday at historic Blakeslee Stadium. We've also announced the 2013 schedule, which by the way, is just 129 days away from starting.

Following the conclusion of the 2012-13 season, Minnesota State men's hockey Most Valuable Player Eriah Hayes signed a pro contract with the National Hockey League's San Jose Sharks.  The Sharks assigned Hayes to their American Hockey League affiliate in Worcester (Mass.), where he tallied three goals and had an assist in seven games.  With Worcester's season now done and following a short stopover in Mankato, Hayes headed to San Jose where, according to one of the Sharks' PR-dudes "Eriah is on his initial trip to San Jose. He isn't eligible to play, but he will able to get a feel for the organization and the area."

The 19th-rated MSU softball team, which earned a share of this year's Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference regular-season title, begins league postseason play Thursday in Rochester when it plays the winner of St. Cloud State and Mary at 1:30 p.m.  Editor's note - sorry, this is the one time we'll mention weather-related issues - (from the NSIC): "NSIC officials have decided to move the 2013 NSIC Softball Tournament indoors due to the poor weather forecasted in Rochester, Minn.  The games will be moved into the Rochester Community and Technical College Dome for all of Thursday and Friday’s games." 

Currently rated tenth, the Maverick Baseball team has concluded league regular-season action and will close out its regular-season schedule with a trio of nonconference games at Truman State in Kirksville, Mo., this weekend. The Mavericks are 31-8 overall and will finish second in NSIC regular-season standings with a 20-4 mark. The league postseason tournament is set for May 8-11 in St. Cloud.  Head coach Matt Magers reached the 200-win plateau April 27th when MSU claimed a 15-7 victory at Wayne State (Neb.). Magers, who is in his fifth season in charge of the Mavericks, started his career with a 38-win season in 2009. Then came 44 wins in 2010, 40 wins in 2011 and then 51 wins last year.

A short list of some of the great names of former MSU student-athletes.  Some of the favorites include:  Kevin Welp (baseball), Adrian Battles (football), Kreg Kapitan (football), Elisha McSweeney (basketball), Fritz Polka (baseball), Sarah Schneekloth (women's hockey), Heidi Schnagl (volleyball), Katija Opitz (women's soccer), Randi Warhol (women's soccer), Shelly LaFave (softball), Ronna Puck (softball), Brian Klinkhammer (men's hockey) and Baylor Dieter (men's hockey).

The Maverick men's golf team had a string of consecutive trips to the NCAA postseason come to an end at 11 when it failed to qualify for this year's go-round.  MSU, which finished second at this year's NSIC tournament, had qualified every year beginning in 2001-02 through 2011-12.  MSU senior Greg Werner was invited to this year's regional tournament which is scheduled for May 6-8 in Kenosha, Wis.

Lastly, the MSU Reporter ran a commemorative issue this past Tuesday with an eight-page insert highlighting the 35-year coaching career of Mark Schuck.  Schuck, who is retiring following the end of this year's track and field season, is a Nicollet, Minn., native who went to school here and basically never left.  A couple of the stories in the insert mentioned a few of Mark's trademark sayings including:

"Eighty percent of success in life is just showing up. Ten percent is staying awake and the last ten percent is putting forth at least a little bit of effort."

"Can we get a discount? We're from a poor Christian school in Minnesota." (to all the restaurant owners on road trips)

"Just do what you did to get to nationals and you'll be an All-American." (words of wisdom to athletes at national competitions)

"The hay is in the barn."

"You can't undo 18 years of bad parenting."

"You don't get anything for losing."

"You've got to be good, and a little bit lucky, but mostly, I don't know...it's magic, I guess." (on convincing outstanding student-athletes to come to MSU)

Quite the character that Coach Schuck.

It's great to be a Maverick!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Have Wheels, Will Travel (providing you have a playable field)

Minnesota State "hosted" MSU-Moorhead April 7th
at Gustavus. The Mavericks have yet to play a game in Mankato.
As the Minnesota State baseball and softball teams try to stay hot in conference play, they are also spending their whole season trying to stay warm in their dugouts.

Due to the “normal” spring weather that Minnesota has provided, both squads are scrambling just get as many games in as they can.

According to MSU baseball head coach Matt Magers the team doesn’t expect they will be playing where their schedule says anymore. After getting 14 games in the Metrodome and eight games down in Florida in March, the squad has only played on their own field for four games.
Back near the end of March, the Mavericks had a four-game conference series slated with Northern State, but both teams didn’t have a playable field. The Mavericks and the Wolves ended up driving to Rapid City, S. D., home of junior outfielder Parker Sullivan, to get those games in.

A week later the team found themselves in the same situation as the University of Mary didn’t have a playable field so they drove an hour and a half west of Bismark, N.D., to Dickinson, N.D., for the doubleheader.

Mapquest tells us that the Mavericks drove more than 2,100 miles to get those six games in.

On April 14-15, the Mavericks had to go south to Sioux City, Iowa for their four games against Southwest Minnesota State.

 “It can take a toll on the body, sitting there for so many hours, but we just want to get out and play. We will drive that distance just to get some games in,” said utility infielder Lucas Skjefte.

Senior catcher Ben Keller has accepted all the challenges they have faced this season with the traveling and they just have to roll with it.

“It’s nothing like playing at home, but we deal with it,” Keller said. “It’s baseball and we are young guys.”

The softball team has found themselves in a similar situation, but the team has been fortunate enough to use sports domes to get its games in. The Mavericks have played four games in Rochester, Minn., at the RCTC Dome, six games at the sports dome in Savage, Minn., and they traveled to Saint Peter, Minn., to use Gustavus’s turf football field for games vs. Northern State and MSU-Moorhead, respectively.
Softball head coach Lori Meyer has been through this before in her 28 seasons here and it’s just something the team needs to work through.

“We’ve had other difficult springs, but I think it’s much more glaring this year because the last couple of years we haven’t had that many (cancellations) and again with the expanded schedule and travel this one has been a challenge,” said Meyer.

The overall atmosphere going through the two squads is frustration, especially for the softball team as they haven’t even had a home game at MSU so far this season and we're nearing the end of April.

“We are just really frustrated at this point and we just want to be able to play outside. I couldn’t imagine being a senior and not being able to have a home game in your last season,” said junior infielder Lindsay Erickson.

To look at it in a positive way, both teams are having the most luck getting games in in the NSIC. The baseball team has put in 18 conference games in the books and that is the most in the conference, compared to teams like Minot State who has only played eight.

“We think it’s pretty bad here, but it’s worse somewhere else and that’s the case with some teams in our conference haven’t played a home game yet and they might not this year,” Magers said.

Even though this isn’t what the teams has signed up for, some of the players have embraced all of the driving and traveling as they enjoy the time they have with their teammates.

“Some of the best times we have are on the bus rides, 10 hours out to Bismark or out to Rapid City. We have a lot of fun on the bus and kind of enjoy that,” Skjefte said.

                                                                                      - Joey Denton, intern, Athletic Communications



Sunday, April 7, 2013

Behind the Scenes: Dan Rickbeil

Dan Rickbeil is in his seventh year as Minnesota State equipment manager

For Minnesota State Athletics, game days start early and end late for Dan Rickbeil and his staff.

Making sure that everyone looks good and and everything's working properly is a full-time job for the Maverick equipment manager and and his army of student workers. Getting prepared for a home game takes a lot of time and effort from the equipment room and the Worthington, Minn., native does his job with equal parts elbow grease, comedic give-and-take and mechanical know how.

MavBlog took a few moments to do a Q & A with one of MSU's most integral pieces to the puzzle.

Please tell us a little about your background. Where did you grow up, where'd you go to school, what sports did you play, etc.
Rickbeil says: "I grew up and graduated high school in Worthington, Minn. I played hockey, football, golf, and also did a lot of waterskiing and downhill skiing. I went to college here at MSU."

Tell us about your family.
Rickbeil says: "
I have been married to my beautiful wife Angie for almost eight years. We have three amazing children - Eliana is five and ready for kindergarten, Claira is three and loving preschool and Kian is 1½ and loves playing with and teasing his big sisters. I also have three brothers and three sisters. My younger sister, Anne, played hockey here at MSU.

What did you do prior to becoming the Head Equipment Manager at Minnesota State?
Rickbeil says: "
I was a golf course superintendent at Red Lodge Mountain Resort in beautiful Red Lodge, Montana."

In general, what does your job entail?
Rickbeil says:  "
Ordering, issuing, fitting, inventorying, repairing and laundering equipment and uniforms. Setting up fields, courts and locker rooms for game day.  It’s not equipment management, it’s preparing athletes to succeed."

What's the best part of your job?
Rickbeil says: "W
orking with great people and helping athletes succeed."

What's the worst part of your job?
Rickbeil says: "P
oor communication and last minute “EMERGENCIES”.

Do you think there's any misconceptions about being an equipment manager?

Rickbeil says:  "S
ome think that all I do is laundry, they don’t see or appreciate the behind the scenes things or long hours. I have heard a coach in the past say that I work a “thankless job.” The only time it is thankless is when people don’t see or appreciate what we do. Slowly, I think that more and more actually understand what I do and they would have to do if we did not have an equipment manager. Though there are many that do understand and appreciate all that we do and the time that we put in."

Who's got the biggest feet in the athletic department?
Rickbeil says: "
Staff: Chris Brunkhorst, Strength & Conditioning Size 15
Athlete: Michael Bernarde, Football size 17."

Any funny stories about requests from coaches or student athletes?

Rickbeil says: "
Steve Robinson, one of our football players, tried to tell me on a Saturday morning in Duluth that someone got under the bus and stole his helmet. He had me going until he came back and said they took his pants too. Figured out pretty quick then that he had forgotten them in his locker back at home."

Any tips on getting a grass stain out of a pair of baseball pants?

Rickbeil says:
"Right water temp and right chemicals. Don’t dry it until the stain is out."

If someone wanted to be an equipment manager, what advice would you give them?

Rickbeil says: "G
et involved early and be ready to work extremely long and odd hours."
Thanks Dan!  It's great to be a Maverick!

Friday, March 22, 2013


Minnesota State has had varsity men's hockey since the 1969-70 season and has had NCAA Division I hockey since 1996-97.
And during the course of its Division I-era, we can point to one MSU team that has made it to the NCAA postseason tournament.  This team, as we talk about quite often, was the team from 2002-03.  That year was memorable for many reasons. 
The Mavericks of a decade ago finished with a 20-11-10 mark and ranked second in the final Western Collegiate Hockey Association standings with a 15-6-7 record.  At one point MSU went unbeaten in a school-record 17 straight games. A pair of dynamic forwards from Alberta combined for 128 points and earned All-America honors in Shane Joseph (29 goals, 36 assists for 65 points) and Grant Stevenson (27 goals, 36 assists for 63 points). Captain B.J. Abel, who was named the team's Most Valuable Player at the end of the year, totalled 12-24--36 and four other forwards hit double digits for goals in Cole Bassett (14), Brock Becker (14), Adam Gerlach (13) and Dana Sorenson (12). The MSU blueline corps was solid with veterans Joe Bourne and Pete Runkle anchoring a heady and steady group. And early on the coaching staff, which consisted of head coach Troy Jutting along with assistants Darren Blue and Eric Means, found a goaltending formula that saw Jon Volp play one game one night and Jason Jensen the next. 
A nonconference home win and road tie with Nebraska Omaha set up a home WCHA first-round best-of-three play-off series in Mankato with the University of Wisconsin.  The Mavericks won the first game 2-1 before Stevenson's goal at 1:21 of the second overtime period sent the Badgers packing in game two.
MSU fell in overtime to the University of Minnesota in the first game of the WCHA Final Five, then dropped a 6-4 decision to Minnesota Duluth in the third-place game the following day.  The Mavericks made the 2002-03 tournament as the 16th seed and headed for the East regional in Providence, R.I., for a first-round game against top-seeded Cornell where, led by future National Hockey League stand-outs Matt Moulson and Doug Murray, the Big Red overcame the Mavericks 5-2.
A lot of this sounds familiar, in a Back to the Future-kind of way.
For example, the long unbeaten streak.  This year's squad, led by first-year head coach Mike Hastings, got off to a pedestrian 3-5-2 start before reeling off a seven-game winning streak. Skill? A trio of forwards in sophomores Matt Leitner (17-30--47) and Jean-Paul Lafontaine (9-26--35) and senior Eriah Hayes (20-16--35) stand atop a scoring chart that boasts an offense that includes a nation-leading 44 power play goals. Secondary scoring abounds with another 11 players in double-digit scoring after the top three. The defensive group has a pair of point producers in Zach Palmquist and Josh Nelson and rangy shut-down types such as Tyler Elbrecht and Brett Stern. And goaltending-wise, the parallel between this year and back then has been that freshman Stephon Williams, the 2012-13 WCHA Goaltending Champion and WCHA Rookie of the Year, has been, not unlike the Volp-Jensen combo of yesteryear, consistently good. All this has led to an unprecented season with a record 24 wins and new heights in the national rankings. 
It took three games for the Mavericks to dispatch Nebraska Omaha in a league play-off series played in Mankato in the middle of March. And not unlike 2002-03, the 2012-13 version bowed out in its first game of the WCHA tournament, this time with a loss to the University of Wisconsin. 
This weekend the Mavericks will find out where they go for NCAA Regional action. And while there's a sense that there are similarities between this year's team and the one which made the program's first appearance in the NCAA postseason party, this will also signify an opportunity for the guys from the school in southern Minnesota to create a new identity for their hockey program.
Can't wait to see how this turns out.
It's great to be a Maverick!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

From Thundar to Stomper: Examining Division II Athletic Excellence

As a native of West Fargo, N.D., I grew up a fan of North Dakota State University, who along with MSU was a long-time member of the North Central Conference.

Although my parents are alumni of the University of North Dakota and still bleed green and white to this day, my contradicting allegiance to the Bison began when I was only a toddler.  My aunt ran sprints as a member of the NDSU track team and also served as my babysitter during her four years as a student-athlete in Fargo.  Her and her friends took me to countless Bison athletic events over the years and had me hooked, but it wasn't until I grew older that I began to truly appreciate the success NDSU athletics has had and continues to experience.

As my fifth year as a student at Minnesota State draws to an end, I am finding more and more similarities between the former NCAA Division II powerhouse I grew up cheering for and the emerging NCAA Division II powerhouse I call my alma mater.  In my opinion, to be considered a powerhouse an institution must have a majority of its programs finish consistently at or near the top of its respective conference standings in addition to achieving some degree of success at the regional and national level.

North Dakota State's football, volleyball, basketball (M&W), wrestling, softball and track and field programs (M&W) were often considered the class of the North Central Conference and have the conference and national championship banners to prove it. When I look at Minnesota State, I believe MSU has quickly established itself as the class of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference and is on the brink of being recognized nationally as an NCAA Division II powerhouse as the championship banners begin to pile up in Taylor Center and Myers Field House.

MSU's Division II team sports have collected four NSIC regular-season titles (soccer, football, men's basketball, men's indoor track and field) and two second-place finishes (wrestling and women's basketball) plus an NSIC tournament championship (men's basketball) in the 11 conference sports that have been decided thus far and have a combined 109-25-5 record (.802) in 2012-13.  The Maverick baseball and softball teams were both selected No. 1 in their NSIC preseason coaches polls and the men's outdoor track and field squad is also the pre-season conference favorite. Individually, 17 different Maverick student-athletes have garnered a total of 21 All-American awards this year for both academic and athletic success.

Did I forget to mention that the DI men's hockey team is No. 10 in the country and after securing home ice for the WCHA playoffs is well on its way to a berth in the WCHA Final Five and NCAA national tournament?

While Minnesota State is three years removed from its last national championship (women's basketball 2008-09), five programs have finished in the top eight nationally the past three seasons with the Maverick baseball team earning two of them (7th in 2010, 3rd in 2012).

Although some people around Mankato and the Upper Midwest may believe MSU is far from a national powerhouse given its history in the NCC, its performance at the national level is beginning to show otherwise. Of the all the sports at MSU that are ranked at the national level, only the women's swimming and diving and women's tennis teams have yet to crack the top-25 this year.

Since the collapse of the NCC, the Bison have won back-to-back NCAA Division I FCS national championships and along with former NCC-member and bitter rival South Dakota State, have combined for three appearances in the NCAA Division I "Big Dance" in just five seasons.

Minnesota State has filled the void left by schools like NDSU, SDSU and UND and if it can continue the athletic excellence it has achieved the past five years into the next five years... who wouldn't call it a powerhouse?

by Lucas Steckler, Minnesota State Athletic Communications graduate assistant