Saturday, December 29, 2007

More Barn Talk

Taking some air out of Tubby Smith's honeymoon in Minnesota is his still mostly unexplained comment in the New York Times suggesting the Gophers should eventually abandon Williams Arena.

On his show on the Big Ten Network--which I watched last night, not sure when it first aired--Tubby took another shot at The Barn. He was asked a simple question: Compare Kentucky's Rupp Arena to Minnesota's beloved Williams Arena. This question came after the program did a all-access look at the arena from the posh lounges to the roof. Tubby's answer?

He smiled for a second and then said the main difference is that of capacity. Rupp Arena can hold about 23,500 crazed basketball fans. The University of Minnesota spent $2.3 million to add "barn lofts" in 1997 which brought the capacity of The Barn to 14,625. What I didn't konw until recently is that from 1950 to 1971, Williams Arena had the largest capacity of any collegiate basketball arena in the country. The current capacity puts the Gophers in the ballpark of our Big Ten foes, though in the bottom third. Ohio State's Value City Arena has the largest capacity in the conference, according to Wiki, at 19,500. Indiana's Assembly Hall and Wisconsin's Kohl Center have the second and third largest capacities in the conference.

The only three Big Ten schools with smarller capacities than Minnesota's are Northwestern (8,117), Purdue (14,123) and Michigan (13,751).

I'm sure these numbers will do little to calm some who are up in arms about Tubby's suggestion that The Barn might not have long-term staying power. Jon Marthaler at The National Anthem Before A Cubs Game picked up on the stadium issue in a post yesterday. Here's part of what he wrote: "I love Tubby, but I would support the firing of any and all Gopher coaches, administrators, or faculty members if they want to get rid of the Barn"

I couldn't disagree more with Jon. First, I'm glad Tubby is speaking his mind. Joel Maturi and Robert Bruininks didn't make him the highest paid University of Minnesota employee to simply nurture young kids on the basketball court. No, hiring Tubby Smith was a money-making proposition. If he can turn the men's basketball program into a perennial power, the University coffers will grow. And that will benefit the basketball program an other non-revenue generating sports.

What Tubby said in the New York Times was "sooner or later" the Gophers will have to move out of Williams Arena. Once the powerhouses in the Big Ten start building 25,000-seat, Rupp-like arenas, our Barn will be outmatched and put the Gophers at a financial disadvantage, no matter how much everyone likes to wax nostalgic about the place. Replacing Williams Arena shouldn't be a top priority for whatever facilities commision makes these decisions, other projects are more dire. But talk of upgrading our basketball facility shouldn't be brushed under the rug as heresy either.

Sooner or later, Tubby is right. We can whine about it and tell him to stop speaking his mind or we'll fire him .... or we can listen to what he has to say. Perhaps at the end of the day a compromise will be found. But make no mistake, Tubby didn't bring this up on accident.


Friend Of Tubby said...

Wrigley Field. Fenway Park. May they never be replaced.

I like The Barn. I hope it stays for a long time. I wish UK still played in Memorial Coliseum instead of Rupp Arena.

Raise the price, not raze the building.

alex said...

Excellent post. As sad as it is to say, I definitely agree with you that we'll eventually have to replace the Barn with something that can hold more fans. Right now, only one sport at the University (hockey) makes money for the school, and thats something thats going to have to change, whether we like it or not.

alex said...

Oh, and Wrigley should be replaced sooner rather than later. The history is great, but the stadium itself is falling apart and is becoming a safety risk. Sure, it's nice having its historical presence, but is it worth keeping around if its just going to fall apart?

From The Barn said...

Clearly Tyubby hasn't been around Minnesota long enough.

We don't like transplants, regardless of how well they coach.

We don't like outsiders telling us what to do.

We won't tear down the only good stadium (excluding the Xcel Center of course) that we have had for the last 25 years.

Next thing you know he will start complaining about how passive aggressive we all are.

And why build a 25,000 seat stadium when we have a hard time getting 15,000 to show up. This isn't and never will be Kentucky, thank god.

PJS said...

Thanks, Alex.

From the Barn, you're souding awfully like the Kentucky fans Friend of Tubby argues with. "We don't like transplants, regardless of how well they coach." Um, we like Don Lucia's national titles. We liked Clem Haskins' success until he decided to cheat.

I'm not sure what is so wrong with all outside talent and perspective.

Jonathan Foster said...

I'm talking about Minnesota stereotypes in general (you may have forgotten how Minnesotans act). The passive agressive comment should have made that obvious. Show me a Minnesotan who isn't at wary of outsiders at some level, and I'll show you a first generation Minnesota (or perhaps a non-scandanavian). Of course we will embrace Tubby (and already have. I'm having a hard time keeping my expecations in check) like we embraced Clem, but not like we would have embraced Flip Saunders.

My point is, until Tubby has coached for a few years, won a conference title or two, and proven that the barn is obsolete (either because there is such a high demand for tickets or because it is determined to be structurally deficient) he shouldn't even be whispering about tearing down such a land mark. We already lost the Metropolitan Building ( Losing The Barn would be worst. Besides, I don't want to change my website to

You can't even abreviate that!

lonebadger said...

Now there's a candidate for post of the year. Just in time too!

PJS said...

LOL, FTB. You can abbreviate anything!

Mark said...

I agree with FoT, there's room for raising ticket prices before any talk of replacing The Barn. I know I would pay more for my season tickets if that's what it takes.

Besides, the baseball team is next in line after the football stadium gets done.

PJS said...

Completely agreed, Mark, that the baseball team is next in line after the football stadium. I just don't want everyone to write off the suggestion of, at some point, replacing the Barn. Heck, maybe even a new Williams Arena, replete with the raised floor, could be incorporated.

Jon Marthaler said...

Sir - I'm fine with renovating the Barn, and I think it'll be a surprising day when 14,000+ is too small of an arena to compete in any conference.

Here's the things I love about the Barn, that I would like to keep:
1. The raised floor, which as far as I know is unique.
2. The atmosphere in the Barn when it gets rocking for a big game.

It's hard to quantify the exact factors that go into #2 - is it the design of the building that makes it loud and crazy on game nights? Could that even be replicated these days?

I realize that Williams Arena is cramped, obstructed, and in many places uncomfortable and bargain-basement. But I think we'll regret it down the line if we replace it in the name of "competitiveness."

As far as Coach Smith, I may have overstated my case. I'm glad he's speaking his mind, and I'm certain he has a far better sense of what it takes to compete in college basketball. But the thing he doesn't have is a sense of Gopher tradition, of which Williams Arena is a big part (remember, the Barn is one of the few remaining links to the "glory days" of Gopher athletics.)

What concerns me - and what caused my post - is that Tubby doesn't seem to care about Gopher tradition, either. It makes me very nervous.

PJS said...

Jon, No reason to call me sir :-)

Of all the stadiums I've been in for big games, only one has been a better atmosphere in the Barn--and that was Fenway during a penant chase against the Yanks. Chants of "Jeter's Gay," were quite memorable!

You might be right that it might be some time off (or never happen) that a 14k-plus seat arena renders a program non-competitive. But I imagine people like Tubby have a better grasp on this than I do.

I don't think Tubby's comments were made without a sense of Minnesota basketball history. I think he knew he was going to rattle a hornet's nest with his comments, calling it "sacreligious." So, if he is right, and eventually we need to have this conversation seriously, it's good that we are starting now.

GustieGopher said...

You're really off on this PJS. Don't have much more to add than the others.