Chalk Talk draws fans

NEW ULM – Those who follow college sports know this for sure – it’s good to be a Minnesota Gophers fan these days.

On Tuesday, 10 University of Minnesota Gophers head coaches made a stop to New Ulm as part of the 2014 Minnesota Gophers Road Trip Chalk Talk. The event took place at Turner Hall.

While a few big-name coaches were on hand, softball coach Jessica Allister was one of the many who enjoyed a big year, including a Big 10 postseason tournament championship and an appearance in the Super Regional Tournament.

Allister joined Director of Athletics Norwood Teague, along with men’s basketball coach Richard Pitino, baseball coach John Anderson, men’s gymnastics coach Mike Burns, rowing coach Wendy Davis, women’s cross country coach Sarah Hopkins, volleyball coach Hugh McCutcheon, women’s gymnastics coach Meg Stephenson and men’s tennis coach Geoff Young.

Athletic and academic success has been something the university has long been proud of. The Gophers won eight Big 10 titles this past year, not to mention the NIT title in men’s basketball to go with second-place finishes in men’s and women’s hockey.

The Gophers’ coaches were in the city known for its baseball history but currently houses two state powers in softball. The city has both New Ulm High School and New Ulm Cathedral competing in Thursday’s State Softball Tournament at Caswell Park in North Mankato, something Allister was well aware of.

She seemed to be enjoying her time with the fans.

“It’s just great to be out and meet people and see the people who supported us and watched us on TV,” Allister said. “There’s a lot of people who are passionate about the sport and there’s a lot of good softball played down here.”

Allister led the Gophers to the Big Ten title this year, the first one since 1999. They also advanced to the Super Regional where they fell to the University of Oregon, ending their season with a 44-12 record.

“It was awesome,” Allister said of the postseason run. “It was great to see just how happy the young women on the team were and it was a good season to come together. We played so well for a long period of time.”

She took over the Gophers program in 2010. Prior to that, she was an assistant at Oregon in 2010, the University of Georgia (2005-06) and Stanford.

Pitino was also on hand after leading his men’s basketball team to the NIT championship. He said Minnesota is in a unique situation when it comes to drawing fans across the state.

“Being the men’s basketball coach for the University of Minnesota is great, because we’re the only Division I program in the entire state, so we have great fan support,” Pitino said. “You want people to really care, and we have that. We have great pride in the university and you feel that support every single day.”

The late run by the Gophers may have caught some by surprise, but Pitino wasn’t one of those.

“I?thought we played our best basketball of the season at the end and we got better,” he said. “March was a fun time for us and to end with a win, that’s huge. Only two teams get to do that, us and [NCAA National Champion] Connecticut. We’re excited for what we did in year one and hopefully we can build off that.”

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