From the 9-0 start of the Gophers football season, to Minneapolis hosting the Final Four basketball tournament, to Lindsey Vonn’s retirement, here are the biggest Minnesota sports stories from 2019.
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Minnesota Hosts Final Four Basketball Tournament
Minneapolis played host to 2019’s March Madness. During the week, a giant ferris wheel was erected on Nicollet Mall and hundreds of thousands of fans traveled to the Twin Cities to be at the games. Katy Perry, The Chainsmokers and the Jonas Brothers performed ahead of the games as part of the March Madness Music Series. Ultimately, the Virginia Hoosiers left with the championship trophy. Read more about the event by the numbers.
Ryan Saunders Named Head Coach Of Timberwolves
33-year-old Ryan Saunders, the son of late Timberwolves head coach Flip Saunders, was named the new head coach of the Timberwolves after coach Tom Thibodeau was fired. Saunders had been the team’s interim head coach since January. Look back at the details of the move here.
Gophers Football Team Dominates Competition
The Gophers football team had it’s best season in ages, beginning their 2019 campaign with a 9-0 record and a ranking of eighth in the nation. The climax of the season came in a home win over fifth ranked Penn State, when fans stormed the field after the game. It was just head coach P.J. Fleck’s third year on the job. On New Year’s Day, the team will close its season at the Outback Bowl game against the Auburn Tigers. Click here to read about the team’s success.
Gophers’ Casey O’Brien Earns National Honor
Casey O’Brien received the Disney Spirit Award for his fight against osteosarcoma, a rare bone cancer. O’Brien has battled back from cancer four times after being diagnosed when he was a freshman in high school. Read more about the award here.
Twins Break Single Season Record For Home Runs
The Twins lead the majors in home runs this year, hitting 307 “bombas” out of the park. Five players on the team were over the 30 home run mark and it helped the team finish with a 101–61 regular season record. That was an improvement from the year before by 23 wins. Mike Max looked back on their season.
Gopher Softball Team Advances To College World Series
The Gopher softball team made history in 2019 by advancing to the Women’s College World Series. To advance to the championships they beat Louisiana State University in a 3-0 win, despite being considered the underdogs. Recently their head coach had left to take a job at Stanford University. Then star player Kendyl Lindaman transfered to the University of Florida. Our story explained how they persevered through the adversity.
Gabrielle Grunewald Dies After Decade-Long Cancer Battle
Professional runner and University of Minnesota alumnus Gabe Grunewald passed away after a decade-long battle with cancer. The runner had continued to compete professionally while fighting the disease. Grunewald placed fourth in the 2012 USA Olympic Trials, and won a USA Championship title in the indoor 3000-meter race. Her life inspired many.
Vikings All Time Leading Scorer Fred Cox Dies
80-year-old Fred Cox died in November. He was a former kicker for the Minnesota Vikings and the inventor of the Nerf football. In 15 seasons with Minnesota, Cox never missed a game. He’s the team’s all time leader in scoring and field goals.
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Former Duluth Hockey Player That Committed Suicide Had CTE
Tests revealed that Andrew Carroll, the former captain of the University of Minnesota – Duluth hockey team, was suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy before he committed suicide. CTE is a neurodegenerative disease that is caused by repeated blows to the head. Symptoms include behavioral/mood problems and trouble with thinking. As Liz Collin reported, Carroll’s family wondered what signs they might have missed before his death.
UST Is Poised To Jump From D3 To D1
This fall the University of St. Thomas received an invited to join the NCAA Division I’s Summit League conference. In May, the team was “involuntarily removed” from the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, largely because of how much better they were than their competition. Now the school could become the second university in Minnesota in the D1 ranks.
St. Cloud State Cuts Football And Golf Programs
St. Cloud State University announced that it’s cutting its football and golf programs. Several student-athletes were emotional afterwards, and some hope to transfer to other schools to continue their athletic careers. The university is also adding a men’s soccer team to its athletic department. Learn why the changes were made here.
Lindsey Vonn Retires From Skiing
Apple Valley native Lindsey Vonn hung up her skis for the last time, retiring after the World Championships because of nagging injuries. Vonn told the media that her body was “broken beyond repair.” See her full announcement here.
Joe Mauer’s Number Was Retired
The Twins retired Joe Mauer’s #7 jersey number in a ceremony at Target Field. The St. Paul native retired from playing in Nov. 2018 after a great career behind home plate. Revisit the ceremony here.
Stefon Diggs Trade Rumors Swirl, Adam Thielen Appears Frustrated
The Minnesota Vikings wide receiver core were the center of national attention over their team’s dysfunction. Adam Thielen made the comment that, “you have to be able to throw the ball, you have to be able to make plays.” Stefon Diggs admitted, “I can’t sit up here and act like everything is OK. It’s obviously not.” The team’s passing game has since stabilized.
President Trump Calls Kirk Cousins
Before a scheduled campaign rally in Minneapolis, President Trump called Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins to congratulate him on a win the previous weekend. Cousins said the call came out of the blue, and he thought it was a prank.
MN United FC Debuts Brand New Allianz Field
The Minnesota United football club opened the gates of their $250 million privately-funded soccer stadium this year. The team has been competing in Major League Soccer since 2017, but they called TCF Bank Stadium their first home. Erin Hassanzadeh was at the club’s sold-out home opener.
The U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team Played At Allianz Field
The United States Women’s National Soccer Team came to Allianz Field in April, and they were greeted by about 19,600 fans. The team was in Minnesota as part of their victory tour after winning the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Christiane Cordero took in some of the excitement.
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Lindsay Whalen’s Jersey Was Retired
The Minnesota Lynx retired Hutchinson native Lindsay Whalen’s jersey after the star point guard retired. Whalen hasn’t gone too far from the basketball court; she coached the Gophers women’s basketball team to a 21-11 record in her first year as head coach. Check out coverage of her jersey retirement ceremony here.