Gophers gaining national respect

Glen Mason's football team still isn't considered the cream of the Big Ten's bumper crop yet, but they are moving in the right direction.

The predictions are flowing in, and it looks like Gophers football is continuing to gain momentum as far as the national perception. In a number of polls and rankings, the Gophers are predicted to finish anywhere from fourth to sixth in the Big Ten.

While still not solidly entrenched in the top half of the Big Ten, a mid-level ranking is far better than the days when Minnesota's program was consistently predicted to finish in at the bottom (and sometimes lived up to those low expectations).

In a poll of Big Ten writers, the Gophers finished sixth. Athlon's picked the Gophers sixth, and they were ranked seventh in the conference by The Sporting News. Street & Smith and each picked the Gophers fourth.

In the Big Ten writers' poll, defending national champ Ohio State held the top spot, followed by Michigan.

* In what is being viewed as more encouraging news for the football program, the progress report on highly regarded wide receiver Paris Hamilton's recovery from arthroscopic surgery is good.

The 6-foot-1 transfer from Tyler (Tex.) Community College will have his knee re-examined in two weeks, when he could begin running again. It is possible he could need more surgery at that point, but he has reportedly responded well to the arthroscopic surgery.

Hamilton was given a four-star ranking by and was considered a top recruit for Glen Mason.

* Fans will have a chance to interact with Gophers football players from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday at the Mall of America outside of Sam Goody. Autographs and interactive games will be a part of "Game Day with the Gophers."

* Athletic director Joel Maturi is still working on a resolution to scheduling conflicts between the Gophers and Twins. If the Twins make the American League Championship Series and World Series, they would receive first rights to the Metrodome, and the Gophers are scheduled to play Michigan on Oct. 11 and Michigan State on Oct. 18 during those Major League Baseball series. It could be a month before that potential problem is ironed out.

Luciano Battaglini has been named assistant coach of the women's tennis team. Battaglini replaces Kristin Sanderson, who was an assistant at Minnesota for two seasons.

Battaglini spent one season as an assistant coach at Oklahoma State, where he helped lead the Cowgirls to their first Big 12 Championship in school history. Oklahoma State finished the year ranked 25th in the nation.

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