Football: Schedule change on eve of practice

On the eve of the start of football practice, the Gophers announced a change in their schedule this fall. Also, reports circulate about the plans of a Gopher hockey star.

The prospect of a Metrodome conflict with a possible Twins playoff game has caused the University of Minnesota to move its homecoming football game.

The original homecoming date was slated for Oct. 18 against Michigan State, but that is also the date of Game 1 of the World Series, and the Metrodome's baseball tenant -- the Minnesota Twins -- are still alive in the playoff hunt. So the new homecoming date is Nov. 1 against Indiana.

Last year the Gophers faced a similar conflict when the Twins went on a surprise run to the American League Championship Series. The homecoming game against Northwestern was moved to the previous Thursday night, as was the game against Illinois the week before.

This year the same conflict looms for the Oct. 11 game vs. Michigan and the MSU game a week later. But neither opponent will agree to move the games to Thursday night this year, due in part to poor ticket sales last season and shortened practice time. Minnesota AD Joel Maturi has met with officials from Major League Baseball to discuss possible solutions to the conflict. The worst-case scenario for the Gophers would be moving the games to a neutral site, such as Detroit's Ford Field. But as of the most recent meeting, Maturi was optimistic that a resolution would be reached to allow the games to be played in the Metrodome on the scheduled dates.

The Big Ten has set a Sept. 1 deadline for deciding the dates and venues of the games. Maturi has said he wants to close the deal by Aug. 14.

MARTIN LEAVING?
Gopher hockey star Paul Martin could be close to bolting for the NHL, according to Pioneer Press columnist Charley Walters.

In a published report, Walters said Martin could announce this week that he's going to accept an $800,000 bonus from the New Jersey Devils to forego his senior season at the U and begin his professional career.

"Shooter" had a number of Gopher notes in his latest roundup: Hockey player Thomas Vanek is likely to return to the U, the men's basketball team is close to scheduling Princeton on Jan. 10 at Williams Arena, and former Gopher Rick Rickert is close to deciding where in Europe he'll begin his pro career.

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