Vikes Stadium Deal Still Alive

As the uproar in Minnesota revolves around the University of Minnesota cutting back on its athletic programs, the proposed stadium deal may actually get a boost from the turmoil.

In Minnesota, the phrase Title IX has been a buzz phrase for some time, as too many sports wind up draining the athletic budget while at the same time, gender equity has foretold bad times for non-revenue men's sports.

So it was this week as the U of M announced that both athletic directors would be terminated and three sports -- men's gymnastics and men's and women's golf -- would be eliminated from the budget.

While none of these were of front-burner interest to VU, we were curious how this might affect a proposed joint stadium with the Vikings and Gophers near the U of M campus.

For those who were worried, VU has been assured that there is no reason for concern on the matter, since they are not related, according to a highly placed source at the university. Under the proposed stadium plan, the U of M would contribute $60 million for the construction of a massive parking lot to house cars that would be coming to the campus for Vikings games -- of which the Vikings would be able to take team-related revenue from the parking lot during home games.

We've been told not to assume that the problems with the university's sports budgets are tied into any financial implication for a stadium. Those plans will go through, since the university has told VU that any parking lot project as part of a new stadium would be a university project, not a sports department project.

So, while some may think the current actions by the University of Minnesota will spell doom for a joint stadium effort, it couldn't be farther from the truth. The university is still committed to the stadium deal, which is good news as the Legislature of Minnesota continues to debate the merits of two proposed new stadiums in the state over the next few years.

* What was the difference between the Vikings getting Jerome Pathon and the Saints? Apparently $500,000. We've been told that, after meeting with team doctors, there was concern over whether Pathon will sufficiently recover from his foot surgery. As a result, the Vikings were only willing to pony up about $500,000 in signing bonus money. Even though the contract proposal were very similar to that of the Saints, New Orleans was willing to put $1 million on the table up front to Pathon, which swayed his final decision.
* The Vikings were one of 16 teams that attended a private workout for WR Ashley Lelie. While nobody with the team has indicated the Vikings would be interested in Lelie with the seventh pick, some are viewing the Vikes attendance as a sign the team might be more willing to move down in the first round than some are letting on.
* The Vikings' mild interest in restricted free agent WR Donald Driver ended Friday when he resigned with the Packers. The K.C. Chiefs were apparently much more interested, offering him $3 million over three years, but had a minimal signing bonus. Instead, Driver accepted a one-year deal with the Packers for $563,000, which will make him an unrestricted free agent next season.
* In a followup to a previous story, Mark Rypien is scheduled to visit the Vikes after the draft and one thing may sit in his favor to become a backup QB with the team -- his relationship with Mike Tice. The Vikes coach and Rypien were teammates in Washington back in 1989.

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