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University of Minnesota fires football coach Tracy Claeys

Plus: Jacob Frey announces run for Minneapolis mayor; pedestrian fatalities are up in Minnesota; snow cover is down; and more.

Coach Tracy Claeys
Coach Tracy Claeys

At ESPN, Adam Rittenberg covers Tracy Claeys’ firing. He says, “Claeys met only with athletic director Mark Coyle on Tuesday, but Coyle had the full support of the board of trustees and university president Eric Kaler, a school source said. Coyle said in a statement that he made the decision to ‘address challenges in recruiting, ticket sales and the culture of the program. We need strong leadership to take Gopher football to the next level and address these challenges.’’ ‘I won’t be up here freezing my ass off, so y’all enjoy the winter,’ Claeys told Minneapolis TV station KSTP a few hours after being fired.”

For CBS, Sports Chip Patterson writes, “Even after ending its boycott, Minnesota’s football team has apparently not gotten on the same page with athletic director Mark Coyle and the rest of the school’s administration. Tracy Claeys was fired as the team’s coach on Tuesday, and quarterback Mitch Leidner has been one of the first to offer a response from the players perspective. ‘I don’t know who  would want to be a part of this program,’ Leidner told ESPN’s Brett McMurphy. Another unnamed underclassman told McMurphy, ‘We don’t want to play for administration. Countless people will transfer if possible.’”

Over at Sports Illustrated, Brian Hamilton asks a question that runs pretty much constantly through minds around here. “This is not a result with a lot of loose ends. There is one lingering question, though. Why does stuff like this keep happening at Minnesota? It’s a major-conference program, but no one mistakes it for a striving college athletic leviathan that may or may not have to grind the rulebook and ethics into a fine paste to maintain its lofty status. Minnesota athletics is realistically a mid-level business with fair-but-not-outsized expectations, and yet it all too consistently faces extraordinarily high-end humiliations.

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Meanwhile, while assessing the “Top Five” candidates to replace Claeys, Aaron Torres at Fox Sports says, “[P.J.] Fleck was the breakout star of 2016, after leading Western Michigan to a 13-0 regular season and trip to the Cotton Bowl. And even though the Broncos lost to Wisconsin in Dallas, that won’t change the fact that Fleck remains one of the hottest names in coaching circles. The fact that he remained at Western Michigan following this season is a minor miracle, and a boon for the Broncos and MAC as a whole going into 2017.  At the same, that reason – that Fleck’s star is only going to continue to rise – is one of the main reasons why it’s hard to imagine he would leave Kalamazoo for Minneapolis.” Oh hell, offer him a boat load of money. Isn’t that always the plan?

For The Detroit News, Tony Paul writes, “Fleck, 36, coaching 13-0 Western Michigan in Monday’s Cotton Bowl, is “close” to an extension and a raise at WMU, The Detroit News first reported last month. But the deal, expected to at least double his $800,000 base salary and add years on to a current deal that runs through 2020, has not yet been officially finalized. … Fleck has a $600,000 buyout if he were to leave Western Michigan for another job in the next year. Fired LSU coach Les Miles and perhaps even just-fired 49ers coach Chip Kelly could also be candidates should Minnesota fire Claeys. There could be more prime college jobs available in the coming days, too, with at least six NFL head-coaching vacancies.”

Speaking of candidates. Brandt Williams at MPR says, “Jacob Frey, a first-term Minneapolis City Council member, announced on Tuesday that he will try to unseat current mayor Betsy Hodges. … Before his election, he practiced law and focused on workplace discrimination cases. Frey is the fourth announced challenger to Hodges. The other three are former Minneapolis NAACP president Nekima Levy-Pounds, filmmaker Aswar Rahman and Raymond Dehn, a Democrat in the state House.”

Yeah, it’s cold … but snow-wise it’s sub-par. At KMSP-TV, Cody Matz says, “While parts of the Canadian border are hanging onto some pretty decent snow, about the southern three quarters of state have pretty lackluster depth.  In many cases in the metro, it’s 3 inches or less.  Even isolated parts of southern Minnesota have zero snow on the ground.  But if you look to the northwest, the combination of 3 different large storms and the persistent cold, parts of North Dakota have well over 2 feet of snow depth.  In fact, it’s been one of the snowiest seasons so far to date in North Dakota history with Bismarck nearly top 4 feet of snow for the season.” God bless ‘em and all that, but why would I go to Bismarck in January?

In case you need some hip-hop cred, here’s Jay Boller at City Pages, “Atlanta’s Lil Yachty scored a viral hit in 2016 with ‘Minnesota,’ the oddball teenage rap star’s ode to being as cold as the namesake state (the music video features an ‘ice resurfacer,’ Zamboni Co.’s lawyers informed City Pages). And last week Allan Kingdom, Minnesota’s own rising hip-hop talent, reworked the track to include iconography specific to the Gopher State. ‘I been all around the globe, yeah / But I stay in Minnesota’ he sings over Yachty’s familiar piano hook, going on to name-check Timberwolves star Zach LaVine, ‘a bitch in Anoka’ who does ‘the splits on the sofa,’ the Mall of America, and ‘Purple Rain’.”

I’m no prophet, but my antennae twitch every time I hear the MyPillow guy. Also, in City Pages, Mike Mullen follows the company’s troubles, saying, “MyPillow feedback on the BBB’s website is overwhelmingly negative: Nearly three-quarters of the people offering their thoughts had bad things to say. Several recent complaints lodged there deal with the company’s apparently misleading ‘sales’ information. Here’s one example: The advertising states ‘ buy one pillow get one free’ When checking out the price of 1 pillow it clearly states it is 49.00 If you check the ‘buy one get one free offer’ you are required to pay 99.00 … ’ To its credit, MyPillow logged in to respond to complainant ‘Debbie H.’, explaining how it works: A pillow’s $99.97. You can either buy one at that price and get a second one free, or buy that one pillow for half-off, meaning $49.98.” My question all along is … who falls for this stuff?

In the PiPress, Chris Hewitt interviews film producer/director Bill Pohlad on the release of the new movie, “A Monster Calls.” “Bill Pohlad was in his New York apartment, reading a script, when he started sobbing. The script was for ‘A Monster Calls,’ the coming-of-age drama that opens today. Writer/director J.A. Bayona (‘The Impossible’, ‘The Orphanage’) had sent Pohlad the script, thinking they might like to work together on it. And Pohlad, through tears, agreed. … He is an executive producer of ‘Monster,’ in which a young, English boy takes solace in an unlikely source — a tree monster — when his mother (Felicity Jones) becomes critically ill.” 

Where were we on that “America’s Greatest Drivers” list again? Stribber Eric Roper reports, “Drivers hit and killed more pedestrians in Minnesota last year than any other year in the past quarter century, according to a preliminary total released Tuesday. The Department of Public Safety said 60 pedestrians died on Minnesota roads in 2016, 19 more than the previous year.”