As we inch closer to the start of the fall soccer season, we’re offering some early teases of the new beats starting up with our expanded team. In case you missed this very exciting news, current pro and former Summit League star Annie Williams will be covering St Thomas as they officially begin their journey as a DI program in that conference and Mark Privratsky will be covering both the powerhouse DII NSIC and Minnesotans playing DI in other states. These summer snapshots will shed some light on what Annie and Mark are looking for as they shape their coverage moving forward. In this piece, I ask Mark about Minnesotans Playing DI. You can also check out the previous pieces about the NSIC or St Thomas.
Question: Part of historically only having one DI program (until this fall, welcome St Thomas!) is that Minnesota has, almost by default, been an exporter of DI talent in women’s soccer. For a state of its size it may also fight a bit above its weight, but either way it means there are a ton of Minnesotans playing DI in other states. The Summit League alone had something like 40 Minnesotans in it. So this beat will be pretty damn expansive. How are you going to try and tackle it?
Like all Minnesotans, I’m obsessed with celebrating our successes, and sports is a great place to do that these days. We know that lots of Minnesotans play in the nearby Summit League which will be fun to track, but I’m looking forward to seeing what players pop up around the country. Even though we’ve seen great growth in coverage of the women’s game, college soccer is still so underreported that there are sure to be surprises. I’d actually ask for Equal Time supporters to help out in that regard! We have a web form that will allow you to tip us off about Minnesotans playing DI around the country. Please share with your soccer circles so we can amplify great Minnesota soccer stories! FORM: https://forms.gle/ZcpJqKcdY2nJ74A4A
Q: One tension I’ve heard from some player parents is about how much the U should or shouldn’t be focusing on keeping their talent home -- in other words, any good player NEEDS to go to the U, not just for keeping the talent in that moment but also to set more of an expectation in players minds long-term that the U is the place to go. So some of these players who head to other programs may in some ways feel sort of slighted to not be playing at home, etc. What are some dynamics like that that you’re hoping to learn more about?
The dynamic of “kids staying home” permeates all of college sports, so it should be no different in Minnesota, where we have a uniquely small number of D1 schools. It will be fun to see how recruiting patterns shift with St Thomas entering the fray (I look forward to following Annie Williams' coverage of it!). One piece I’m interested in terms of recruiting selection/stature is if any of the players can utilize the new opportunities for Name Image and Likeness granted by the NCAA this year. It’s too deep of a topic to cover well here, but the rule change presents a wide range of personal branding/sponsorship opportunities to make money as an athlete during your college career. The rule changes will benefit the higher revenue sports like Football and Basketball for the most part, but I expect young, social media savvy players to find ways to expand their personal business. Don’t forget that we are dealing with a lot of high achieving, driven individuals who often go on to successful careers. Does going to the U help you monetize yourself as an athlete? Almost certainly. Will it be an actual factor in recruiting choices? We will see.
Q: Other times, of course, players are just very good and might happen to choose another program because of any number of reasons. Programs like Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Michigan, scoop up Minnesotans all the time. Being able to tune in to the various high quality programs like that and focus on one particular player is different than our typical gopher beat. How will that open up opportunities for different coverage?
I hope that we find opportunities for unique and interesting stories! I bleed maroon and gold, but what I love most about soccer is learning from the deeper stories about new places and people. At it’s best, the beautiful game shows us different cultures and individuals who are making a difference in people’s lives. Also, don’t tell the Big Ten, but there can be a consistency about the playing style with many of the teams, and seeing some coastal flair would be a welcome addition. Aside from players, another one of our great exports is coaches, so I definitely look forward to seeing how Minnesotans are thriving on coaching staffs around the country.
Q: I’ve kind of been dying to eventually cover a Gopher game on the road, just to get a different flavor than always seeing them either on the broadcast or at ELR. With this beat, are you going to attempt any road trips to cover players in person, do you think?
I love a good road trip, and judging by our streak of 90 degree days, once fall hits, a soccer road trip will sound too good to pass up. If anyone has suggestions for a good stadium/field to watch a match within driving distance of Minnesota, let us know on Twitter! We will dig into the schedules and find some good destinations. Non football lined fields are the top choice but hard to come by.
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