Gophers

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Melee at Williams Arena, Minneapolis, 1972 (by Charles Bjorgen)
The University of Minnesota athletics program has had its share of low points over the years, but few rank as low as the one that occurred at Williams Arena on January 25, 1972. With less than a minute remaining in a big game with the Ohio State Buckeyes, the Gophers and their fans stooped to mob violence. The trouble began when Minnesota’s Clyde Turner clobbered Ohio State center Luke Witte during a drive to the basket. The Gophers’ Corky Taylor then knocked Witte down with a right hook to the ear. As the Minnesota fans cheered in approval, Taylor walked up to the writhing Witte and held out his hand in what appeared to be a gracious gesture. Then, as Witte was almost to his feet, Taylor kneed him in the groin. A melee broke out, with players and fans engaging in a freakish, on-court scrum. At one point, the Gophers’ Ron Behagen, who was on the bench after fouling out, ran onto the court and stomped on the defenseless Witte’s head. In its article on the incident, Sports Illustrated described the attack on Witte as “assault and battery,” and all but blamed the brawl on the win-at-all-costs philosophy of the new Gophers coach, Bill Musselman.
Photo via Minneapolis Star Tribune

Melee at Williams Arena, Minneapolis, 1972 (by Charles Bjorgen)

The University of Minnesota athletics program has had its share of low points over the years, but few rank as low as the one that occurred at Williams Arena on January 25, 1972. With less than a minute remaining in a big game with the Ohio State Buckeyes, the Gophers and their fans stooped to mob violence. The trouble began when Minnesota’s Clyde Turner clobbered Ohio State center Luke Witte during a drive to the basket. The Gophers’ Corky Taylor then knocked Witte down with a right hook to the ear. As the Minnesota fans cheered in approval, Taylor walked up to the writhing Witte and held out his hand in what appeared to be a gracious gesture. Then, as Witte was almost to his feet, Taylor kneed him in the groin. A melee broke out, with players and fans engaging in a freakish, on-court scrum. At one point, the Gophers’ Ron Behagen, who was on the bench after fouling out, ran onto the court and stomped on the defenseless Witte’s head. In its article on the incident, Sports Illustrated described the attack on Witte as “assault and battery,” and all but blamed the brawl on the win-at-all-costs philosophy of the new Gophers coach, Bill Musselman.

Photo via Minneapolis Star Tribune

Neal Broten’s Game-Winning Goal in the 1979 NCAA Final

On March 24, 1979, in the championship game of the NCAA’s “Frozen Four” hockey tournament, Minnesota Gophers freshman Neal Broten scored what turned out to be the deciding goal with a remarkable, lunging wrist shot. (The kid’s giddy post-game reaction at the end of this video will remind you what athletic competition is all about.) The victory over North Dakota gave the Gophers their third NCAA championship of the 1970s under coach Herb Brooks. Broten would go on to become one of the stars of Brooks’s “Miracle on Ice” 1980 Olympic team.

Photo via Third String Goalie

Minnesota “Mugging”

The University of Minnesota athletics program has had its share of low points over the years, but few rank as low as the one that occurred at Williams Arena on January 25, 1972. With less than a minute remaining in a big game with the Ohio State Buckeyes, the Gophers and their fans stooped to mob violence. The trouble began when Minnesota’s Clyde Turner clobbered Ohio State center Luke Witte during a drive to the basket. The Gophers’ Corky Taylor then knocked Witte down with a right hook to the ear. As the Minnesota fans cheered in approval, Taylor walked up to the writhing Witte and held out his hand in what appeared to be a gracious gesture. Then, as Witte was almost to his feet, Taylor kneed him in the groin. A melee broke out, with players and fans engaging in a freakish, on-court scrum. At one point, the Gophers’ Ron Behagen, who was on the bench after fouling out, ran onto the court and stomped on the defenseless Witte’s head. In its article on the incident, Sports Illustrated noted that the governor of Ohio described the incident as a “public mugging.” The magazine all but blamed the brawl at Williams Arena on the win-at-all-costs philosophy of the new Gophers coach, Bill Musselman:

What happened to Witte last week and others on Ohio State’s basketball team can only be described as assault and battery. The attackers were the players and fans of the University of Minnesota, an emotional lot who apparently would not stomach the idea of losing to the Buckeys in their Big Ten showdown…

Instead of a fight erupting from blows in the heat of competition, this was a cold, brutal attack, governed by the law of the jungle. It could be considered the inevitable result of the malaise that afflicts the sport these days, a stunning example of responsibility abdicated by a coach, the players he recruited and taught, and the fans who followed them. Musselman made no attempt to stop the fight and showed no remorse afterward.

Sports Illustrated, February 7, 1972