PHOENIX – The Gophers football team has left Minneapolis Street. Paul International Airport in sub-zero temperatures and snow patches on the runway Thursday morning. They arrived at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in sunny skies and 70 degrees Celsius, with no rain in sight.
But COVID-19 was present in both locations.
The Gophers are hoping to keep the pandemic at bay by playing a Guaranteed Bet against West Virginia on Tuesday at Chase Field. So far, so good.
“Right now,” said Gophers Coach P. Jay Fleck, looking at his Apple Watch on Thursday afternoon, “we’re doing well.”
Fleck said his team members took advantage of the booster vaccinations they were given, and said the team would follow local health regulations and wear masks.
“We gave them the opportunity to make (accelerators),” Fleck said. “A lot of guys took advantage of this.”
As with every corner of the world, college football has been influenced by the pervasive omicron variant. Texas A&M pulled out of their Gator Bowl vs. Wake Forest match on Wednesday due to concerns over COVID-19, and Rutgers replaced the Aggies on Thursday.
Miami, Florida said Thursday that pandemic concerns will delay the team’s arrival at the Sun Bowl.
The climbers are expected to arrive in Phoenix on December 25th, the expected arrival date for both teams. Minnesota, however, decided to arrive early.
Mike Neely, executive director of the Guaranteed Bowl Rate, said they are following Arizona’s guidelines and leaving COVID-19 protocol compliance to the respective teams.
“(Teams) are planning to participate in traditional events and dinners,” Neely said. “They didn’t say that we wouldn’t do it or wanted to change something. We are aware and flexible if something changes. ”
On Thursday, the Gophers announced that they had sold out 4,000-seat tickets for the game. They exceeded West Virginia sales, according to Neely.
The U amount does not include fans buying tickets to play at Chase Field or other marketplaces.
The Gophers estimate that over 6,000 fans came to the non-conference match against Colorado in September, and they ran out of their 10,000 Outback Bowl tickets after the 2019 season.
“Our fans are amazing and I know they are delighted to be heading to Phoenix to cheer for the Gophers,” Gophers Athletics Director Mark Coyle said in a statement.
Frank Bierman, a 6’4 ” tall, 230-pound tide from Tipton, Iowa, agreed to go out with the Gophers on Thursday. Birman played at Iowa Western Community College.