The University of Minnesota’s decision to eliminate three men’s sports will affect several individuals with Dakota County ties.

Last week the university announced it would drop men’s gymnastics, tennis and track and field following the 2020-21 school year in response to a potential $75 million deficit brought on by athletic events not taking place because of the coronavirus pandemic. As of Wednesday, however, it was unclear how – if at all – the Big Ten Conference’s decision to hold a fall football season beginning in late October would affect the athletic department’s bottom line. Conference presidents initially agreed to postpone football season until spring 2021.

Fifty-eight athletes are affected by the cuts, made for financial reasons and to bring the athletic department in compliance with Title IX guidelines. Athletic director Mark Coyle said last week the university’s overall student population is 54 percent female.

Some media outlets have referred to four sports being cut, counting indoor track and outdoor track as two sports. However it’s counted, it means that unless the university reverses course, two of the best shot put and discus throwers in South Suburban Conference history might have to look elsewhere to continue their college careers.

Kyle Atkinson, a redshirt freshman from Burnsville High School, and Eric Rousemiller, a junior from Lakeville South, are throwers on the U of M men’s team. Atkinson is a two-time state high school Class AA runner-up in shot put. Rousemiller was the 2017 state Class AA shot put champion for Lakeville South after finishing second at state in the event one year earlier.

Eliminating men’s track and field came just two years after the university opened a new outdoor track facility. The women’s track and field program will remain, but cutting men’s track also appears to bring the men’s cross country program’s future into question. Most college cross country runners also run distance races for their track teams.

There are no players from Dakota County on the Gopher men’s tennis team, although head coach Geoff Young is a local resident. Young is married to former Apple Valley High School and University of Minnesota tennis standout Dana Peterson, and two of their children, Karin and Gavin, attend Eastview High School and are among the top prep players in Minnesota. Karin Young is defending state Class AA girls singles champion.

There are no Dakota County athletes on the Minnesota men’s gymnastics team. The sport faces an uncertain future at the college level; only 12 schools have Division I programs.

Martin's NFL debut delayed

Burnsville High School graduate Kamal Martin had a chance to begin his NFL career in his home state, but a knee injury derailed those plans. NFL Network reported the Green Bay Packers linebacker had surgery to repair a torn meniscus during training camp and could be out six to eight weeks. Martin missed the Packers’ 2020 season opener, a 43-34 victory over the Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday.

Before being injured, Martin was getting practice time with the Packers’ first-team defense and appeared to be in line for a significant role. He was a four-year defensive regular for the University of Minnesota and made 66 tackles as a senior even though his season ended after eight games because of a knee injury.

Martin played quarterback and safety at Burnsville, where he led the Blaze to the state large-school quarterfinals as a senior and was a finalist for the Mr. Football Award.

Another Burnsville High alumnus, Chase Roullier, is in his fourth season with Washington and is his team’s starting center. Apple Valley High School graduate Trey Pipkins is starting his second season as an offensive tackle with the Los Angeles Chargers. Eight-year NFL veteran Tom Compton, a Rosemount High graduate, is playing offensive line for the San Francisco 49ers.

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