Rauen has been there, through thick and thin
Ed Rauen was on hand for the final University of Minnesota home game at Memorial Stadium on Nov. 21, 1981. Wisconsin won that one, 26-21, leaving the Gophers with a 6-5 record.
"What I remember most about that game," he said, "was that it snowed something like 14 inches the night before, and they never bothered to shovel off the benches or stands.
"I can’t imagine why they didn’t, probably because it was the last game."
Rauen, a life-long Gophers fan from Rochester, was also there for the first home game at the Metrodome, a year later on Sept. 11.
Minnesota beat Ohio, 57-3, and, no, it was not a sign of good things to come. The Gophers won their first three that year, but then lost eight straight to finish 3-8.
Rauen will be on hand again Saturday night when the Gophers host Iowa in the annual battle for Floyd of Rosedale. Most important, it’s also the final Gopher game at the Metrodome.
"I won’t tear up or anything like that; I’m not that sentimental," said Rauen, who, at most, has missed only a handful of Minnesota home games over the past 35 years. Quite a streak, and how many can say that?
It all started in high school.
"They used to invite all the high school football teams in the state," he said, "and put us on the open end of the stadium by Cooke Hall. In November, when the wind would blow, it would get really, really cold.
"Back then, the tickets cost a buck."
Rauen also worked as color analyst with the late Bernie Lusk on KROC-AM for 14 years.
"Memorial Stadium had no elevators," he said. "It was 57 steps up to the main press box, and on top of that was a wooden press box for all the radio broadcasters. So you had to climb up another 8 or 9 feet on a ladder to get into it.
"They had no bathrooms up there, either. I made sure not to drink anything before those games."
Rauen also worked Gophers games on radio for the first two seasons at the Metrodome.
"Of course, there are so many memories," he said, "but a couple of games stick out. It was the last year we did local radio (1983), and Nebraska came in and beat us 84-13. Our job was to try and keep things as positive as you can, but how in the world do you do that when you’re losing by over 60 points?"
Rauen is no fan of Iowa, either.
"I still can’t forget the Iowa fans (in 2002) when they won (45-21), and stormed the field and tore down the goal post. But they couldn’t get one of those big arms out of the stadium. It was too big."
Sadly, it’s the losses that stick out the most. Like the Michigan game in 2003, when the Gophers blew a big lead and lost 38-35. That was on a Friday night.
Or against Wisconsin in 2005, when the Badgers won on a last-second blocked punt.
Or Purdue in 2001, losing 35-28 in overtime.
Or, well, let’s stop here.
"I still maintain that the Metrodome is a good place to play," said Rauen, but admits that he’s probably in the minority on that one.
Most would probably say good riddance.
"Back when Lou Holtz came on board, you couldn’t believe all the excitement. They said, what a great recruiting tool, and I believed that,’’ Rauen said.
"But about 10 years ago, people kept saying the Metrodome was a terrible place to play, and they kept hammering it away, and pretty soon you had the whole state believing it was bad."
Rauen will undoubtedly be on hand Sept. 12, 2009, when the Gophers host Air Force in the first game at the new TCF Bank Stadium.
"I had a chance about three weeks ago to tour it (new stadium)," he said, "and it’s really something.’’
First things first, however, and that’s the home finale.
"Beating Iowa and winning back the ‘pig’ on Saturday would be great," he said. "I can’t think of a better way to close up the Dome than that."
Paul Christian is a Post-Bulletin sports writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.