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Gophers football punts spring game, adds new open practice idea

The Gophers football team is doing spring practice a little different this year, scrapping a traditional spring game and opening one practice exclusively to members of Dinkytown Athletes, the athletic department's official NIL collective.

The Gophers, who finished 6-7 last season, announced their plans Tuesday, noting that they haven't had a traditional outdoor spring game — open to the public on a Saturday — since 2017. The 2020 game was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the 2019, 2022 and 2023 games were all moved indoors.

This year, the Gophers will open spring practice March 21. Fans can attend two spring practices, but the first of those — 11 a.m. on March 23 at Huntington Bank Stadium — will be exclusive for members of Dinkytown Athletics.

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The name, image and likeness (NIL) era has changed college sports, with athletes now allowed to make money off their brands, and Dinkytown Athletes plays a crucial role for the Gophers.

"Dinkytown Athletes will communicate directly with its membership about registering to attend practice," the news release said, directing fans to learn more about membership at DinktownAthletes.com.

The Gophers will also host one practice open to the general public, at 4:30 p.m. on April 11 at the Athletes Village. The release noted that times and locations for both open practices are subject to change. For both open practices, fans are encouraged to bring diapers, which are donated to the Diaper Bank of Minnesota.