The Free Press, Mankato, MN

March 15, 2013

Thumbs: MSU brings sports success to region

The Free Press

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Minnesota State University hockey and basketball teams will be reaching the height of their seasons starting this weekend and the region should be proud of their successes.

While sports can be overemphasized at the collegiate level, it's good to see programs that still require athletes to maintain good academic standing and show success on the field of play as well.

The MSU men's hockey team has shown a remarkable turn around this year with new coach Mike Hastings. The bar was set high and Hastings and the team are measuring up quite well. MSU men's and women's basketball have clearly competitive teams that are well-coached.

The athletes by and large have shown themselves to be young men and women with solid personal character as well as athletic prowess.

This weekend offers a smorgasbord of good contests to watch -- men's hockey is in the playoffs with a good likelihood to advance for the first time in many years. MSU men's basketball ranked high enough at the end of the season to host the NCAA regional tournament. Both men's and women's teams also are likely to continue into further rounds of playoffs.

All this offers fans a great opportunity to watch solid collegiate athletics in comfortable venues. The success of university athletics adds a valuable entertainment dimension to the region.

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Revise tests, don't drop them

To proponents of the idea that because Minnesota's graduation exams for high school students may need some tweaking, they should be thrown out altogether. Some have argued that the math standard is too high to stand as a minimal requirement and that the tests, in general, don't always indicate that a student is ready for college or a career. That may be so, but the answer is to adjust the tests, not to ditch them.

Business groups, already concerned that not enough potential employees measure up to their own standards, are skeptical of the idea to drop the standards and replace them with college readiness exams beginning in the eighth grade. Before advancing to college, high school students should continue to show a minimum of proficiency with what they were taught up to that point. As Jim Bartholomew, education policy director for the Minnesota Business Partnership, said, "Students should feel confident that if they get a high school diploma, it means something."

Not just students, but their parents, and their potential employers, too, should all be able to say the same thing.

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"Mankato: Now Playing" a good moniker

To the Greater Mankato Convention & Visitors Bureau's (now called Visit Mankato) choice of a new, updated, punchy logo. "Mankato: Now Playing," with a colorful graphic of a bicyclist riding downhill, captures the active, engaging place the Mankato region is.

And it doesn't mean you have to be a bicyclist to enjoy Mankato. The "Now Playing" can refer to anything fun you want to do that can be found here, from playing on the trails and ski slopes to taking in a play or a concert.

Visit Mankato worked with consultant Bill Baker of Total Destination Marketing to come up with the new brand. Baker spent time interviewing locals, hosting community forums, conducting surveys and speaking with non-locals who work with the community to determine the essence of the community's strengths as a leisure destination.

The result seems to be a good fit, especially because it's difficult to even recall the logo and slogan that it's replacing.