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U of M alum collects more than half a century's worth of sports programs, clippings

Bill Sampson, 80, of Brooklyn Center hopes to one day gift the University of Minnesota his collection of sports programs and clippings dating back to 1959.

BROOKLYN CENTER, Minnesota — There are a number of ways to reminisce. For William "Bill" Sampson, 80, it can fill a room. 

"I'm a crazy collector," said Sampson of Brooklyn Center. 

Since he was little, Sampson has been collecting treasures. It started with stamps, bottle caps and baseball cards. But those were all preludes to his most prized collections. 

Sampson left Ottertail in 1959 to attend the University of Minnesota. He started going to the football games and never stopped. From 1959-2015, Sampson only missed three home games. For every game gone to, he's held on to the program. 

"I started collecting them and once I got started, I didn't want to break the chain," said Sampson, laughing. "So I just kept going." 

Credit: Devin Krinke
Bill Sampson in front of his collection of sports programs for Gophers football, basketball and hockey.

Sampson's favorite game was when the Minnesota Gophers beat the Iowa Hawkeyes in 1960, 27-10. Minnesota was ranked No. 3 and the Hawkeyes were No. 1. 

"We were all just ecstatic that we had been able to beat the number one team in the country and become number one. Which is what happened. Then the next week we were undefeated at that point and the next game we lost," Sampson recalled. 

But Sampson did not stop at football. In 1960, his friends kept pressuring him to go a Gophers hockey game. He ran out of excuses and finally attended one. 

"I went with them to the game. Saw a penalty shot, all kinds of things. Strange things happened and I thought, 'Boy, I like this. This is great. I'm going to try this again.' So I just kept going," Sampson said. 

Credit: Devin Krinke
Bill Sampson looks through a Gophers football program from 1960 when Minnesota beat Iowa 27-10.

And just like football, he kept collecting programs but this time for hockey. From 1960-2015, he only missed a handful of home games. 

One of his favorites was the 2002 NCAA championship game that went into overtime. The Gophers won 4-3 over the University of Maine. 

"So much fun to win one like that," Sampson recalled. 

Sampson's collection continued around that same time with basketball programs. Just like hockey, he only missed a handful of home games between 1959-2015. 

"It connects you to the past and I love history," Sampson said. 

To go along with the programs, Sampson has saved newspaper clippings with results from every game for 62 years. If he attended the game, he included his ticket stub. 

Credit: Devin Krinke
Bill Sampson's scrapbooks full of newspaper clippings for hockey and football.

One memorable basketball game was the Minnesota vs. Ohio brawl at Williams Arena in 1972. 

With 36 seconds left in the game, Gopher Corky Taylor offered his hand to Ohio State's Luke Witte when he was on the floor. 

"He took his hand and our player kneed him in the groin," Sampson recalled. 

The arena erupted with fans joining in on the brawl. 

And where was Sampson? 

"Watching. Just sitting there watching because I wasn't going to get in that," he said. 

Sampson has always been a fan of numbers, whether it involves dates or statistics. He spent 34 years in education, teaching mathematics for Mounds View Public Schools. But the retired teacher's most pressing numbers revolve around time. 

Credit: Devin Krinke
Bill Sampson hopes to eventually gift his collections to the University of Minnesota.

Less than 10 years ago, Sampson was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. Because of it, his game streak ended in 2015. 

"I find it difficult to drive after dark. It's stressful. So I gave up my tickets this year after 62 years," Sampson said. 

But Sampson keeps adding newspaper clippings to his scrapbooks. 

Sampson has never been married and has no children. No one in his immediate family is interested in sports. He said when he dies, he would like the University of Minnesota to have his collection. 

KARE 11 reached out to Paul Rovnak, associate athletic director of communications at the U, who plans on reaching out to Sampson. 

"I'm the only one so I want to put it somewhere, put this collection somewhere where people can go through it and enjoy," Sampson said. "How would you like it if you could go into the library and start looking at some of these old things to see what went on... reminisce." 

To reminisce is to remember the past fondly. For Bill Sampson, he can count on it. 

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