Welcome back to The Sports Ace, where all NBA basketball games are played with the intensity and passion that the Finals are.
Next Monday, Norwood Teague starts as the new Athletics Director at my beloved University of Minnesota. He replaces Joel Maturi, who ran the department for more than 10 years to mixed reviews. Many people have asked for my thoughts on the hire, both personal and with my PR hat on, so I thought I’d capture them here.
First, I think the hire tells you some things about the new University president Eric Kaler and his administration. For one, he’s not afraid to delegate important items to others. Also, he believes the course the University is already on is the right one, and needs to be properly shaped as opposed to completely overhauled. Nowhere is this more evident than in context of the football program, which had flashes of competence in the 2000s but not much else to speak of since a run of national titles in the early 1960s. Jerry Kill will be starting his second year as head coach this fall, and Kaler clearly feels Kill is the right guy long-term for the program. Why? It’s not just that he gave him a 7-year extension after his first conference win last year. It’s also that Teague, the new AD, has no experience running a top-tier football program. At VCU, Teague had no football team, and at North Carolina Teague wasn’t responsible for football. Bottom line – it’s Kill’s program, for better or worse, and Teague’s hire was meant to bolster other areas of the program that needed it.
Second, Teague is known as a fundraiser – which will be a GREAT fit for the Gophers. The U of M has several needs…a new basketball practice facility, upgrades/renovations to Williams Arena and other facilities and more booster donations to offset wildly unpopular ticket price hikes, to name a few. Teague’s track record in this area will enable him to notch both quick and long-term wins, which should make a big difference on the program.
Third, Teague’s crowning achievement at VCU was the rise of the basketball program, which went to the 2011 Final Four and the 2012 Sweet 16 as the ultimate Cinderella. Teague gets the credit for finding and hiring Shaka Smart, and for facilitating the success of the squad. It is with men’s basketball that the University of Minnesota has the greatest chance for near-term success in a revenue sport; the Gophers are projected to be a top-25 team and a top-four finisher in the ultra-tough Big Ten in the 2012-2013 season, so the cupboard is far from bare. If anyone can make a tweak here and there, and help the program return to sustained national prominence quickly, it’s Teague. Then, with basketball rolling along, he can invest in other areas of the department…one team’s success will breed other’s, just like it has at Ohio State, Texas and other major schools. It’s akin to building a house one brick at a time – with a solid foundation to go on, the house could stay strong and last a long time.
All in all, I like the hire. Time will tell, of course, but even despite the lack of direct experience with football it seems like the U hired the kind of guy that can help fix the department’s greatest weaknesses…and that’s encouraging.
That’s all for now. I’m out like the Houston Astros on Wednesday night.