A slow news day for Gopher sports with hoops not playing till Saturday, hockey off till next weekend, and Gopher football recruiting still a few weeks away from completion. On the front page of the Strib Gopher section today is the feature story that ran Sunday by Phil Miller titled Maturi's Constant Storm. Not sure about you, but I missed this one when it ran over the holiday weekend, and as is the case for all of Miller's work, this one is definitely worth a read.
The subtitle of the story really says it all, and is the reason Joel Maturi absolutely, positively should not be retained as athletic director once incoming school president Eric Kaler takes office in June:
The Gophers athletic director has his share of critics, but he defends his record and accomplishments, saying he has an obligation to all his programs -- not just the marquee ones.
Treating all of your athletic programs the same at a Big Ten school may have been all well and good 20 years ago, or might still be the case in high school athletics, but those days are long gone. Long gone. With a down economy and finances tighter than ever, today's Division 1 athletic department needs to generate revenue, and the only way to do so is have your very few revenue producing sports actually, you know, producing revenue!
"I'm the athletic director for 750 student-athletes," Maturi said. "I have an obligation to do my best for the tennis player as I do for the football player."
No Joel. No you don't. Your job, first and foremost, as an athletic director at a Big Ten school is to WIN IN REVENUE SPORTS. Period. That is your job. You are not going to keep your job if the football, and men's basketball and hockey teams, continue to struggle but they keep winning the Director's Cup, or whatever the hell it's called. 99.999999999% of your fanbase, alumni and boosters don't care about winning the Director's Cup: the only people who do care about that crap are athletic directors who win them, the athletes and their parents. That's it. You know how I know that? BECAUSE THEY'RE NON-REVENUE SPORTS! The fact "NON REVENUE" is right in the title means they only have meaning to the people playing them and their parents.
Specifically, Maturi's critics say he has looked the other way while the men's hockey and women's basketball programs wither into irrelevance. The Gophers don't sell out their new football stadium, costing the school critical revenue. Maturi hasn't raised the money for a basketball practice facility that Tubby Smith has impatiently sought for four seasons. The baseball team doesn't have a home on campus -- and until the Metrodome is repaired, it doesn't have a home anywhere else.
Really, reading this article and Maturi's quotes, you know, the ones like this where he TOTALLY DEFENDS the fact his football, men's hoops and hockey teams suck, it should be no surprise to Gopher fans why his football, men's hoops and hockey teams suck. It should be no surprise when he pays no more attention to them than he does the rowing or tennis teams.
To quote the man, the myth, the legend, Mr. Jeremy Gray "I'm sorry I'm not sorry" but playing collegiate athletics is a privilege, not a right, especially for kids in non-revenue sports. When your sport makes bubkis for the university, you don't have a right to whine and complain if it gets taken away. A very small minority does not get to tell the vast majority what to do. You can still play your sport that noone but you cares about: it's called a club team, and in this little scenario, you raise your own funds to play. That way, the only people who care about the sport are the ones paying for it. What a novel freaking concept!
This is not, and should not, be a policitcal correctness issue. All is not fair in collegiate sports, and athletes for non-revenue sports DO NOT have the same rights as those playing revenue sports. We're not here to make the parents of varsity rowers feel good about themselves and have stories to brag about at dinner parties about how their kid won some rowing race against Iowa. Good for you. This isn't about your ego or your kids right to be a gymnast at the University of Minnesota because your kid doesn't have a right to do that. They have the privilege of being able to do so only because Maturi insists on starving his Big 3 so that the little folks can eat like royalty. It. Makes. No. Sense.
While we're here, maybe it's a good time to discuss the fact the U has too many sports. 24! 24! If you're wondering, and obviously you are, here are the only varsity sports you need at the University of Minnesota: Football, men's and women's hoops, men's and women's hockey, wrestling, baseball, softball, soccer, volleyball, and track. 12 sports total, 6 men's, 6 women's. That's it. The rest are completely and totally optional, and if their existence is hurting your Big 3 revenue sports, then they should be cut. Doesn't mean those kids can't compete on club teams or intramurals (Go play intramurals, brother! This is the Big XII! Sorry, everytime I hear the word "intramurals" I automatically think of Dan Hawkins), it just means they don't have the right to participate in varsity sports that nobody cares about, and that drain your budget.
While Maturi should certainly shoulder the blame for seeing the Big 3 sports at Minnesota crumble, not all of it should fall on him. Outgoing President Bob Bruininks has stood by and supported Maturi through blunder after blunder, as each of the Big 3 sports has slid to new lows. It's great that they helped get a new football stadium built, but what was the point when you make awful hires and don't do enough to support the program so that the new building is actually full?!? Tubby Smith was a GREAT hire, but then you don't give him the new practice factility the man says he needs to help recruit and win? And you let Gopher hockey fall to its worst levels since the early 1970's because why? So that rowers and cross-country runners can say they did so for the U, and so Joel Maturi can say he won a worthless and meaningless Director's Cup.
Thankfully, retirement is getting Bruininks out, and hopefully a new President can show Maturi the door too. I appreciate Maturi for getting a new football stadium, hiring Tubby, and somehow, someway, in the debacle that was the latest football head coaching search, finding us a very good football coach. But...
"Next fall, if the new president [Eric Kaler] is pleased with me and I'm pleased with him, maybe there will be an extension," Maturi said. "But if not, well, I like to say, 'Enjoy the journey.' I've enjoyed the journey."
I can say with certainty that you Joel, and the athletes and parents of non-revenue sports, are the only ones who've enjoyed this journey. The rest of us are just hoping President Kaler does the right thing, and brings in a new athletic director who cares more about going to Rose Bowls and Final Fours and Frozen Fours than winning the Director's Cup.