Last week (Monday, June 18th to be exact) was officially his first day on the job. Teague has been making the media rounds doing interviews and meeting with major donors. Considering we are only days into his tenure I think it a bit too early to judge if he has been a success or a failed hire. But there are a number of key issues surrounding the entirety of Gopher athletics. Here is a list, it is a short list, of issues facing our favorite program and my thoughts on each of them.
Tubby Smith contract extension - this may not be the most important thing on Teague's to-do list but it appears as though it will be the first one crossed off. Multiple sources are reporting that the deal is imminent with just some details yet to be worked out. This extension is kind of a no-brainer at this point, particularly after the NIT run the Gophers made giving Gopher Nation a reason to be excited about next year. I realize that many were and probably still are ready to cut ties with Tubby and move on, but I don't think those with actual say in the matter would agree with that assessment.
What becomes intriguing will be the details of the extension, particularly the buy-out should the Teague decide to make a coaching change in the near future. A coach of Tubby's stature will not be subject to quite the same terms as what was Brewster's last extension. But one has to assume that this extension will have a more University friendly buy-out than the current deal has. More has to be expected of the highest paid employee of the state. I personally believe that it is a specious argument that we should demand more wins because Tubby is so highly paid. We should demand more wins regardless of how much he is being paid.
Basketball Practice Facility - this will likely be the first public project that Teague will get to put on his Minnesota resume. Coach Kill brought up his desire for upgraded football practice facilities, but I'd be shocked to see the football facilities happen first.
This is one of those necessary evils for a college basketball program. I personally don't believe that a brand new practice facility will not sway one single recruit to pick Minnesota over another top notch program. Tyus Jones isn't going to say "no" to Coach K because we have a new practice facility. But I do believe that it is A factor, one of many, and having a new facility can help. It is one of those things that can hurt you if you don't have it, but I'm not sure how much it specifically helps you.
Adding it to the list of being a Big Ten program, being a winning program (not there yet), having a big-name coach, a cool game-day atmosphere and having state-of-the-art facilities are all important. It is best to take care of as many things on that list as possible. A practice facility is something you can control and with the hire of Teague and with Teague bringing on another fund-raising dynamo, I imagine this will happen sooner than later.
Football Practice Facility - many of the arguments made above apply to football as well. Cretin-Derham Hall kids are not going to choose Minnesota over Notre Dame because we have a new practice facility. They'll start choosing us over the Irish when we start winning and occasionally can compete for a Big Ten title. But having the facility will help.
I do not believe this is not the immediate horizon. I have heard the interesting correlation between the likely $3,000,000 expected to come to the University from the Vikings in 2015 and the number that has been floated as what it would take to properly upgrade the football practice facilities. Maybe that money will be turned back around and put into the football program that way. That would make some sense and I love the direct tie and the visual reminder to recruits that we have an NFL team in our backyard. Look how they helped to take care of our facilities and they are going to be here to watch your career blossom before they draft you.
This will happen, but I believe it will be a few years.
Potentially cutting non-revenue sports - Within Gopher Nation there has been chatter about how cutting some of the programs who are supported by the revenue sports. This is something that I just don't see happening. The argument that cutting some minor sports would allow the revenue sports to succeed is specious at best. The notion that Wisconsin football and basketball is successful because they made the tough decision to cut baseball is ill-informed. The fact is that cutting a non-revenue sport would free up a couple million dollars at best. While that is a couple million more than football would currently have, it is not nearly enough money to make a significant impact on wins and losses. In fact I'm certain it would not at all translate into one extra W.
I am all for giving the revenue sports the resources necessary for them to compete, I just don't believe cutting women's rowing will do much of anything for Coach Kill and the football program.
In one of Teague's interviews he made an interesting point that some of our non-revenue sports have fairly new and high-quality facilities. It would be unwise to cut some of those programs where we have recently invested. This is an area where Teague brings some experience. While at North Carolina this very subject was an issue and they chose to retain all of their programs. He also has pointed out that there are other universities, Ohio State for instance, have quite a few more non-revenue programs than we do and they don't seem to be having a problem supporting successful basketball and football programs. That too is kind of a weak argument because the level of sustained success Ohio State has had in football and basketball generates significantly more revenue than Minnesota does. So they have a LOT more money to support both the revenue and the non-revenue sports. But the point is that football success can be had without symbolically cutting a minor sport.
Building a Winning Football Program - This seems like the next logical discussion point. It is refreshing to hear Teague talk about how he recognizes how important it is to get football on track and winning. Maybe because he knows this is where he can ultimately leave his mark. This is one of those things that will clearly take time and there is no magic formula. But it starts with your coach.
Norwood Teague is not the guy who hired Jerry Kill but I believe Kill will be given time to build his program under his new boss. Teague's job will be to make sure the necessary resources will be given to Coach Kill so there are not roadblocks to his success. We have so often heard that there are a number of reasons why it is difficult for football to succeed in this state and in this market. Teague needs to do whatever he can to remove those hindrances and allow Coach Kill to succeed.
Building some new facilities, managing coaches well, managing finances, avoiding major scandals will all be great; but building a winning football program as the athletic director is where he can leave a legacy.
Gaining Traction in a Professional Team Market - This will be an interesting challenge for Teague and maybe it isn't really something he needs to worry about. But this mid-sized market has plenty of sport options. The Twins and Vikings are state institutions. The Wild has a passionate team of 18,000. The Wolves can be very popular if they begin to start winning. And the Gophers have a few major programs that garner a lot of attention as well. The challenge for the Gophers is to maintain ticket sales in a very competitive ticket market. Winning is usually the driver of these things but part of the equation is making sure your season ticket holders are happy and providing an entertaining atmosphere where families find they are getting a good value for their dollars spent.
This town and this state can get behind a winner, regardless of which team it is. This town was crazy for Gopher basketball back in the 1996-97 season. I can only imagine the excitement if the football team were to be playing in the Rose Bowl after winning the Big Ten title game.
New preferred seating plan for Gopher Basketball and Hockey - Teague is just pleased that this was set in motion long before he was hired as he then doesn't have to take the brunt of complaints from long-time season ticket holders who have to make new friends in new seats. But he understands the reality the current college landscape. Most major colleges have already gone to this system and it will provide a very nice boost to the athletic department budget.
He will have to field some calls from grumpy season ticket holders but he can defray much of the anger to this decision being made before he was even a candidate for the job. Maturi takes the blame and Teague will reap all the benefits! This one is kind of a win-win for Teague.
With all of that said, there are many more issues Teague will have to deal with over the course of his tenure. These are some of the overarching themes above and beyond dealing with the academic issues, legal troubles, transfers, suspensions and whatever else pops up while running a BCS level athletic department.
Some of Teague's recent interviews...
- KFAN Dan Barreiro interview
- Star Tribune interview
- GopherSports.com interview with Mike Grimm
- Pioneer Press article with video of Teague's first day