My how time flies. Last Tuesday marked the official one year anniversary of Norwood Teague's first year on the job at the University of Minnesota. As Chip Scoggins chronicled last weekend, a lot has already happened over Teague's first year at the helm of the Gopher athletic department. We here at TDG have been pretty big supporters of Norwood's, but I thought it might be good to get our thoughts about the first year on paper and see where we agreed and disagreed. Most importantly, I thought this would be a good chance for you all to share your thoughts on how Teague has fared over the past year. But before you hop down to the comments to share your love/hate/ambivalence with the world, take a minute to peruse the thoughts and grades of myself, JDMill, and Matt.
All in all, I have to say I'm pretty pleased with #HAILTEAGUE after the first year. My gripes are minimal and very specific and my positive takeaways far outweigh any concerns thus far. I think his first year has shown that Teague has clear goals for the department and a way he'd prefer to see things done and that kind of vision is what I think the department needed.
I prefer to end on a high note, so let's start with the gripes:
- Still no facilities plan, something that was originally scheduled to drop a couple of months ago.
- Has talked about improving gameday atmosphere but allowed the U's Parking and Transportation Services department to roll his office on tailgate lot closures.
- Has not invited any of the TDG staff to one of his fabulous parties.
Facilities plan: Teague admitted to Chip Scoggins that his facilities plan timeline was "overly optimistic." And I'm sure there have been hurdles (either bureaucratic or financial) that he's had to overcome that might not have been initially clear to him. And given some of what we know (e.g. the restrictions placed on Teague's dealings with T. Denny Sanford during the whole hospital buyout mess) I'm sure bureaucracy and red tape have definitely played a part. But given that this plan was one of his biggest and earliest announced priorities it becomes the first really big metric by which he can be judged and the delayed delivery and overall lack of communication as to how much of a delay fans should expect means I think it's fair to ding him on this front. Ideally, this is the part where he comes out with a massive lead donation from T. Denny for football improvements and makes me eat my words. So lets all hope for that. I don't mind looking silly when it means good things for the Gophers after all.
Gameday atmosphere: Before we get too deep into this I'm going to stipulate 3 things. 1) I'm going to praise him on this same topic in a minute thanks to the student outreach efforts. 2) Atmosphere isn't something you can change immediately and expecting that would be silly. 3) I have a personal dog in this particular fight. With that out of the way...
Teague has made it pretty clear that drawing more fans by improving the gameday experience is a must for all of the revenue sports, but especially for football. Which meant I was quite surprised (and more than a little displeased) in March when I found out that my tailgate lot on the West Bank (and one other popular WB lot) were being closed for gameday event parking by Parking and Transportation Services. The reason given? Under-utilization meant it wasn't cost effective to maintain the lots for tailgating. The 2 lots in question (C-89 and C-88 - near the Law School) were small and shaded. The alternate West Bank options offered? C86 (which only had a handful of open spots that were quickly filled) and Lot 94, an open lot right along Riverside Ave that is farther away from TCF Bank Stadium than the 2 lots which were closed. That last choice is especially galling considering the fact that PTS cancelled the pre/post game shuttle service to the West Bank last year. I know that entrenched interests like PTS have got to be hard to overcome, but Teague is going to have to do exactly that in the future if he wants to deliver the kind of improvements to the gameday experience that fans want and deserve.
ALL OF THE PARTY SNUBS: Note to self, must win lottery in order to get invited to these parties.
Ok, that 2nd gripe was longer that I intended (sorry, still bitter about it). Let's talk positives:
- Student section outreach for football
- The Tubby situation
- Support for Kill
- Molding the department
Student Section Improvements: What benefits have the students received from a Teague regime? Reduced FB season ticket prices, further cost reductions if you buy season tix across multiple sports, and a dedicated tailgate lot right next to the stadium for football games. The potential importance of the last one cannot be overstated. The one thing that always frustrated me to no end was the way Maturi's department treated TCF Bank Stadium like it was the sole cure to everything that ailed the department from a gameday atmosphere perspective. The attempts to build on the success of TCF were minimal and never included elements designed to entice students to come out. While tailgating alone doesn't mean increased student attendance (see Indiana for proof) the ability for students to party right next to their entrance isn't going to hurt either.
All Things Tubby: I'm not talking yea or nea on the firing specifically. I'm talking about the authoritative moves Teague made before and after the decision to fire Tubby. Teague stepped in to make sure that there was a cap on Tubby's buyout in the already generous new contract after Joel failed to do so. When he made his decision that change was needed, he didn't let money stand in the way. And when the search process was underway, he didn't waste time spoon-feeding the media and kept a lid on the process. That last one was a nice change of pace, even if it did lead to an absurdly large number of rumor mill fed #TAKES and rampant media lunacy, especially on the #TALKTAKES side of things.
Support For Kill: A contract extension that reinforced the fact that Teague knows rebuilding the FB program is going to be a slog and unwavering support for Kill's decision to cancel the UNC series. That last one is without a doubt the biggest PR misstep Teague has made, but he never backpedaled on the decision and always supported it while admitting it wasn't handled as well as it could have been.
Department Shakeup: Teague has replaced many members of the previous administration with his own proteges and admins who fit the mold of what he wants the department to be (i.e. more capable at fundraising and at managing the department like the $80 million business that it is).
GoAUpher's Grade: A-
I like the vision for the department and I like the early steps that have been taken. More work is needed if Teague wants to sustain this kind of approval, but all in all I think he's had a very positive first year at the helm.
I'm a big fan of Teague and he's taken on a big job at the U. He's essentially the anti-Joel Maturi which is exactly what the University and the fan base needed.
I love the way he has attacked fundraising and I love the way he has attacked the lack of attendance, specifically student attendance, at games.
His handling of the men's basketball coaching situation was impressive. In the face of the OMGTHESKYISFALLINGRUNFORTHEHILLS mentality of a very vocal Twin Cities media, he took on the situation with the right amount of discretion and silence. I think he did the right thing in letting Tubby go, I think he did it with the right amount of urgency, and I think he handled the coaching search and hire exactly how he should have.
And while it wasn't popular, and I wasn't personally happy that it happened, I am impressed with the fact that Teague trusted his football coach when he wanted to cancel the North Carolina home-&-home. Teague has since admitted that he wasn't prepared for the backlash that came with that decision, but he has not once backpedaled about having made it, and that has impressed me.
The one knock that I have on Teague, and again, he's just a year into this thing, is regarding facilities. Teague began preaching facilities the moment he was announced for the job, and while I understand that creating an entire facilities master plan for a university is likely a humongous undertaking, I feel like that plan should be complete after a year on the job.
Having said that, I can't quite knock Teague down to a B for not having the plan complete, because I would rather have him reveal a comprehensive and complete plan than a hastily put together one.
JD's Grade: A-
First, my gripes. I know fundraising is about building relationships, and courting big money boosters for seven figure donations takes a lot of glad handing. However, the primary task of his first year was to evaluate, strategize and produce a Master Facilities plan, a plan which -to date- none of us have seen. This was supposed to be unveiled publicly this spring, and here it is almost July without any real mention or sign of progress on that front. It's possible Teague and his staff are waiting to release the plans until they receive a tacit approval from the Board of Regents, or are hoping to score a lead donation to kickstart several major capital campaigns. Still, Teague's reputation as a dogged fundraiser at VCU hasn't quite manifested itself at Minnesota and until it does, the big 3 programs will lag behind the rest of the B1G for key facilities and amenities.
Another con. I understand Teague is one of the B1G's "low men" at the AD spot, and much like Christopher Moltisanti after he first got made, Norwood is getting the short end from his conference peers. Case in point: the conference football schedule for 2014/2015 compared to, say, Wisconsin or Iowa's. The Gophers play a murderous slate in those seasons, while the Badgers avoid the conference juggernauts and get Maryland/Rutgers instead. Right. This is an area where Teague could have raised his voice a bit and protected his football squad, instead of just letting a computer generate things and call it a day.
Still, Teague is a breathe of fresh air for the Gopher athletic department, someone who unapologetically sells his vision for the department and isn't afraid to defend his actions with the media. He's much more willing and capable of creative thinking to solve complex problems, something evident in his quick $10 ticket promotion ahead of the Syrcause game -- a move that produced the best atmosphere at TCF Bank Stadium since the Air Force game. He'll go back and renegotiate shitty contracts with Aramark, he'll use CSOM resources to investigate student section issues and he'll even carve out a tailgating lot specifically for the students... and not have the UMPD harass them.
His unbridled support of his Big 3, revenue producing coaches also stands out. When Jerry Kill wanted the UNC series cancelled, Teague didn't bat an eye because he understood what Jer was attempting to do, even if he didn't agree with it. When his newly hired basketball coach brought someone along from FIU with a checkered past, Norwood wouldn't block the hire -- the exact opposite of the previous AD and his basketball hire.
Most important, however, is his vision. He believes in his coaches, and in turn, believes that Minnesota can and should have better athletic programs. That's why he's looking to give resource Kill wants and needs, why he made the decision to move on from Tubby Smith despite an NCAA tournament victory and how he'll be able to raise funds for the massive facilities improvements the U desperately needs.
Matt's Grade: A-
That grade is mostly a weighted subset of the following:
- Media Handling: A
- Thinking outside the box: B+
- Support of Big 3 coaches: A
- Fundraising: C+
- Vision: A
- Protecting Big 3 sport interests in the B1G: D+
- Department management: B
- Not Being Joel Maturi: A+++