Finally, some interesting news on the athletics director search! Joe Christensen has written about 9 candidates identified by his sources as finalists for the Gopher's open AD position. Since there has not been a lot of reliable information thus far, this is a pretty important story. Joe spoke with several sources who only spoke on the condition of anonymity. I don't want to copy/paste his work so I'll share some thoughts of my own on each of these. Before we continue, I suggest you read Joe's story first.
This bit of info was good from Joe's piece. The deadline for applications is 4/29 with formal interviews occurring in the coming weeks. The good news is that the process should move fairly quickly from this point, at least in relation to the pace of this process since August.
The following names have been vetted by the search firm, and may not be an exhaustive list. Christensen also indicated that there are a handful of candidates who appear to be more certain to at least have a formal interview in the near future.
Beth Goetz - Minnesota's current interim AD
By all accounts Goetz has done a good job in her time as the interim AD. She understands the challenges, she has all the relationships built. I would have no problem with Goetz getting the job. She remains a candidate and there have been rumors that everything is a dog and pony show because she is the favorite. The lack of coming from anywhere with football concerns some, and that may be valid. But being in the role now would certainly allow her to hit the ground running.
Personally I'm not convinced that she is the favorite.
Phil Esten - Penn State deputy AD
There is a lot to like about Esten. Many want the next AD to be one who is from here. Esten is a La Crosse native who got his undergrad from St. Thomas, his doctorate from Minnesota and was an Associate AD under Joel Maturi. He has then moved on to be the deputy AD at Penn State. He has experience at another P5 school, he has worked in the Minnesota department where he presumably understands the landscape and being from the area there is little flight risk (though I think flight risk is low for whomever they hire). He also was a key player in the fundraising for TCF Bank Stadium and was the president of the alumni association, meaning he has relationships built with alumni and donors.
Sean Frazier - Northern Illinois AD
Another excellent candidate. Frazier's experience includes being deputy AD at Wisconsin under Barry Alvarez and then moving on to Northern Illinois to be the Athletic Director at a D1 school. That gives him P5 experience as well as having been the lead guy at a large institution as well. What I also like about Frazier is that he played football at Alabama. There is little doubt that he will understand the value of establishing a successful football program.
I did read that Mike Max indicated Frazier may be the top candidate at one point. And Christensen indicated that Frazier is one candidate the search firm has "pursued most aggressively."
Gene Taylor - Iowa deputy AD
Most notably for his time at North Dakota State where Taylor led the transition from DII to FCS and did so while remaining rather successful. Taylor, like Frazier, has experience as being an AD as well as working as a deputy AD at a P5 school.
Pete Najarian - Wall Street options trader, former Minnesota Football player
A popular name in alumni and fan circles. There is zero doubt that Najarian has been very successful in the real world and is very passionate about Gopher Football. Would his business acumen translate into running a Big Ten Athletic Department? Some would argue that in today's world where college athletics is essentially a business, that hiring someone successful in business would be the right move. He is a former captain of the football team and would bring some passion to the job.
After those five, there are four more names and these are ones that I would be less confident in as leading candidates.
Craig Thompson - Mountain West commissioner
Rumors have always persisted that Thompson likes his job as commish of the Mountain West. He is a Minnesota graduate and has a lengthy list of experience in college athletics administration. Checks off the box as being "one of us" and has the requisite experience.
Bog Stein - attorney, former Gopher Football Player
Former Gopher All-American and played 7 seasons in the NFL. He has worked as an NFL agent and he was part of the Timberwolves organization for the first several years. This one is interesting.
Bill Robertson - WCHA commissioner
Robertson has promised to move the Gophers back to the WCHA and he'd make the Big Ten pay for it if he gets the job. He is a Minnesota native and was VP for the Wild for 13 years. The guy has some hockey chops, would he be the right guy for this job overall?
David Gutzke - US Bank senior vice president
An interesting name that Christensen earthed. Gutzke is from here, he played football at Princeton and has spent most of his career advising local businesses and executives in financial matters. What does that mean? He has contacts who trust him with large bank accounts. He has also been successful in corporate America and would fall under the "business guy" group of candidates.
My personal thoughts? I'd love to see the job go to Frazier or Esten. I really like that Esten has worked here and has relationships with alumni and donors. His time at Penn State should have given him perspective on how things are done differently, particularly around football. I can't speak for him but my assumption is that moving back closer to family makes this a destination job. Frazier...he has experience at Wisconsin, a program often discussed how Minnesota could/should model. His Bama football experience strikes a chord with me as well. If I had a say, based solely on resumes, I would lean towards these two.
Interviews expected over next couple weeks and hopefully by June 1st we'll have a permanent AD.
Who do you like for the job?