The nice thing about Minnesota hiring an AD from another P5 school is that there is an SB Nation blog out there that knows the what the last stop is really like. With Mark Coyle coming to Minnesota from Syracuse, we turned to our friends at Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician to see what Orange fans thought of Coyle. Given the circumstances, it would be completely understandable if the only reaction is "EFF THAT GUY HE WAS TERRIBLE", but TNIAAM manager John Cassillo (@JohnCassillo) is a class act and had some thoughtful responses for us.
The Daily Gopher: After Coyle was hired by Syracuse you noted several ways he differed from your previous AD, including a desire to focus on "core fans." Was there anything about either approach that you especially liked or disliked?
John Cassillo: Despite him not being around long enough to truly see this through, he did create a fan council that actively engaged locals, and also set up this whole "No Huddle Tour" this summer to go around the Central New York area with Dino Babers and Jim Boeheim to get fans excited about the present and future. While we have fans all over, the focus still needs to be on local fans as far as football's concerned. Attendance has been bad, and the only way you fix that is by encouraging local, potential ticketholders. This shouldn't be hard with $99 season tickets, but... it is.
TDG: Related to #1, I read your initial reporting on the creation of a Syracuse Fan Council. You seemed excited by this idea and wrote an opinion piece in favor of it before it became official. How has the implementation of the council gone since being announced? Is it something you want to see continued after Coyle's departure?
JC: Honestly, the fan council idea was awesome, but its workings were so secretive, that we're unlikely to ever know what it did. Even if it continued, they're going closed-door with this thing, which makes it tougher to gauge value. Assuming it was behind any of the aforementioned fan initiatives, it's probably been implemented well enough. To be honest, probably best to keep this whole "fan council" thing behind closed doors so as not to inspire some sense of elitism among certain fans. Seems stupid, I know. But we all spend time on the internet. We know how people can get with a modicum of perceived power/voice.
TDG: Everything I've read suggests Coyle likes to work "behind the scenes" as an AD. Was that your experience with him at Syracuse? Anything you liked or disliked about his approach as AD?
JC: He was so behind the scenes that it's tough to really know what he did/didn't do. I spoke to him once and he seemed like a nice enough guy. Reserved, quiet and business-like. He was also dead-set on helping Syracuse move past some NCAA issues. His hires were smart and put focus on athlete welfare and compliance. That's not a bad legacy, and one that should be appreciated following his departure -- especially since our old AD (DOCTOR Daryl Gross) did none of these things.
TDG: Coyle gave TNIAAM an early Q&A, something that I haven't seen a lot of other SBN blogs get the chance to do right away. How would you characterize his interactions with the media during his time at Syracuse?
JC: Reserved, for sure. He wasn't very reachable, but understood the value of giving media what they needed -- and gets bonus points for seeing a blog (even a larger one) in that grouping of important outlets for him to know. Since he stayed behind the scenes, there were less questions headed his way. That's probably for the best.
TDG: Coyle fired football coach Scott Shafer during his first year on the job and landed a big time replacement in Dino Babers. It's likely that he'll have to do the same with Minnesota basketball coach Richard Pitino. What are your thoughts about Coyle's approach to hiring and firing coaches? Anything you think Minnesota fans will especially like?
JC: He doesn't share anything until it's announced. So if you hate rumors, random fodder, panic, etc., you'll like his way of doing things. Coyle seems to have taken cues from Chancellor Kent Syverud on that front. Syverud, who hired Coyle, is also pretty focused in on decreasing informational leaks (easier at a private school, obviously), and just going to the press with the actual announcement.
TDG: You reported that Mark Coyle discussed making hockey happen at Syracuse. Did anything come of that?
JC: Nothing of note. That's been tossed around for a long time, but has yet to come to fruition. Perhaps with a few years of ACC money under our belts, things start to move there? Doubt it'll be high on the next AD's initial list, however.
TDG: If there is one thing (good or bad) that Minnesota fans should know about Mark Coyle, what would it be?
Pretty much covered above. You're not getting an AD who wants headlines -- something that should be appealing to Gophers fans given what the last guy did.
TDG: I know Syracuse fans are upset about the way Coyle left Syracuse and I can't blame you. Did this departure drastically change your opinion of Coyle? Consider this a chance to vent.
JC: It startled us because while we knew he'd eventually leave (this is college sports after all), we figured he'd at least hang around for a few years. To see him leave after 10.5 months while getting credit for athletic department success largely resulting from the work of the previous regime... that's just not among the expected outcomes when someone's hired for the AD role.
For Syracuse, we're also used to people sticking around for awhile, adding to the rancor from many Orange fans. Until recently, football coaches and ADs stuck around for decades. Our basketball coach has been on campus forever, and our lacrosse program has a legacy of coaching success that's yielded very few changes in 100 years of existence. I'm not saying that's all right, mind you. But it's perspective on why SU fans take Coyle's departure more personally than others might.
As I mentioned, Coyle made some needed changes to cut fat, add to the compliance side of things, and start to move things in the proper direction (especially with regard to his top priority, football). Hopefully the next AD can pick that up and run with it.
Thanks again to John for taking time to help us out!
It definitely sounds like we shouldn't expect to see Coyle in the news a bunch unless it's absolutely needed. The Twin Cities media is going to hate him the first time he has to make a major hire, as his "behind the scenes" persona seems to go into overdrive when avoiding leaks/sharing info on a hiring process. I'm in favor of him starting a fan council at Minnesota. He respects the importance of hockey (#ONEOFUS).
In the end, everything John had to share simply solidifies my opinion that Mark Coyle is a great hire for Minnesota.