EAST GULL LAKE — Thursday night was equal parts thank you and welcome.
The 12th annual University of Minnesota Golf event and fundraiser hosted by Dutch Cragun at Cragun’s Legacy Courses gave loyal Gophers fans a chance to thank former athletic director Joel Maturi as well as welcome his successor Norwood Teague.
Maturi served 10 years as athletic director and will serve one more year as special assistant to the U of M president this year. It’s a move he appreciates as does Teague, who told a packed Legacy Pavilion that he was going to lean heavily on his predecessor to the point of being a bother. Teague said Maturi did an “unbelievable job” in his 10 years as head of the department. He also said he understands what now needs to be done.
“I think we need to try to build the budget as best we can,” said Teague. “We have some catch up work to do there. That’s not the only thing we need to do, but it certainly is one of the top things we need to do. We’re behind some other Big Ten schools and we really have to get rolling in that area. Part of that is going to be building some facilities. We have to think strategically about what we build and when we build. We’re heavy into that now and I’m only in my second week so we’re hitting the ground running.”
Teague has been running all over the state, but was able to spend the last four days in the Brainerd lakes area. Along with creating a to do list, he along with the help of head football coach Jerry Kill, head women’s basketball coach Pam Borton and head softball coach Jessica Allister, delighted fans in attendance with past success and enthusiastic prognostications for next season.
Not shying away from an obvious need for improvement, coach Kill joked with the audience that if his wife could take a chance on a guy like him then they should believe that he is going to do everything he can to turn the program around.
The football program is another of Teague’s early priorities. But he wants to make sure the improvement is done right.
“You have to do it that way because if you don’t do it the right way and you get yourself in trouble all is lost,” said Teague. “I’m confident we have a coaching staff in place that is going to do it the right way. We have a department that really stays in line with compliance. Sometimes you get yourself in trouble and you don’t even realize you’re doing it because the book is so thick. It’s a challenge at times because the NCAA books is as big as a dictionary.”
Teague is no stranger to building success and changing cultures. He was hired as director of athletics at Virginia Commonwealth University in 2006. In that time, he helped turn the men’s basketball team into a national name highlighted by hiring and then retaining head coach Shaka Smart after the VCU Rams advanced to the program’s first NCAA Final Four appearance.
Among his other highlights were raising the balances of the departments annual and capital funds.
“I wanted to go to an upper level BCS job and I had some opportunities to really look hard at some in the past year, kind of after VCU went to the final four,” said Teague. “None of them felt right. It’s just hard to explain. I just knew when this opened up that I would crawl up there because I had been to the Twin Cities before. I had followed the Gophers on and off. I knew a lot about the state. I knew that there was so much they could do to build the program. Plus, this is the Big Ten and that’s enough said right there.”
The never-short-for-words Cragun presented Maturi with a plaque and a lifetime pass to golf at the Legacy and despite a deep desire to roast the departing Maturi refrained.
“When I was hired 10 years ago they needed somebody with a certain vision to merge the departments and compromise and make things whole,” said Maturi. “I think we’ve done a good job of developing a family atmosphere in the community. We’ve been blessed to not have violations and do well academically and do well athletically.
“But I think it’s time to have a renewed vision with an emphasis on fund raising and that’s Norwood’s strength and that’s his passion. I think it’s a great transitional time. I’m here to help him.”