There’s a new leader at Minnesota. His name is Norwood Teague. And he arrives from VCU with a reputation as an astute handler of people who has business acumen and the all-important ability to raise money. Looks like a home run hire for an athletic department that needs good news, as its football and basketball programs have struggled in recent years.
The Golden Gophers haven’t been to a bowl since 2009 and haven’t been to the Rose Bowl since the 1961 season. Every other team in the Big Ten has been to at least one Rose Bowl since then, including Nebraska as a non-Big Ten member in 2002.
The basketball team has been to the NCAA tournament just four times (1999, 2005, 2009, 2010) since the 1997 Final Four was vacated because of NCAA violations that cost coach Clem Haskins and A.D. Mark Dienhart their jobs. And all four times, Minnesota has been dumped in the first round.
Enter the 46-year-old Teague, who emerged from a group of 40 candidates who were given consideration in a two-month search to replace Joel Maturi, who is slated to retire on June 30 after enduring an up-and-down tenure since his hiring in July 2002.
Teague arrives from VCU, where he was athletic director since 2006. It was at the Richmond, Va., school that plays in the Colonial Athletic Conference that Teague made one of the most brilliant hires in recent college history when he tabbed Shaka Smart from Florida to coach the basketball team in 2009. Smart has proceeded to become one of the hottest young coaches in America, while the Rams have become one of the hottest programs in the nation en route to marching to the Final Four in 2011 and the Sweet 16 last season.
And, no doubt, this caught the eye of Minnesota decision makers: Teague was the force behind raising money for a $10 million basketball practice facility at VCU. Coincidently, Minnesota is in dire need of such a facility. Ask men’s basketball coach Tubby Smith.
Teague, who hails from Raleigh, N.C., and is a graduate of North Carolina where he spent five years as an associate athletic director, is expected to get a contract in the $400,000 range for at least five years, according to a report in the St. Paul Pioneer Press. That’s almost double his VCU salary.
Maturi did some good things. His biggest accomplishment was spearheading the effort to build 50,805-seat TCF Bank Stadium, a $288.5 million facility opened in 2009. He also did a good job melding the men’s and women’s athletic departments.
Maturi’s biggest gaffe was the catastrophic 2007 hiring of Tim Brewster, an overmatched tactician who talked a good game but didn’t deliver. Under his stewardship, the Gophers went 15-30 overall and 6-21 in the Big Ten with two mid-level bowl trips and lots of disillusionment among the fan base.
Critics howled: How could the school hire a coach who never has been a head coach—or a coordinator—at any level aside from high school? Brewster—the San Diego Chargers tight ends coach at the time of his hiring–was let go seven games into the 2010 season and still isn’t coaching. Jerry Kill was hired from Northern Illinois following the season and debuted with a 3-9 overall mark and last-place finish in the Legends Division (2-6) in 2011.
Cutting deeper for Maturi was the fact Minnesota had to dole out some hefty buyout payments to Brewster, ex-football coach Glen Mason and former hoop coach Dan Monson.
But that’s all history now, as Teague brings great hope to this success-starved school.
BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is on Twitter and Facebook, and all of his work is at btn.com/tomdienhart. Send questions to his weekly mailbag, subscribe to his RSS feed, and check out his video Q&A.