MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota President Eric Kaler was in search of a dynamic new leader to change the face of a moribund athletic program and inject new life into the football and men’s basketball programs.
Kaler chose VCU athletic director Norwood Teague as the lone finalist for the job on Sunday. Teague helped turn tiny Virginia Commonwealth University into a household name during the NCAA men’s tournament, but also headed a department that does not have a football program.
“He rose to the top of the candidate pool not only because of his proven history of success but because he is genuine and authentic,” Mary Jo Kane, co-chair of the athletics director search, said in the news release. “He has a superlative track record of fundraising and attracting and retaining high quality coaches.”
Current athletic director Joel Maturi is stepping down July 1 and will take a one-year transitional job that will include teaching and fundraising duties and advising the new AD.
Teague has been athletic director at the Richmond, Va., school since 2006, and joined the Rams after five years as associate athletics director at North Carolina. His biography on the VCU Athletics website says Teague was hired with high expectations — and has delivered.
Teague made two smart hires to help turn the Rams into a basketball power in the Colonial Athletic Association and a dangerous team in the NCAA tournament. After losing Jeff Capel to Oklahoma in his first year on the job, Teague hired Anthony Grant to take over.
When Grant left for Alabama, Teague plucked 32-year-old Shaka Smart off Billy Donovan’s bench at Florida, and Smart has turned into a star coach, leading the Rams to the Final Four in 2011. This past season, the Rams beat Wichita State in the second round and were a missed, buzzer-beating 3 from knocking out Indiana and advancing to their second straight Sweet 16.
Teague will have immediate coaching decisions to make at Minnesota, none bigger than talks about a long-term contract extension for men’s basketball coach Tubby Smith. Smith has been trying to secure a new deal for more than a year, and is also lobbying for a new practice facility at Minnesota.
Kaler said back in February that the biggest challenge facing Minnesota’s new AD would be changing the public’s low perception of Minnesota sports, as the football team, in particular, has not been to the Rose Bowl in 50 years. The men’s basketball team has missed the NCAA tournament two years in a row and hasn’t won a game in the tournament since 2007.
Teague is scheduled to visit campus Monday for interviews with Kaler and the search committee and to meet with coaches, faculty and senior leaders, the statement said. The interviews will be the final steps of a two-month national search. Teague was one of about 40 candidates to apply, the statement said.
“Teague has overseen continued success in the classroom and on the playing field, as well as stunning growth in gifts to VCU’s annual and capital funds. Moreover, during his tenure, the Ram brand has catapulted into one with national reach,” the biography reads.
Under Teague, VCU’s athletic annual fund has grown more than 119 percent, with averaging more than 20 percent annually. He has also led the campaign to build a $10 million practice facility for men’s and women’s basketball and other sports.
Though Teague comes from a school without a football program, he has held positions at North Carolina, Arizona State and Virginia.
The Gophers’ announcement also noted that Teague has led VCU to all-time attendance records at Verizon Wireless Arena, and that season ticket revenue has doubled since his arrival, which may have played a role, given the dwindling attendance at most Minnesota sporting events aside from men’s hockey this season.
Kane said stakeholders made it clear during the search process that they wanted: “a finalist that embodies integrity, visionary leadership and management experience, good communication, a focus on student-athletes both on and off the court, fundraising acumen and an overall commitment to excellence at the University of Minnesota.”
The statement did not mention compensation. Big Ten athletic directors’ salaries range from roughly $350,000 to more than $1 million. When Kaler announced the hiring of a national executive search firm in February, he said Minnesota probably would pay in the middle of that range.
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