MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Joel Maturi’s tenure is almost over as the University of Minnesota’s athletic director.
Maturi recently took some time to look back at a life lived, where often times work had to come before everything else. Now it’s about making a transition to a very new life: Retirement.
“It makes a lot of sense to make a change now. We’ve got a new president and an old athletics director,” Maturi said at a news conference where he announced he was stepping down.
Maturi’s run as Gophers athletic director is in the final quarter. The Minnesota native got his shot to run the athletic department here, and it has come with great joy.
“I feel energized by the young people who are here at the University of Minnesota and the campus here,” Maturi said.
His run has also come with great critics.
“I reflect on that a lot. I think the humanness of any of us are impacted by it and certainly hurt by it on occasion. If you’re going to sit in this seat, you have to know that that’s part of it,” Maturi said.
Much of that stemmed from one hire: Tim Brewster for the Gopher football program. At the time of the hire, Brewster had no previous collegiate head coaching experience.
“I thought Tim Brewster was the right person. I felt we needed a better recruiter, I felt we needed somebody to bring some talent in, and quite frankly he did that. I think his downfall was the lack of continuity with his staff,” Maturi said.
He stuck with Gopher hockey coach Don Lucia when many were calling for him to be let go, and he brought Minnesota back to the Frozen Four.
“I knew the personal challenges that Don went through with his health and the leaving of some players and even some of his staff that turned over,” Maturi said. “So it wasn’t as hard as some people might think to stay the course with Don Lucia.”
Like his entire career, it has come with a price. Maturi’s work ethic has been legendary. He is focused to please a boss and to please himself. Often times he put the job before his family.
“You know what, I think I’ll be a better grandparent than I was a parent and that excites me,” Maturi said. “I wasn’t home a lot. I’ve always been a workaholic. Fortunately, Lois has been my biggest booster and obviously fan and friend.”
Lois is his wife and they are now grandparents to three children with a fourth on the way. It will be a challenge for Maturi as he is most at home in an office or at a game always thinking about what’s next or how to improve.
“She understands that this is my faith haven, that this is where I feel most comfortable,” he said. “It’s why I’m here on Christmas Day, why I’m here on a weekend. It’s because it’s my safe harbor and where I feel the most comfortable. She’s allowed me to do that because I think she knows if I’m at home, I probably wouldn’t be happy. My mind would be some place else.”
His biggest mission coming in was to merge the men’s and women’s athletic department into one. His replacement, Norwood Teague, will have a different agenda.
“He’s going to have to run it how he wants to,” Maturi said. “He’s known as a fund raiser, known as an external person. I think when I came in 10 years ago, you needed an internal person. Merging departments that were at odds was where my attention needed to be, so that’s where I based it.”
He will forever be reminded of his work by the return of outdoor football to campus with the approval and construction of TCF Bank Stadium.
“I will forever be able to come to games, to walk by the stadium and even some times today get goose bumps to know that I was here when we were able to get football back to campus,” Maturi said.
When he leaves, he’ll go knowing there always could have been things done differently, but regret might be too strong of a word because the good times and the good people have outnumbered the rest.
“I’m not sad because it’s the next stage in my life. I’m pleased and happy, I’ve been energized every day by coming to work. I’m going to leave here with good reflections and good memories, and also realized that it’s time,” Maturi said.
And he said he won’t miss having to wake up at 4:30 a.m. every day.
He’s stepping down as athletic director and retiring, but not completely stepping away from the school. He will be a special assistant to President Eric Kaler and will also be a faculty member, teaching facilities management this fall.
To his players he had this to say.
“Don’t let winning be your identity. When you don’t win you can still make a difference in peoples lives,” he said.