MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — On his first day on the job as the new athletic director at Minnesota, Norwood Teague proclaimed the long-talked about and exhaustively negotiated contract extension for men’s basketball coach Tubby Smith “at the very end” of completion.
Once that deal is in place, the Golden Gophers will have all three of their highest profile coaches, including football coach Jerry Kill and men’s hockey coach Don Lucia, under contract for the long term. It’s an odd situation for an incoming athletic director to not be choosing “his guys” for the biggest jobs, one not lost on Teague as he takes over a fledgling athletic department that needs a shot in the arm.
“It is a little bit different because I’ve always had to replace those guys very quickly,” Teague told The Associated Press on Monday, his first official day on the job. “And that’s fine.”
“I’ll have more time to do other things rather than concentrate on looking for coaches in those areas right away because it can be challenging when you come to a new place and you have to replace one of your high profile coaches right away. You’re not always sure what the great fit is going to be because you’re not immersed in that culture yet.”
The stability at the top of the school’s three biggest programs could be just what Teague needs, because he certainly has a lot of other work to do. The Gophers hired him away from Virginia Commonwealth to replace outgoing athletic director Joel Maturi, who spent 10 years at Minnesota developing a well-rounded and competitive department, but one that lacked significant success in the two biggest sports — football and men’s basketball.
Kill is starting the second season of his plan to overhaul the football program while Smith has been here for five years and still hasn’t delivered on the expectations he was saddled with after leaving Kentucky.
Teague’s biggest task early will be to revitalize a fan base that has grown weary of the mediocrity and find new sources of revenue from alumni to help build a practice facility for the men’s basketball team and upgrade the football team’s practice digs as well.
Fundraising has been one of Teague’s strengths and a big reason he was able to land the Big Ten job despite coming from a school that did not have a football program. Without any major decisions to make in the coaching ranks, and with no family at home, he should be able to direct more of his energy to that area.
“You don’t really know what the true challenges are like at (a new) place for a coach,” Teague said. “You can guess. But you’ve got to be there a while to really know what those challenges are. Everybody has their own little unique set. If you have a coach that’s an All-Star that comes in and can’t really adapt to those unique challenges, they can fail.”
The 46-year-old Teague is a bachelor, which has allowed him to immerse himself in the job at VCU and as an administrator at previous stops at Virginia, North Carolina and Arizona State.
“I don’t want to be single forever, I don’t think,” Teague said. “But it’s easier to move. You’re a little more nimble, I guess you could say. You can spend more hours at it. I’ve always said college athletics is not a job, it’s a lifestyle because you spend so much time at it.”
Teague’s mission to make sure that Kill and Smith have all the resources they need to succeed. He’s followed the Minnesota program from afar for years, thanks to some family ties to the area, but admitted that decades of mostly mediocre results in football and basketball did surprise him upon closer examination of the program’s history.
“I was shocked when I looked at the records since the ’60s how moderate our success had been,” Teague said, recalling Minnesota’s 1985 Independence Bowl win over Clemson and a 10-win season under Glen Mason in 2003 as two of the very few highlights for the football program since its glory days in the 1950s and ’60s. “I was stunned. … I didn’t know we’d had such a long period of not operating at the level we want to operate at.
“But there are challenges. I’ll have to find them out and solidify more in my head as we get down the road.”
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