MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — There are still many unanswered questions about the Gophers athletic department under Norwood Teague.
Most pressing: Whether anyone else knew about Teague’s behavior towards women, and should have done something about it. The University announced an independent investigation Tuesday that will look into that, among other things.
In the meantime, it’s now interim athletics director Beth Goetz’s job to steer it in the right direction. She sat down with WCCO’s David McCoy for a one-on-one interview Wednesday afternoon.
David McCoy: You’ve worked here for a while, a few years. You’ve been in this environment. Is there a larger, cultural issue in the athletic department about women and the way that they’re treated? Or, now that Norwood’s gone, is that problem taken care of?
Beth Goetz: I can tell you that I’ve never experienced, nor have I heard of others’ experience, that would lead me to believe it’s a bigger challenge. I can assure you that there’s no situation in which I would tolerate that behavior.
McCoy: What role if any will you have in the investigation?
Goetz: I think that remains to be seen. We certainly welcome the group taking a look at what we do. As I said, I believe that they won’t find anything there. But recommendations they may have about ways we can do things better, taking a look at our policies, we welcome that information. We will make any changes that they think can continue to help us be better in that area.
McCoy: Sexual harassment, sexual assault, it seems like a prevalent issue in athletic departments around the country. Is there anything you can do during your tenure here, however long that may be, to be more proactive about dealing with that issue.
Goetz: I think you hit the nail on your head. Being proactive, and working from a place of education, as well as making sure there’s an environment in which people feel comfortable to come forward and express any concerns they have. You know, we spend a lot of time, certainly, with our student-athletes, we’ve done training with our staff, and so I think it’s continuing to hit home those messages and making sure that we create a respectful and safe environment for everybody that we interact with.
McCoy: Will you implement any specific changes right off the top here as you take over?
Goetz: As this issue has arisen, it’s another great opportunity to start to talk about those things. And so there certainly will be some things that we’re going to do in the coming weeks and months that will speak specifically to that.
McCoy: So nothing specific that’s been decided yet, but things that you guys are looking at …
Goetz: We’ve certainly addressed it in concept.
McCoy: There were some people that believed that Norwood, the way he looked at women’s sports, didn’t give them the proper due that they deserved. Do you agree with that assessment? Do you change the way you approach handling of women’s sports here?
Goetz: I think one of the reasons that I came to Minnesota was the strong support of all their programs, and I appreciate that and I think the emphasis for us going forward will be to continue to make sure we’re supporting them all so that they can achieve success, both in the classroom, on the field and obviously socially as we help them prepare for life after, life after Minnesota.
McCoy: Obviously this is not the circumstances that you wanted to get this job in. How much harder does that make doing it? You’re running a $100-million athletic department with this hanging over your head.
Goetz: It’s a really great question, but you know, in my role as a deputy AD my responsibility really was to run the day-to-day operations. And we’re involved in fundraising and everything else, and it was your responsibility to take care of that when the athletic director is away from the office, and so in that sense it’s something that you prepare for every day because it’s your role to be ready to go, and there’s circumstances and time periods where you’ve filled that to some degree in the past.
McCoy: What do you feel like is the most helpful prior experience that you have gotten over the years that will prepare you for this?
Goetz: You ask that in a singular way, but I think you prepare every single day for what’s next. And so everything from your experience as a student-athlete, my experience as a coach and then my previous administrative roles at Butler and certainly the time I’ve spent here, all of it has contributed in different ways to help me feel prepared and confident in leading this program.
McCoy: What should people know about you? Boosters, fans and just the general public. What do you want people to know about you?
Goetz: I think the most important thing is that I’m passionate about our student athletes, our coaches and our community, and committed to making sure that our focus remains with those groups. And that we’re going to aggressively pursue our goals and win Big Ten championships and go after our fundraising project and finish up the Athletes Village.
McCoy: What do you consider your biggest strengths?
Goetz: I think people. You know, I think I can bring to the table great relationships, collaborative. I think I’m a big thinker and I think all those skills … help, because probably the biggest strength is your team, and we have a great team. Again, athletes, coaches and staff. And so when you get to pull in all those folks and use their expertise, then you know you’re going to be OK.
McCoy: Will you ask to be considered to be the permanent athletic director?
Goetz: You know, right now that’s the farthest thing from my mind or anybody’s mind. It’s just, you want to focus on what you’re doing today and make sure you do it to the best of your ability.
McCoy: As you take over this department, what is your number-one priority?
Goetz: Always to serve and support our student-athletes and our coaches. And beyond that, the next agenda item is again, we’re going to aggressively pursue the completion of this fundraising campaign and are committed to moving forward with the Athletes Village.
McCoy: How much more involved in that do you need to be now?
Goetz: It’s a little bit different role. As I said, it’s something that I’ve been engaged with to this point. But no doubt that will shift a little bit and take up more of my time.
McCoy: What kind of response and feedback have you gotten on that, and how people have responded to your leadership on it?
Goetz: I’ve talked to several of our key donors, and, you know, their message is what we thought it would be. It’s that these things are never about one individual, it was always about the institution and their commitment to our student-athletes. And so I think it’s, you know, that’s where the focus is and it won’t be as impactful as it may appear. And we’re ready to move forward.