Maturi tells Teague it’s OK to say no sometimes

Published 8:59 am Wednesday, June 27, 2012

MINNEAPOLIS — Joel Maturi put the “go” in Gophers over his 10 years as Minnesota’s athletics director.

One piece of advice he’s passed on to his successor? Pick his spots when it comes to attendance and accessibility.

One week after Norwood Teague officially took over Maturi’s old office, the now-former guide of Gophers sports reflected Tuesday on an up-and-down-but-never-boring decade in charge of the 25-team, $80 million department during a question-and-answer session at the annual Minnesota Associated Press Sports Association meeting.

Email newsletter signup

Maturi, whose famous dawn-to-dusk work ethic and equality-first attitude endeared him to Gophers coaches and athletes and frustrated some prominent boosters, made his email address available in the university’s public directory. He told Teague not to do that.

“Only because I don’t know if you can answer them all,” Maturi said, estimating that his daily inbox count has dropped from 150 to 200 previously to 35 in his new role as an adviser and professor.

Teague is inheriting quite the challenge, with a new practice facility and eventually a new arena sought by the basketball programs and several other financial hurdles he’ll have to clear constantly to maintain such a large department, fund the fancy features the high-profile sports require to keep up in recruiting and keep the customers coming to watch and pay for the revenue-producing programs.

So, Maturi recommended, it’s probably better for everyone if Teague spends a Friday evening this fall entertaining wealthy donors rather than taking in the volleyball match against Northwestern.

“Though I had a reputation of being at everything, I don’t think that’s necessary. That doesn’t make you a better AD by any stretch of the imagination,” Maturi said.

When Maturi took over in 2002, a contentious merger of then-separate men’s and women’s departments was in progress.

“It was a very tenuous time in Gopher athletics. As a result, I made it very open and very public, going to all the events,” Maturi said. “That’s not well-received by some people, interestingly enough. Some of your papers have written, ‘My goodness, gracious, he left the basketball game and went across the street to the swim meet.’ As if, therefore, I thought swimming was more important than basketball. That’s somebody else’s logic. That’s not my logic. But you know what? Because I left the basketball game had nothing to do with whether they were going to win or lose. I went to watch the swim meet for 30 minutes, because I was their athletic director too. That was my mentality. I’m not saying it was right or wrong.”

Creating a healthy workplace was the accomplishment Maturi said he’s most proud of. He said he’s confident that’s the foundation for better days ahead, a future that begins and ends with the success or failure of head coach Jerry Kill’s attempt to bring the football team out of the bottom of the Big Ten and into annual contention for big-time bowl games.

“I think if you ask every single one of our coaches, and I mean it, every single one of them, they’re cheering like hell for Jerry Kill, OK?” Maturi said. “Because they know the more successful he is the more money we’re going to generate and the more we’re all going to share.”