Until very recently, I was confident Beth Goetz, Gophers interim athletic director since Aug. 7, would be permanently hired for that position.
Why was I thinking that? It was because, in visits with University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler, he gave me every indication he was eager to name Goetz because she had done a great job and it would be meaningful to hire a female AD.
In fact, in one meeting with Kaler after I sang the praises of Goetz and said I was writing a column about her, he encouraged me to do so. That showed me how highly he thought of her and how easily the university could have hired her.
Goetz inherited a series of problems that began under former AD Norwood Teague, including a Title IX investigation stemming from a complaint from female track and field athletes about inequality in facilities and other issues. Then while Goetz was acting as interim, there were several incidents involving Richard Pitino’s men’s basketball team, and the resignation of football coach Jerry Kill last October added to a growing number of problems for the athletic department.
While it has been difficult in the past to get highly qualified football coaches, athletic directors and other high-ranking athletic employees to leave good jobs to come work at Minnesota, Kaler and the search committee turned up a successful athletic director with a Minnesota background in Mark Coyle.
Coyle worked four years (2001-2005) for the Gophers, rising in the department to become associate athletic director for external relations, and then went on to be deputy AD at Kentucky and head athletic director at Boise State and Syracuse. And Coyle, who said he wouldn’t have left Syracuse except for Minnesota, took the job.
Another reason they landed Coyle was by offering him a five-year contract with a base salary of $850,000. Teague had a base salary of $422,000 when he resigned in 2015. Syracuse never released Coyle’s compensation, but the athletic director there before Coyle, Daryl Gross, had a base salary of $567,766 in 2013. Coyle had a base salary of $333,000 for Boise State in 2013.
According to Kaler, Coyle was one of six finalists but ended up being the best fit for the job.
Goetz praises Coyle
Goetz handled the news with the same class she’s had in everything she has done for the university.
“I think that Minnesota has made a great hire in Mark Coyle, and great Minnesota ties,” she said. “The future for the Gophers is bright.”
Did Goetz know him?
“Just met him a couple of times, but I do not know him,” she said. “Almost anybody you talk to sings his praises, so I know he’s going to bring great things to the university.”
Goetz said Kaler called her to say the university was hiring Coyle, but she wouldn’t say whether she was one of the finalists for the position.
“It has been a tremendous opportunity to lead in the interim, and I believe Minnesota is a wonderful place,” she said. “Gophers athletics hasn’t reached their potential, and I’m just glad they found somebody that can help take them to the next level.”
Does Goetz plan to stay at Minnesota?
“I’m happy to support the university in any way I can,” she said. “I think [Coyle] is going to bring some great things to the Gopher program.”
However, I doubt Goetz will stay because she has some other good job offers.
Gophers wrestling coach J Robinson, who worked with Coyle when he was at Minnesota 11 years ago, said Coyle did a great job in marketing.
“I think it’s one of the things the university can use to get us to where we need to be as an athletic department,” Robinson said. “I think Beth did a great job in between and I hope she stays with the department, because I think she has been a great asset. As it goes forward today with Mark as the new AD, I think he’s going to fulfill a lot of things that we do. I think he’s going to take care of the coaches, do great fundraising. I think he’s going to change some of the things we need to change.”
Robinson described a bit of his relationship with Coyle.
“I knew him real well,” Robinson said. “We worked together when he was the marketing director here, and we did some really great things in wrestling because of him. He’s innovative, he’ll try new things, and I think that’s what’s really important in today’s world. We have to try different things to get where we want to be.”
Kaler likes choice
“Mark Coyle is a great guy. He’s exactly the kind of seasoned, professional AD that we need right now,” Kaler said. “He will take Gophers athletics to the next level. There is no doubt about it.”
Kaler said he did interview six candidates but promised all of them confidentiality and wouldn’t release the names.
How did he decide on Coyle?
“The most experienced, and I think he has the best chance to move us forward,” Kaler said.
Maturi saw promise
Former Gophers AD Joel Maturi has known Coyle since Maturi was hired to that position in 2002.
“Tom Moe [the athletic director before Maturi] hired him originally, but he was here when I came, but I did promote him. Minnesota got a good one,” he said. “… I’m happy for him.”
What is Coyle’s strong point?
“What you’ll see, he’ll care about the student-athletes, the coaches and the staff,” Maturi said. “It’s not about Mark Coyle, it’s about the right things.”
Maturi described his promotion of Coyle: “Remember, there were two [separate men’s and women’s athletic] departments when I was here and I promoted him to the associate AD position, head of both.”
Coyle, Goetz talk
Dean Johnson, the chairman of the university’s Board of Regents, said Coyle and Goetz already have met since Coyle took the job.
“I know that the new athletic director has visited with her today and has essentially said there’s a place for you here at Minnesota,” Johnson said. “It’s my understanding she has other opportunities, which does not surprise me because she’s a very talented woman and would make a great athletic director at a college or university.”
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. firstname.lastname@example.org