With University of Minnesota President Robert Bruininks retiring next June 30, and athletic director Joel Maturi having only two years left on his contract, there has been talk between the two about the possibility of extending Maturi's contract for two years.

Bruininks is thinking that his successor shouldn't be saddled with hiring a new athletic director when he comes in. Also, Bruininks is very fond of Maturi and believes he is good for the university.

For those reasons, rest assured that Maturi can have the two-year extension if he wants it.

"We have talked about the two-year extension," Maturi said. "However, nothing has been offered at this time."

Maturi, while enjoying his job, hasn't made a decision as to whether he would accept the two-year addition to his contract if it was offered.

Meanwhile, with the search for a president ongoing, Maturi was asked to meet with Patricia Simmons, chairwoman of the search committee, and talked about how important the president is to the success of a university's athletic department.

"I did share with her what I think I believed was important, for the new president to hopefully be athletically knowledgeable and understanding of the role I think that athletics can play in the mission of the institution," Maturi said. "We have been very, very blessed with President Bruininks. He is not only athletics-friendly, he is tremendously athletics-knowledgeable. I think he has used athletics as a window to the university and enhanced the visibility of the institution."

During this interview with Simmons, Maturi pointed out that Bruininks helped spearhead the effort to raise money for the new TCF Bank Stadium, along with scholarships.

"It's not an easy job; they have many masters to serve -- it's very challenging," Maturi said about the president's job. "But I do believe that those institutions that have had leadership that understands the role, and the positive role, that athletics can play have flourished. I hope that will be the case with President Bruininks' successor."

The greatest example of how a president turned an athletic program around was when Donna Shalala took over Wisconsin when the Badgers' football and basketball programs were at a low ebb. Her influence helped make the school a dominant athletic player in the Big Ten.

Harris new U golf boss

John Harris, who played hockey and golf for the Gophers and has been on the PGA Champions Tour since 2006, has been named the U's director of golf.

Harris succeeds Brad James, who is returning to his native country to be high performance director for Golf Australia.

Harris attended Minnesota on a golf scholarship, winning All-America honors and the NCAA championship in 1974. He also played hockey for Herb Brooks, and was the second-leading scorer on the team in 1974. He also played professional hockey with the New England Whalers organization in 1975.

Hardy back on track

J.J. Hardy, the Twins shortstop who is back in the lineup after being on the disabled list, came through with five hits in the first two games against the White Sox on Thursday and Friday. Going into Saturday's game with Chicago, Hardy was batting .379 (11-for-29) with three doubles and three RBI in 12 July games.

"It's been frustrating," Hardy said. "The fact that it took as long as it did to get back here was really frustrating."

He was injured in early May sliding into third, bruising one of the bones in his wrist, and it has taken a while to heal.

"I think [the doctors] knew what it was, they just didn't know, when you have a bone bruise -- they don't know exactly how long it's going to take and there's no timetable for it," he said. "So you just kind of sit around and wait until it gets better. It was weird because it was all rest is what it needed. I could do more and more and it would just get worse and worse. So the less I did, the better it got."

This was the second time Hardy was on the DL. When he came off the first time he said the wrist still hurt and gradually got worse, forcing him to go on the DL a second time.


For a second consecutive year, Gophers quarterback Adam Weber prepared for the season while taking part in the Manning Passing Academy operated by Eli and Peyton Manning. ....Gophers baseball coach John Anderson was named the Mideast coach of the year by the American Baseball Coaches Association. Also honored were first baseman Nick O'Shea, who was named all-region, and pitcher Phil Isaksson, who was named to the region's second team.

One plus about Target Field that hasn't been pointed out is that the Pohlad family went first-class in buying the top concessions equipment after signing an eight-year contract with DNC Sportservice to run the operation.

Twins outfielder Denard Span is a hot hitter with the bases loaded. Going into Saturday's game with the White Sox, he is batting .538 with three doubles, four triples and 41 RBI and five walks in that situation. Before May 6, the Twins were batting .149 with the bases loaded, and since then (before Saturday's game) they were hitting .359 with the bases loaded.

The third-leading hitter on the Twins after Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer is third baseman Danny Valencia, who is hitting .322.

Jacque Jones is the leading hitter on the Twins' Class AAA Rochester farm club, with a .307 batting average, and is a contender for the International League batting title. ... Brendan Harris, sent down to Rochester by the Twins, had his first three hits in a game Thursday but is still batting only .145.

GophersIllustrated.com reports that Devin Crawford-Tufts, a receiver from Edina, was so impressive in the Gophers summer camp that he was offered a scholarship and has accepted it.

Ted Glover, who writes on rivalryesq.com, has this Gophers football prediction: "I'm calling it right now: Minnesota beats USC. No, that is not a misprint. And no, I am not drunk. The USC program looks like the Titanic right now and [coach] Lane Kiffin the conductor of the string orchestra on the deck. ... USC has better players, but Minnesota has yet to have a signature win in the new stadium. USC has absolutely nothing to play for, and they will be a demoralized team. Minnesota has enough talent on their team to compete, and when you add in the intangibles of this game, I say the Gophers win. Or they lose by 30."

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. • shartman@startribune.com