The time had come for Beth Goetz to find a job. She didn’t have to work. Nobody forced her. It was all her idea.
She had a problem, though. The job she really wanted had an age requirement, and at 14, she was still too young to work at a family-owned restaurant with the great breakfast.
That job had to wait, so her launch into the workforce was hanging Domino’s Pizza fliers on doorknobs in her suburban St. Louis neighborhood.
Once she was finally old enough to land a job at the Lovin Oven restaurant, she washed dishes before being promoted to the grill.
“I could flip eggs without breaking the yolk,” she says. “I can still do that on occasion.”
Goetz always has been a quick study, unafraid of new challenges. She was that way as a kid, as a college athlete, as a young coach and now as the leader of Gophers sports.
Thrust into the role of Minnesota’s interim athletic director after the abrupt departure of her boss, Norwood Teague, Goetz has tackled the job with a clear focus that has galvanized a department in turmoil.
Department employees at different levels describe Goetz’s management style as direct but compassionate. One staff member said she’s not “wishy-washy” in her conversations with coaches. Another staffer noted that Goetz embraces input from others, particularly if it falls outside her range of expertise.
Longtime baseball coach John Anderson has worked for 10 different A.D.s at Minnesota. Administrative change has become routine. He only asked Goetz for two things: honesty and transparency. She’s made good on that.
“I think she’s tried to find ways to solve problems rather than tell you what you can’t do,” Anderson said. “That’s been refreshing.”
Goetz, 41, hasn’t revealed publicly if she wants to be considered for the job permanently. She kept her own office after Teague’s departure, declining to move into the spacious corner office.
Eric Kaler, who wants to make the hire before July 1, will conduct a national search, but he said earlier this month he has “full confidence” in Goetz.
Goetz’s profile doesn’t match those on the job around the Big Ten. Among the 11 permanent and three interim A.D.s, there is only one woman, Penn State’s Sandy Barbour. If chosen, Goetz would be the conference’s youngest A.D. by seven years and more than 15 years younger than the average age of current Big Ten bosses.
“I’m happy to represent in whatever capacity that is,” she said. “When the time comes that I have to make a decision about whether I want to be considered or not, then I’ll do it then.”
The pace involved with running a 25-sport department with a $105 million budget appeals to her nature. Goetz loathes idle time. She scoots through life as if she’s on a shot clock.
Her daily planner is littered with red boxes itemizing meetings and various appointments. A typical day includes four or five meetings with different departments or managers, time set aside for visits with athletes, social dealings with boosters and Gophers sports events at night.
She relieves stress by running daily, if possible, on paths around lakes near her Minneapolis home.
“Some people like pace,” she said. “They like to be engaged in something where you’re going to have to move quickly. I like that. I don’t want something that’s status quo.”
Her personality is more reserved than bombastic. She’s always been a quiet strategist, never the life of the party. Her public speaking style tends to be more simple than showy.
Her understated presence — along with her age and lack of experience running a major-conference athletic program — has created skepticism and curiosity among some boosters about how Goetz would handle the big stage.
Mark Sheffert, a donor and CEO of Manchester Companies, says he’s heard those concerns from boosters. Sheffert has spent time getting to know Goetz and likes what he sees from her behind the scenes.
He pointed to Goetz’s decision — with the support of university officials — to name Tracy Claeys the new football coach as a positive display of her leadership.
“The fact that she advocated and made a decision, I think her stock went up [among boosters],” Sheffert said.
Unlike her predecessor, Goetz is highly visible within the department on a daily basis. Athletes say they often see Goetz in hallways inside Bierman Athletic Building. She snapped a selfie with the women’s soccer team and posted it on her Twitter account. “That was really cool,” says Simone Kolander, a junior on the team.
At a recent volleyball match, Goetz mingled with boosters, chatted up students, high-fived Goldy and plopped down between two fans and introduced herself.
Goetz surprised a department official recently when she sent a text at night asking about his sick child.
“If you don’t care about who you’re working with, you’re probably not going to be very good,” she said. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with letting people know that you care about them.”
Almost a therapist
The oldest of four daughters, Goetz was a typical firstborn, her personality marked by feisty independence. Her grandmother warned her parents that she would be a handful because her favorite saying as a 3-year-old was, “Grandma, I do it myself.”
As a third-grader, she talked her parents into sending her to a weeklong camp designed mostly for fifth-graders. She learned how to do her own laundry by fourth grade, and she reluctantly missed one day of elementary school and one day of high school, sick-day absences that still seem to bother her. She was grounded only once, except not by her parents. She grounded herself after fibbing about which house she and her friends had their sleepover.
“I didn’t want to disappoint them,” she said. And at 14, Goetz got that first job because she didn’t want to ask her parents for spending money.
Ann was an elementary school teacher for 35 years, and Les worked in his family’s business of windows and doors installation. The Goetz family loved the outdoors, spending their summer vacations enjoying the beauty of national parks and camping, even when Beth played in soccer tournaments as far away as Canada.
In high school, she was the person friends went to with their problems. She had a way of helping them without judging. Everyone always joked that she should become a psychologist … so she earned a college degree in psychology, her masters in counseling and had plans to work as a therapist.
Player, coach, leader
Goetz played three sports growing up — soccer, softball and basketball — but soccer was her passion.
She was never the best player on her teams. She hustled, made smart plays and, at 5-10, she excelled on headers. Her effort gave her an edge over more talented players.
“If you watched her in a soccer game,” her mother said, “you would not pick her out.”
She was talented enough to play in college, first at Brevard College in North Carolina and then for two years at Clemson.
Her Clemson teammates chose her captain as a senior.
“She was Charlie Hustle,” said Pia Heine, her roommate and teammate at Clemson. “Very scrappy.”
And tough. Goetz broke her nose on a header against Duke her senior season. Afraid she might lose her starting spot, she wore a plastic mask and had one of her best games the next day. Her family visited that weekend, and her youngest sister, Katie, remembers the opposing coach hollering, “Somebody get the girl in the mask!”
Goetz attended graduate school at the University of Missouri-St. Louis after Clemson. Through circumstances and good timing, she also ended up coaching the women’s soccer team and helping run the athletic department.
She made $1,500 her first season as an assistant coach while taking graduate classes and also teaching fifth grade as a long-term substitute at a nearby school.
She was named head coach the following year, leading UMSL to eight winning seasons in 11 years.
Coaches at small schools wear many hats, and Goetz embraced all her responsibilities. She mowed the soccer field, painted the lines, washed the uniforms.
She gradually earned more duties within the athletic department. She oversaw compliance for a while. She served as the department liaison for other sports, including baseball. She scheduled bus transportation for teams.
All while coaching soccer.
“There’s no one right path in athletics,” she said. “But that was the best thing for me because there wasn’t a piece that you didn’t do.”
She wasn’t a screamer as a coach, but “she really, really, really hates to lose,” said her sister Katie, who played for Goetz at UMSL.
Goetz loved being Coach, still misses it, especially when a former player addresses her as “Coach” in a text.
“There’s nothing better than hearing someone say, ‘Hey, Coach,’ ” she said.
The administrative duties, though, provided a professional fulfillment that tugged at her. The challenge of helping an athletic department function satisfied her thirst for pace. It felt right.
Though her jobs have increased substantially in profile since then — from UMSL to Butler to Minnesota — her approach remains unchanged.
She leads by measured intensity and focus, never one for the spotlight, never afraid to take charge. She wasn’t the best player in soccer. She was the captain.
“I think I’m pretty even-keeled most of the time,” she said. “There’s that saying that you don’t let people live rent free in your head. From a pressure standpoint, a challenge is invigorating.”