Tubby Smith and other Gophers head coaches were invited to a question-and-answer session with "U" president Dr. Eric Kaler on Saturday. It was their opportunity to talk with the individual who will be solely responsible for hiring their new boss.
That new athletic director will be busy this summer, but perhaps his or her biggest decision will involve what to do with Smith's contract. One way or another, something is expected to happen before next season starts. That's why Smith, I'm sure, had a few suggestions for Dr. Kaler.
Smith, the state's highest paid employee, turns 61 in June and is under contract through the 2013-2014 season. It contains a buyout of $2 million until May 1, 2012, and reduces to $1.5 million until April 30, 2013. In other words, unless Smith retires (doubtful) or leaves for another job (even more doubtful), neither of which would require him paying a termination fee, he isn't going anywhere for the foreseeable future. It's a great contract and another example of an attorney/agent out-negotiating the University.
The question then becomes what to do when Smith and his attorney, Ricky Lefft, insist that an extension is necessary for recruiting purposes. They've held that stance for nearly two years, and nearly had an agreement last summer.
The case for Smith:
The case against Smith:
The simple solution, especially if they make the NCAA tournament this year, is to extend him
The more complicated stance is to do it, but to make it a Tim Brewster or Don Lucia-like extension with protection for the University.
Would Smith go along with that? Does he really have much of a choice unless he's comfortable with retiring or working part-time for an NBA team?
As fascinating as the rest of the season will be, the offseason will be the same.
In terms of players, this offseason the Vikings need to find two cornerbacks, two safeties, two linebackers, possibly a defensive tackle depending on rookie Christian Ballard's maturation, two wide receivers, another tight end if Visanthe Shiancoe leaves as a free agent, a backup/3rd down running back, a left tackle, a center if John Sullivan signs elsewhere in March, a right guard, and maybe a right tackle.
But before finding all of these new players, they first must find a general manager.
The following few paragraphs are from a piece I did for 1500espn.com in February:
It's time for 1500-ESPN, the Twins' flagship radio station, to put their "#itshappening" t-shirts on clearance, or they could do a massive reprint with the Twitter hashtag, "#**itshappening."
Outfielder Delmon Young quit on a play against Toronto in May, and gave minimal effort on a home run by Chicago's Brent Lillibridge on Saturday, yet those two moments are easily forgotten when looking at his offensive statistics. Through arbitration, is he really worth $7.5 million next year? But can the Twins just non-tender him? It's one of many layered decisions for the front office.
Pitcher Nick Blackburn was mistakenly given a long-term contract when the team could have gone year-to-year and, predictably, he has struggled.
Catcher Joe Mauer has about the same slugging percentage as White Sox speedster Juan Pierre, and is lower than Texas' Elvis Andrus. However, if you are clamoring for a Mauer trade, he has a full no-trade clause. He still is a great player having a not-so-great year.
Danny Valencia comes at a very reasonable cost, but still has us wondering if he's the long-term answer at third base.
There is no wondering if Tsuyoshi Nishioka is the long-term answer at shortstop. He's not.
We have no idea if first baseman Justin Morneau will ever mash like he did in 2006, or the first three months of last season.
Outfielder/infielder Michael Cuddyer, the team's MVP this year, will command an eight-figure-per-year salary in free agency, making his return, and rightfully so, doubtful.
Soon-to-be free agent outfielder Jason Kubel should have no problem getting an offer that will trump anything the Twins present.
Except for lefty Glen Perkins, the bullpen has to be rebuilt. That could include current starter Brian Duensing, who has struggled mightily to contain right-handed hitters.
A shrewd move by the front office was not signing Francisco Liriano to a long-term deal. But for $5 million, he should be tendered this off-season and given one more chance in 2012. If he disappoints again, he'll still have trade value next July.
Another shrewd move will be to explore if a No. 1 bulldog-esque ace is available. The issue: do the Twins have enough ammo to pull off such a move?
This is a monstrous off-season for the Twins' front office. They can't botch it like they did the non-waiver trade deadline. It was a seller's market, and they didn't sell.
A lot will be forgiven if the right moves are made this winter. But the convenient excuse of injuries this year shouldn't be accepted. It partially explains this year's downfall, but not nearly all of it. What this year mostly has become is a reminder about how many guys had career years in 2010: Morneau pre-injury, Valencia, Young, Carl Pavano, Liriano, and Duensing, and a dominating bullpen.
An infusion of talent is necessary on many fronts.