Beth Goetz was dealt an unenviable hand the day her boss announced he was quitting immediately to seek alcohol treatment after admitting he sexually harassed two high-ranking university employees.
Goetz had very little experience as an athletic administrator at a major Division I university when she was asked to run the Gophers athletic department on an interim basis after the Norwood Teague fiasco.
The department was in crisis, in disarray. It still is.
Goetz did her best to hold things together for nine months under tough circumstances. But she was not the right choice to lead the department beyond her interim label.
University President Eric Kaler delivered a surprise ending to this painfully long ordeal Wednesday by hiring Syracuse athletic director Mark Coyle, a former Gophers associate AD.
In Coyle, Kaler found an experienced athletic director with an impressive résumé and history of managing and repairing departments in turmoil.
Coyle is the right person to lead Gophers athletics at this moment.
Goetz, for all her strengths and hard work to stabilize the department, never made sense for the permanent position.
The Gophers needed an athletic director with a record of strong leadership. They needed a fresh perspective, new ideas, someone who has been in the fire longer than nine months.
Kaler had to make a strong hire to excite the fan base, jumpstart fundraising and give people reason to believe in the direction and future of Gophers athletics.
Goetz was not that person.
But she deserves credit for the way she handled the situation.
Goetz comes across as a sincere, smart administrator who understands the inner workings of a department and cares deeply about her coaches, athletes and support staff. She is respected and well-liked inside the department.
But Kaler simply could not entrust her with this job moving forward because she’s not nearly as qualified as other candidates. Certainly nowhere near as qualified as Coyle.
Many assumed that Goetz ultimately would be the choice because she ran the department for an entire school year, and Kaler’s mistake on Teague created doubt that he would make another external hire.
Assumptions proven false.
Kaler said Goetz handled the news in a professional manner.
“Unflappable, calm, appreciated the opportunity to serve in the interim role,” Kaler said. “Very classy lady.”
Both Kaler and Coyle told Goetz that they want her to remain in the department, presumably as Coyle’s top executive. It’s unclear if Goetz will accept their offer.
“Watching from afar, I have a great deal of respect for what she did,” Coyle said. “That’s not easy to do. I think she handled it with class and handled it well.”
The Gophers AD job is a tough gig for anyone, regardless of experience level. Especially in the past year.
Teague’s shameful behavior rocked the entire university. Then football coach Jerry Kill resigned because of health reasons. The basketball program under Richard Pitino has turned into a disaster. Don Lucia’s future as hockey coach is a hot-button issue. Fundraising for the facilities project remains a struggle, though Kaler noted that fundraising increased by $15 million under Goetz.
Goetz also saw her management staff shrink during her tenure, hoisting even more responsibility on her.
“I think Beth Goetz has done an unbelievable job in a very difficult situation,” Kill said Wednesday. “She was basically three administrators down because of Norwood’s situation and basically held the department together with limited people. She was asked to do an almost impossible job, and she did a great job and probably a better job than people realize. For the football program, she stood her ground. I hope she gets the credit she deserves, and I hope people appreciate it.”
Some tried to discredit Goetz because she was a Teague hire, which was unfair criticism. The ongoing mess with Pitino and men’s basketball didn’t reflect favorably on her leadership, but that wasn’t why she didn’t get the job, either.
Goetz didn’t get the job because Coyle has a better résumé, more experience and is more qualified to tackle the big-ticket challenges that await. It’s that simple.