Newly hired University of Minnesota athletic director Mark Coyle has experience cleaning up messes. That’s wonderful, because he’ll need to draw on that expertise early and often as he tries to repair the train wreck he inherits at the U.
Let’s briefly review the list: Off-the-field issues including sexual assault and harassment allegations involving not only athletes but also the AD Coyle is replacing; a men’s basketball program coming off one of the worst seasons in school history; fundraising challenges that must be solved to keep up with the arms race in college athletics; a perplexing slump in men’s hockey, a sport Minnesota should dominate, and a football program seemingly on the right track but not yet a consistent winner.
Coyle knew all of this, of course, and he still wanted the job. The $850,000 annual salary and five-year contract no doubt made it easier to overlook the dark cloud that hangs over men’s athletics at the U, but the former Syracuse University AD also made a convincing case at his introductory news conference that he and his family want to live and work here. That’s always a good start.
He and U President Eric Kaler were quick to praise interim AD Beth Goetz, who had to endure working with former AD Norwood Teague before he departed in disgrace and now must cope with the disappointment of very publicly losing the job to Coyle. Let’s hope there are better days ahead for Goetz — a talented and classy administrator.
Kaler, who has so far proven that as an overseer of athletics he’s an excellent chemical engineer, may finally have made an astute hire with the selection of Coyle. He’d better hope so, because some members of the university’s Board of Regents are watching closely and stand ready to intensify their scrutiny of the athletic department and, by extension, Kaler.
That level of attention should not be necessary at a well-run Big Ten university. And based on one news conference and a solid track record, there is legitimate optimism that Coyle will not need to be babysat by Kaler or the regents.
That would be a refreshing change.