As scandals go, the self-induced fall from grace of University of Minnesota Athletic Director Norwood Teague occurred with relative speed. That this ignominious chapter in the history of the state’s flagship university will not be prolonged is small comfort. But it’s perhaps the one positive that emerged Friday as details about Teague’s stupefying lapse in judgment — sending drunken, sexually harassing text messages to two U employees — became a national embarrassment.
While U officials wouldn’t specifically say when the texts were sent, they did reveal on Friday that it was recently. Fortunately, Teague’s resignation came soon after. The U will now be able to focus on the future rather than waging a futile public relations battle to avoid the inevitable.
Teague was one of U President Eric Kaler’s early major hires. To their credit, Kaler and other top officials didn’t get defensive and circle the institutional wagons around him, a strategy that current and past U leadership has unsuccessfully deployed in other situations. Instead, they clearly took the allegations seriously. Teague got the message. He is now seeking treatment for his admitted drinking problem, an endeavor in which Minnesotans should wish him well.
U officials need to focus like a laser on finding Teague’s replacement. His departure comes at a critical time for an athletic program in the midst of raising funds for a $190 million facilities project that will play a key role in the highly competitive race to recruit top-tier athletes for Gophers teams.
But Teague’s resignation should prompt soul-searching at the U as this hiring process begins. Fundraising prowess, which Teague was known for, is not enough. The person overseeing the development of young athletes, who guides some of the U’s most high-profile programs, must have demonstrated character commensurate with those responsibilities.
Teague’s flawed judgment in this incident raises questions about previous lapses, and whether any were missed. The incident also raises questions about the judgment of those who hired him. The U has found itself under fire in recent years for excessive administrative costs and its callous, dragged-out handling of a situation involving a patient who committed suicide while enrolled in a drug trial. Teague is gone, but the fact he was here leaves a cloud over a campus that didn’t need another one.