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Teague assures 'skeptics' he is up to challenge

  • Article by: DENNIS BRACKIN
  • Star Tribune
  • April 24, 2012 - 1:24 AM

Norwood Teague is reputed to be an excellent fundraiser and marketer of college athletics, and he appears to be a likeable guy who had his professional priorities in perspective during six years as Virginia Commonwealth athletic director.

But there's that little hole in the résumé of the new Gophers athletic director: His only previous experience as an AD is at a school whose sports do not include football or hockey, which are two of the three revenue-producing sports at Minnesota.

The Gophers fan base is filled with the skepticism and frustration that comes mostly from having a football program that has not been to a major bowl since the 1961 season. And so, that little hole in the résumé doesn't seem so little to some.

"I definitely think it's a concern,'' ex-Gophers football and baseball player Gary Hohman said. "I think they tried hiring a football coach before with no head coaching experience [Tim Brewster], and that didn't work out too well. The last athletic director [Joel Maturi] didn't have experience heading a big-time football program, and that didn't work out too well.''

It's no wonder that Teague spent a good portion of his introductory news conference explaining why folks shouldn't be concerned about that little gap. He spent his first 13 years in athletic administration closely aligned with marketing BCS football programs at Virginia, Arizona State and North Carolina, and part of the attraction of coming to Minnesota, he said, was the chance to get back to a BCS football program.

"To me, it's encouraging to listen to him say that one reason he took this job was to get back into football,'' Gophers football coach Jerry Kill said. "Look, you either get it or you don't in this business, and he gets it.''

Most seem willing to cut Teague some slack to see if he can live up to his reputation as a fundraiser while exciting the dwindling ticket base for the Gophers football and men's basketball programs.

"I think the most important part of the job is your ability to lead and make decisions,'' said former Gophers hockey All-America Lou Nanne. "Look at the business world: You have people going from the 3M tape division to Boeing. This is essentially a business and fundraising job.''

If there were concerns about Teague's commitment to nonrevenue sports, he helped alleviate them during a Monday morning meeting with Gophers coaches.

"I feel really good [about the hiring],'' said women's gymnastics coach Meg Stephenson. "He has a lot of the qualities that we liked in Joel [Maturi], as far as values and integrity.''

Gophers nonrevenue coaches also will feel good when they check with their counterparts at VCU. Rams volleyball coach James Finley called Teague "an incredible man,'' crediting him with dramatically improving funding for nonrevenue teams.

Said VCU men's and women's tennis coach Paul Kostin: "I think all the coaches [at VCU] are sad. You see people sometimes stressing the revenue sports more than anything else, and that's kind of understandable. But he spends a lot of time with nonrevenue sports. He brought in better coaches, and tried to elevate everyone.

"Plus, I don't know if you can find a nicer guy. He's a good man. Very genuine. Very honest.''

Now all Teague has to do is show those qualities can help turn Minnesota into a BCS winner.

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