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University of Minnesota athletic director Norwood Teague.

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U athletic director: The $800,000 schedule decision

  • Article by: NORWOOD TEAGUE
  • October 26, 2012 - 8:32 PM

The past 10 days have been challenging ones at the University of Minnesota. But they've also been educational and thought-provoking.

As the athletics director of the state's most visible public university, I will make decisions that not everyone agrees with. I will always be guided, however, by what is in the best interests not just of athletics, but of the entire university community.

As I made the decision to cancel Gopher football games with the University of North Carolina for future seasons, I had the same concerns that have been widely aired since the decision was made. These concerns ranged from why we would step away from playing a seemingly manageable opponent to how we can justify paying an $800,000 cancellation charge, especially in these challenging economic times. That was, undoubtedly, the most difficult part of this decision.

Let me assure you, we will recoup this expense through football program revenues and future private fundraising only. It will not be paid at the expense of any other sports program at the university, and we will not use tuition or state funding to cover it.

So why did I make this decision? When I applied for this job, interviewed for it and was honored to receive it, I consistently heard: "Gopher football must become relevant again. We have a new campus stadium. We need to elevate the program and win the right way."

We all agree that we need to raise the status and competitiveness of our football team. Being successful in football helps support all of our nonrevenue sports. It's great for community pride and alumni relations. It's an important part of our students' college experience. It's important to building Minnesota's national brand.

My challenge -- our challenge -- is to develop the best strategies to make Gopher football successful. The question is, what are they? To help me answer this important question, I sought the advice of head football coach Jerry Kill.

Coach Kill has a track record of building successful programs, and he has a strategic plan to rebuild Gopher football. It is a plan that I support and believe in. It is a plan born of the realities of big-time college football. Six victories per season allow a team to be considered for a bowl game. Postseason bowl games allow teams an extra game and month of practice. Bowl games help us recruit, and recruiting builds top-notch programs. Top-notch programs win games, fill seats, attract excellent student-athletes and generate revenue. But it is the investments made early in the rebuilding process that lay the foundation for long-term success.

I've been on the job for about five months now. I've raised funds for athletic scholarships. I've hired a nationally respected architectural firm to help us develop an affordable long-term improvement plan for our facilities. I'm leading our staff to advance a new strategic plan for our entire 220-employee, 750-student-athlete, $80 million department. I've hired coaches for women's tennis and soccer. And I've shared my vision for Gopher athletics to hundreds of business and community leaders in the Twin Cities and across the state.

I am deeply committed to moving Gopher athletics forward. I will promote a culture of compliance, integrity and student-athlete success. I will continue our great tradition of gender equity. I will strive to maintain athletic opportunities. I am working every day to raise private philanthropy. I will support all of our coaches to build their programs the right way, one step at a time.

As your athletics director, I will be faced with making many tough and controversial calls. I know that not everyone will agree with every decision I make. But I do hope the people of Minnesota will trust that we will always act in a way that puts the university first. I will work hard to communicate decisions clearly and thoughtfully and explain how they fit into my vision for the future. Ultimately, I hope we will always be united by our love for Gopher athletics and this great institution.

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Norwood Teague is the director of athletics for the University of Minnesota.

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