As part of a broad-based search to replace outgoing Gophers athletic director Joel Maturi, the co-chairs of the search committee -- Mary Jo Kane and Tim Mulcahy -- have been leading a series of "engagement sessions" this week with groups deemed to be vested stakeholders in the decision. Three of these invitation-only events have already taken place, and the fourth is slated for Friday. The U of M reached out to more than 200 student-athletes, faculty members, boosters and corporate partners, among others, for their input. Here are a few of the takeaways, as gleaned from interviews Wednesday with Kane and Mulcahy, who both praised the process:
• Priorities are similar: Kane said she was "pleasantly surprised" to find stakeholders from diverse backgrounds share similar thoughts on the attributes the new AD should deliver: "I think everybody wants to build on the foundation that was developed over the last decade by Joel Maturi and his staff ... but also that we want to get -- if you will -- a signature fit for the new AD that can perhaps reach out more to the business community," Kane said.
• Shift in focus: Mulcahy noted there is "strong support for what has been established in the department over the last 10 years." But he added: "There is a sense that there needs to be a more outwardly focused effort to engage community more actively, more of an external focus and partnership building in ways that go beyond what has been the standard practice. ... [Stakeholders] are looking for a visionary leader."
• One of us? Not necessarily, but ... "There is a strong sense that this is an individual who understands and respects Midwestern values and Minnesota culture. If they also happen to have a tie to Minnesota, that is, as President [Eric] Kaler has said, icing on the cake," Kane said. "But it's certainly not a requirement we're walking into."
• Winning cures a lot of problems: "One of the things we've heard very strongly from most of the stakeholders so far is that they respect and want to retain the diversity of sports we currently offer, but they all recognize that in order to do that, the big three [sports] all have to do well," Mulcahy said. "Recent history, that has not been the case. They want to see someone who can turn that around." Added Kane: "There's a great frustration. We want to win. We want to win more football games. We want to look up into the student section at TCF Bank Stadium and in the Barn and see students there, just as we see across the country."
• What's next: The 21-member advisory committee and four-member search committee will ramp up meetings soon, while Mulcahy has heard that interest in the position -- via Parker Executive Search, the firm being used to identify candidates -- is "genuine" and that "there is a great deal of excitement and receptivity." On-campus interviews could happen by mid-April, while the hope is still to name the new AD by early May.