Sid Hartman: New U president values athletics

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 3, 2011 - 12:33 AM

Eric Kaler doesn't know what the fate of Joel Maturi will be, but he says he knows the importance of Gophers athletics on campus.


Incoming President Eric Kaler talked with Craig Muntifering, Joan Sletlehaugh-Matteson and Joni Mitchell in November.

Photo: Sennott, Richard, Star Tribune

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This fact is for sure:

Neither new University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler nor athletic director Joel Maturi knows for sure whether Maturi will want to continue in his job when his contract expires in June 2012, or if Kaler will want to keep Maturi on the job.

Maturi turned down a two-year extension that was first offered by former university President Robert Bruininks and later turned down a one-year offer.

In a one-on-one interview Friday, the first day Kaler was officially on the job, he made it clear that, at this point, he hasn't made a decision on the future of Maturi.

"I'm going to take the first 100 days of my time to evaluate, and I'm not going to make any personnel decisions," said Kaler, the former provost at Stony Brook University in New York. "I have met Joel, great guy."

Kaler, a 1982 graduate of the University of Minnesota, was named as the replacement to Bruininks last November. That occurred after the October dismissal of football coach Tim Brewster. Jerry Kill was hired to take over in December.

Regarding the hiring of Kill, Kaler said he visited with Kill before he was hired but wasn't involved in Kill getting picked for the job.

However, Kaler has been impressed with Kill and believes that football is a very important part of the campus life.

When it was pointed out that Big Ten schools such as Wisconsin and Northwestern have raised a lot of money for other athletic programs when their football teams went to the Rose Bowl, Kaler said: "There's no doubt that college athletics is a big part of the university. That's true when it's a good thing, like [going to] a Rose Bowl, and it's also true when it's a bad thing."

Kaler said he is a big fan of college athletics, adding that when he was a student at Minnesota from 1978 to '82, he seldom missed a Gophers basketball game.

"It's an important part of student life," he said. "I think students and athletes can enjoy it. I know I enjoyed basketball, and it's a great experience for the athletes that are involved."

The Gophers have 24 men's and women's sports teams. Kaler was asked what his feelings were regarding the number of nonrevenue sports a school can offer.

"I would think the broad number of sports we have provides a great opportunities to the student athletes," he said. "The nonrevenue sports are an important part of our overall experience."

But he added that, with all schools having financial problems, "I think any time there's a situation like we're in now, all of the operations at the university have to get a hard look. The funding model in the revenue sports in colleges and the big divisions is something that is due for a good, hard look."

Like all presidents at major universities, Kaler is concerned about what has happened to major programs such as Ohio State and Southern California when it comes to NCAA violations.

"I think that there are a handful of things that keep college presidents up at night, and we're proud of the fact that we have not had problems," Kaler said, "and it's to the organization's credit that we've been able to be violation-free, and that record is going to continue."

He was interested to hear that the Gophers athletes had a higher grade-point average than nonathletes on campus.

"It's a quality program, it really is," he said. "Kids are making progress towards graduation. I'm really interested in that and the ability for that to continue."

Kaler also said he plans to be a fan of Gophers athletics like he was at Stony Brook, which went from Division III to Division I in 1999.

"I certainly am going to go to games, and I'm going to go to all kinds of games," he said. "You will see me at the nonrevenue sport and the revenue sport venues."

About his new job, he said: "I'm about as excited as a person can be about this opportunity."

Well, the people who picked this man as president knew what they were doing. He has a great personality and will be a great leader for the school.

Perkins going great

Certainly, one of the biggest surprises this year for the Twins has been the re-emergence of former Gophers and Stillwater High School lefthander Glen Perkins. A year ago at this time, the former first-round pick was at Class AAA Rochester, and he was 1-8 with a 8.25 ERA. This year, though, he is 0-1 with a 1.85 ERA as one of the Twins' top setup men.

"You know, I'm the same pitcher that I was; I just needed to go down and figure a few things out," said Perkins, who struck out Corey Hart in the eighth inning, before the Twins blew it in the ninth. "So far this year, I've been able to pitch inside effectively, and I think that's been a big key for me."

Perkins went 12-4 as a starter in 2008, but he was hurt for much of 2009 and spent most of last year in the minors.

He said the big thing for him is his mechanics.

"It's just a matter of keeping my arm under control and continue to have a good grip," he said. "When my mechanics aren't working for me, I get away from something here and there, and that's part of baseball. As long as we can limit the amount of times that I go out there on the mound and am not sharp with my mechanics, then as long as we can continue to work on everything and stay healthy, I think we should be OK."


• Larry Fitzgerald Jr. has a home here and spends the offseason here. The Holy Angels product is ranked as the best wide receiver in the NFL. He will become a free agent at the end of this season, but he said even though this is his hometown, he most likely will re-sign with Arizona rather than join the Vikings.

• Contrary to rumors, John Harris resigned as Gophers golf director because the job wasn't what he thought it would be, and because he missed playing on the tour. He wasn't fired over the lawsuit facing the university by fired women's assistant Kathryn Brenny. Harris was in charge of both men's and women's golf. However, separate coaches will be hired to replace Harris.

• Tennis players Eric Frueh of Rochester Century and Tucker Saxon of Centennial are headed to the Gophers next season to play under Geoff Young. The two met up in the semifinals of the Class 2A boys' singles state tournament earlier this month, with Saxon defeating Frueh 7-5, 6-2. Frueh lost in the finals to Dusty Boyer of Forest Lake.

• Once the NFL lockout ends, look for the Buffalo Bills to make a strong bid to sign former Gophers quarterback Adam Weber. As long as the lockout is in place, undrafted college players can't sign with NFL teams. ... Despite the fact that there may not be an NFL season this year, the Vikings have sold more than 1,000 new season tickets.

• recently named Dave Cresap, the boys' basketball coach at Perham, the national coach of the year in men's sports. Cresap led Perham to its first Class 2A state title after having to help the team deal with the loss of leading scorer Zach Gabbard, who left the team because of a serious heart ailment that put his life in jeopardy. Gabbard eventually recovered enough to join the team in the locker room during the state tournament.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. •


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