Rand: Richly rewarding days for Maturi

  • Article by: MICHAEL RAND , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 20, 2012 - 7:21 AM

Outgoing Gophers athletic director Joel Maturi was in Duluth on Sunday to watch the Gophers defeat Wisconsin 4-2 to win the NCAA women's hockey championship.

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Gophers women’s hockey captain Sarah Erickson held the championship trophy Monday during a celebration at Ridder Arena. Athletic director Joel Maturi has taken great pride in the Gophers’ success in nonrevenue sports.

Photo: Jerry Holt, Star Tribune

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Outgoing Gophers athletic director Joel Maturi was in Duluth on Sunday to watch the Gophers defeat Wisconsin 4-2 to win the NCAA women's hockey championship. On Monday, before he was scheduled to fly to Miami to watch the Gophers men's basketball team play in the NIT, we caught up with Maturi to talk about a weekend that also included a second-place NCAA finish for the wrestling team.

Q Overall departmental success is something you've preached a lot in the last decade you've been AD. What do you feel when you see teams like that succeed?

A As an athletic director, I'm not unaware of the magnitude of football, men's basketball and men's hockey. If someone was to put a gun to my head and I was forced to choose which teams I would rather have win, there are some obvious answers there. But ... what frustrates me a little bit, concerns me a little bit and sometimes even hurts me a little bit is that with the tremendous success we have with teams in the Olympic sports, some people say it is at the expense of our revenue-generating sports. That is not at all accurate, and it's not fair to the successful teams we've had. So when you have a weekend like the one we had -- there are a lot of schools in the country who would like to duplicate that. And in many cases, it was done with a lot of Minnesota kids, which is even more rewarding.

Q Women's hockey coach Brad Frost said postgame Sunday, "He's an unbelievable AD. There's nobody I'd rather have." What does that mean to you?

A I was not at the press conference, but I'm very appreciative of Brad. I get close to as many teams as I can, and I'm really close to this hockey team. As I reflect and transition out as athletic director, I think everything becomes more meaningful. To win a national championship on my way out the door will be one I remember forever.

Q How has this time been in general -- the time between the announcement [that Maturi is departing] and June 30, your last day?

A Well, I've been dealing with it. I've told the staff I want to continue to be the best AD I can be and continue to do my job. ... Decisions that have long-term impact, I will obviously consult with the leadership, President Kaler and his staff even more so than I might normally have done because it's the appropriate thing to do. I'm trying to enjoy it. ... It's a reality. I've always been pretty good at not getting too high or low, and dealing with the hand I'm dealt.

Q There has been some discussion about Tubby Smith and the men's basketball program regarding the direction of the team and whether to extend Tubby's contract. How much input will you have with that and what are your thoughts?

A I'll provide a recommendation to President Kaler. We will have a discussion. ... We'll see where the future lies for all our programs.

Q Did this past weekend validate your approach?

A No, this wasn't about Joel Maturi. This was about programs being successful because of the leadership of the coaches and the kids. I'm just their biggest cheerleader. I told the hockey team last night that won't change. I'll be in the stands next year, too.

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