VCU official is U's lone finalist for athletic director

  • Article by: MICHAEL RAND , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 23, 2012 - 5:38 AM

Virginia Commonwealth athletic director Norwood Teague brings fundraising and marketing credentials to the open Minnesota AD job.

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VCU Athletic Director Norwood Teague

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Norwood Teague's résumé features almost everything the University of Minnesota professed to want in an athletic director. Except for one thing.

The Virginia Commonweath A.D. -- who has emerged as the lone finalist for the vacant U of M job, the school announced Sunday -- is a skilled fundraiser, an impressive leader, kept a hot-commodity basketball coach after a surprise Final Four run and dazzled the university's search committee with his preparation for his off-campus interview this past week, according to co-chair Mary Jo Kane.

Those qualities were more than enough, Kane said, to offset what some might consider his biggest question mark: Turning around the Gophers football program is a key task for the new A.D., and VCU, the only school at which Teague has held the top athletic post, does not have a varsity football program.

"We asked tough questions. When he left the room, we all said, 'Wow, that was impressive,'" Kane said, adding later: "Football -- the lack of overseeing a big college football program where he was a decider, if you will -- is the most obvious gap in his profile. ... I can look anyone who cares about Gopher athletics in the eye and say, 'This will not be a problem.'"

Northwestern A.D. Jim Phillips, who hired Gophers football coach Jerry Kill at Northern Illinois, echoed Kane.

"I'm not blind to that thought of 'he hasn't managed a Division I football program,' but part of this thing is a set of experiences you've formed along the way as an A.D. Have you managed or grown departments? He has," Phillips said. "I think he'll relate exceptionally well to Jerry. ... I really believe they're going to have a great relationship."

Teague was traveling to the Twin Cities on Sunday and wasn't made available for comment. He will have his first lengthy face-to-face meeting with U President Eric Kaler on Monday after briefly chatting with him on Sunday. Kaler needs to make a formal recommendation to the Board of Regents, which would likely vote at its next meeting, May 10-11.

Teague also will spend time on campus Monday for meetings with coaches, faculty members and administrators and is expected to attend an afternoon news conference with Kaler. He emerged from a pool of 40 initial applicants as the lone finalist to replace Joel Maturi, who is leaving his post at the end of June after 10 years but will remain at the school as a special assistant to Kaler through June 2013.

"I have never met Norwood, but I hear great things about him," Maturi said in a text message Sunday. "I am here to help any way I can."

Teague has been A.D. at VCU since 2006. He had been an associate A.D. at North Carolina for five years with prior stops at Arizona State and Virginia.

VCU's annual athletic fund has increased 119 percent during his tenure, a fact trumpeted on Twitter by Kaler, who broke the A.D. news on Sunday via the same medium. Kaler also tweeted that Teague "embodies integrity, leadership & management experience, and a focus on student-athletes." Also of note: Teague led the campaign to build a $10 million basketball practice facility -- a hot-button issue at Minnesota and a longtime ambition of head coach Tubby Smith.

The VCU men's basketball team reached the Final Four in 2011, skyrocketing the program and head coach Shaka Smart to national prominence. Smart has since been coveted by numerous schools, but he signed an eight-year contract extension last year.

"One of the things that was most impressive about Shaka Smart is that [Teague] kept him there," Kane said. "[Teague] gets it when it comes to being in a very challenging environment and being successful. ... And winning here in football is a really tough environment."

Dave Mona, former president of the university alumni association, said the first thing he did when he heard the name Norwood Teague was to Google him. What he learned, he said, made the news understandable.

"He fits right in the sweet spot of what [President] Kaler was looking for," Mona said. "He's got fundraising experience, which is good. And he's got marketing experience, which is also good."

Kane acknowledged Teague is "not a household name in the Midwest," but added that the committee considers him "the complete package."

"At the end of the day, either you're a good administrator or you're not," Phillips said. "Everything I know about Norwood and everything I've heard is that he's going to be more than capable."

Staff writer Dennis Brackin contributed to this story. Michael Rand • 612-673-7564

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