That the Gophers were in better shape than before Smith arrived left some people wondering whether the decision made sense, especially financially. The university has been under scrutiny for its administrative costs, described as out of control by a January Wall Street Journal report.
The university had already paid more than $4 million since 2006 to former coaches Monson (basketball), Glen Mason (football) and Tim Brewster (football).
Smith’s three-year extension signed last July raised his buyout after this season from $1.5 million to $2.5 million.
Sen. Terri Bonoff, DFL-Minnetonka, chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee, said she would not enter a debate on whether the firing was justified.
“But it is my responsibility to provide oversight to financial management,” she said. “And I was concerned that his contract was extended with an increased buyout if there were concerns about his performance.”
There have been suggestions that private donors would help defray some of the buyout costs, and Teague did not deny that possibility, saying only that the buyout costs would “be out of athletic department funds,” which include fundraising.
He said the athletic budget was “in good shape ... and if we did not feel good about that from our own budget, we would not have been haphazard about a decision like this.”
In the end, Teague said, it was a decision about the future, “something we feel like will propel us.’’