Norwood Teague was named the Gophers athletic director nearly two years ago. The Star Tribune’s Michael Rand caught up with him this week on a number of subjects; the only one he wouldn’t address specifically was the job status of women’s basketball coach Pam Borton.
Q With both basketball teams playing in an NIT doubleheader Sunday, it feels like a good time to ask about both. Let’s start with the men: How would you assess Richard Pitino’s first season, and was there any disappointment with not making the NCAA field after the way the team started Big Ten play?
A Obviously, we would like to be in the NCAA tournament field, as would all of our fans in Minnesota and beyond, but I don’t want to forget that we were picked by many to finish last in the Big Ten before the season started and surprised a lot of people. ... I know the fans enjoyed the style of play and the effort the kids put forth and look forward to seeing it progress next season and beyond.
Q The women’s team missed the NCAA tournament for the fifth consecutive year. What is your overall evaluation of that program?
A As with all of our programs, we want to consistently improve, and we feel that we can do that with the women’s basketball program here at Minnesota. Missing the NCAA tournament was disappointing for our student-athletes, coaches, fans and everyone here at the university, but we’re still playing basketball this season, and we can’t dwell on what we didn’t do. We will dedicate ourselves to our overall improvement as we compete in the WNIT and then as we prepare for next season.
Q The facility upgrade plan was unveiled eight months ago. What can you tell me about progress at this point?
A We feel very good about the progress we’ve been making. You always want to move as quickly as possible, but the truth is there are many steps in the process to ensure you’re doing it right. ... We’ve been continuing our efforts to make our dollars go further and build a series of athletic facilities for our student-athletes that won’t disrupt their training and development during construction. At the same time, we’ve been conducting the comprehensive fundraising feasibility study you’ve heard me speak of to better understand what is possible in the time frames we’ve set.
Q I’ve heard whispers that T. Denny Sanford might be back in the fundraising picture despite earlier reports to the contrary. Any truth to that?
A We’ve never identified anyone as being in or out of our fundraising efforts. Fundraising and friend-raising are based on long-term relationships with university supporters who want to make a real difference for the student-athletes and the school, and those relationships are what we are currently building in the athletics department.
Q What’s one thing about yourself outside the job that people might not know?
A I would rather be in a cold climate than a hot one. And I’m totally serious when I say that.