Sid Hartman wrote a column in early March suggesting the University of Minnesota had blundered by not giving Jerry Kill a job where he would serve as a “liaison’’ between the athletic director and president Eric Kaler.
I wrote a blog on March 3 with the opinion that Kaler had made the proper decision in not creating such a position, even for someone as popular as Kill, the former football coach.
I was in Fort Myers at the time, preparing to be impressed by the Twins’ fine play over the course of the exhibition schedule. I was milling about at 9 a.m. when the cell phone rang.
Turned out, it was Kill, and there had been a couple of earlier calls that went unanswered.
Jerry talked for over 30 minutes, with very few commas. He wasn’t angry with the opinion expressed in the blog. He was more interested in explaining his view of conversations that had taken place with Kaler and with interim athletic director Beth Goetz on possible positions with the university.
It wasn’t a big scoop – merely reinforcement of what had become clear: The university wanted to give Kill a job (primarily fund raising) and he wanted a job in his main area of interest (actual athletics).
What was most-interesting to me was when Kill said: “There are big issues in that department. What Minnesota has to do is to go out a get a big-time athletic director, even if it costs a million dollars a year.’’
Kill had been among those tossing out endorsements for Goetz, while he still was the football coach and in the weeks that followed. The same thing was going on with other coaches at the U:
Beth was doing such a wonderful job, coaches kept saying.
One of the sentences I was able to get in when Kill paused on that morning was: “I think all these public endorsements of Goetz’s work could lead to her getting the job … when behind the scenes, you’re telling me the university desperately needs a big-time, experienced A.D.’’
As I recall, Kill kind of shrugged that one off.
My opinion was this: Goetz had a resume that would not have gotten her an interview at a Big Ten school, if she hadn’t fallen into the interim job because of the indiscretions of Norwood Teague, the A.D. who had hired her as an assistant.
After replacing Teague, every time Goetz said something at a public media session, or issued a statement on a controversy, it was a cliched response.
The idea she was doing a “great job’’ was idiotic. She wasn’t responsible for the chaos in the men’s basketball program, and she wasn’t responsible for the widespread success in mulitiple “non-reveune’’ sports.
She was just there, ready to say nothing meaningful when required.
Kill said it to me on March 3:
The University of Minnesota had to be willing to pay the freight for a big-time athletic director. And he seemed as skeptical that Kaler would be willing to do so as I was on that morning.
I had the feeling it would be Goetz right until news on the hire started to become public on Wednesday morning.
Earlier this week, I saw the list of the four interviewees chosen from the 16-person search committee, and to me, the search seemed even more stacked in Goetz’s favor.
What I didn’t know, what only Kaler’s inner circle, the 16 people on that committee and the representatives of the Turnkey search firm knew at that time was a deal already had been struck by Kaler with Mark Coyle, the athletic director at Syracuse.
The university had done what Kill told me it had to do way back on March 3: Hired a big-time, experienced athletic director, even if it cost $1 million a year.
The cost came in at $850,000 base, double what Teague was making, and close enough to a million to fulfill Kill’s recipe for a new A.D.
I must say it was a shock to discover Kaler took athletics more seriously than political correctness, which isn’t an easy path to take for the president of a mammoth state university.
Congratulations to the Prez