The Sports Pavilion, used by several of the school’s non-revenue teams, has been renamed the Joel Maturi Sports Pavilion to honor the man who was Gophers athletic director from 2002-2012.
The news, first mentioned over the weekend on WCCO radio, was confirmed by Board of Regents Chairman Dean Johnson — who has also been dealing with some of the fallout from the decision, with some questioning the quiet nature of the process that led to the honor, Maturi’s credentials in receiving the honor or both.
Johnson said Maturi was nominated for the honor, which was then vetted by a committee, approved by President Eric Kaler and sent to the board for approval. It was part of an agenda item under honors and naming rights (page 50 on the link), though none of the handful of people being honored was specifically named on the agenda.
The board approved the renaming of the Pavilion without discussion, which rankled former Gophers football player Jim Carter, a program supporter who aspires to be a board member. He said a lack of transparency “is a serious problem for the Board of Regents and this administration.”
Johnson agreed that there were flaws in the process.
“I think when you have a high-profile issue or individual, it's a good thing to discuss it in public. In this case we did not. As the chair of the board, I wish someone would have said, ‘Here's Joel Maturi, this is the honor we want to bestow on him, and people could have made comment.’ But it was part of a larger motion of other honors,” Johnson said. “After the fact there were some questions, which is fine, about how did this happen and what was the process. There are lessons learned in the process — nothing that Joel did or didn't do, just the process. We've already taken a second look at the process so it's more transparent and clear going forward.”
Maturi’s decade-long tenure as AD was filled with notable accomplishments (construction of TCF Bank Stadium, NCAA titles in multiple sports) and coaching hires (Tubby Smith, Jerry Kill and Hugh McCutcheon among them). But it was also filled with missteps such as hiring of football coach Tim Brewster and expensive buyouts for other fired coaches. He was an ardent supporter of all the school’s athletic programs — something proponents pointed to as a strength while detractors pointed to as a flaw, arguing that it came at the expense of boosting higher-profile sports.
“When you offer up an honor to an individual there at times will be someone who doesn't agree. They voice their opinion for whatever kind of reason. I expect Joel Maturi has a lot of supporters but also detractors,” Johnson said. “In the end, (the naming vote) passed and the reality is that it will move forward. Is everyone happy? Mr. Maturi, in his capacity as AD, had difficult situations. You hire coaches, you fire coaches, you live and die on the amount of money you raise and the facilities you put together and your win-loss records. When I think of Joel Maturi I think of his ability to bring men's and women's athletes under one AD and give equal opportunity and competition to both.”
Perhaps, then, the Pavilion — 5,000-plus seat multi-purpose facility that is sometimes overlooked but is vital to men’s and women’s teams at the U — is the perfect building to bear his name. Johnson made it clear that this is an honor for “good things done on behalf of the University” and not the result of a monetary donation.
As for when we’ll see tangible evidence of the name change, Johnson wasn’t sure of specifics.
“When will you see Joel Maturi's name go up on the Sports Pavilion?” Johnson asked. “Let's just say when the weather warms up.”