Mark Coyle on Friday hit the six-month mark in his tenure as Gophers athletic director. Coyle, who served as an associate athletic director from 2001 to 2005, talked about what he has experienced so far in the role.
“First off, my wife and I are so humbled to be here at the University of Minnesota,” Coyle said. “This was a special place when we were here before, and to have the chance to be back at the university, we’re really proud to be the athletic director.
“You know, I think the No. 1 thing I would point out is we have really good people who are working really hard to make sure we provide a great experience for our student-athletes. We’ve got 25 sports, over 700 student-athletes who are working incredibly hard. I’m really thankful for the staff and the fans and donors that have welcomed us and bought into what we’re trying to do, and that’s to focus on our student coaches and athletes.”
One of the questions surrounding the Gophers’ recent lack of success in men’s sports is how the lone Division I program in the state can struggle so much compared to other states that have multiple D-I programs.
“That’s on us; that’s on the University of Minnesota athletic department, and we have to work hard to earn people,” he said. “You earn people, in my opinion, by doing things the right way, by being first-class academically, everything we do socially and everything we do athletically. Obviously, the idea of winning is an important piece of that, and if you look at our program we had six Big Ten championships last year. If you look at this fall our women’s soccer team just won the Big Ten championship. We have a lot of positive things going on, but there’s no question we want to win in all of our sports.”
Men’s vs. women’s
It was not too long ago that the Gophers had separate athletic directors for men’s and women’s sports. The departments merged in 2002. Coyle was asked how he accounts for the success the women’s programs have had recently compared to the men.
“We’ve had such a strong history of women’s sports here, and I always remind people you want to get the recruits, that’s such a critical piece of bringing young men and young women to your campus that can compete academically and athletically, and socially,” he said. “But coaching is a big part of it.
“We have some really strong coaches on the men’s and women’s side, but if you look at Hugh McCutcheon with volleyball; Stefanie Golan with women’s soccer, she was just named the Big Ten Coach of the Year; you look at Brad Frost and what he’s done with our women’s hockey program. I mean we’ve got great coaches, Jessica Allister [in softball], we have great coaches and we’ll continue to work hard to invest in all of our sports.”
Facilities on time
One quality Coyle showed in the past was his ability to raise money as the AD at Boise State and Syracuse. With the Gophers athletics complex under construction and fundraising still ongoing, he was asked how the project is progressing.
“The good news is that I keep being told that they’re on time and on budget, which is music to an athletic director’s ears,” he said. “The facilities are coming along nicely, and I have been pleased with fundraising. Our Golden Gopher Fund has worked extremely hard, and we’re so thankful for the many donors who stepped up to help us, but obviously we need to continue to fundraise and be aggressive on that side. The facility will be a huge, huge impact for our student-athletes.”
How much money has been raised? “We’re over $90 million on that goal,” he said of the estimated $166 million project. “We’ve been appreciative of those who have supported us and we’ve worked hard to get out and meet with people and make sure they understand when they invest in our student-athletes they’re investing in the future. And we’re so thankful for the support we have, but we need to continue to fundraise and will continue to be aggressive.”
Budgeting the Big Ten
According to USA Today, the Gophers have the fifth-largest budget in the Big Ten at $111 million dollars — trailing Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Wisconsin. Coyle was asked about his budgeting this season.
“Some of those programs have a bigger budget than we do, but our budget is fine,” he said. “We always need to make sure we do a good job of managing our resources the right way, and make sure we do it in a transparent way. We’re pleased with our budget, but obviously we need to continue to generate money through ticket sales and raising money and corporate sponsorships, so we always focus on those things.”
One thing that Coyle gained in coming to the Big Ten is the revenue-sharing that comes from the conference, including the Big Ten Network.
“Your revenue streams are your ticket sales, fundraising, and conference revenues are a big piece of that,” Coyle said. “Obviously in the Big Ten, we have a wonderful commissioner in Commissioner [Jim] Delany, and we have a very sound TV partnership with the Big Ten Network. We’re fortunate and we continue to generate positive revenue with our TV agreement, which is helpful to the University of Minnesota and all Big Ten institutions.”
• The Vikings have applied to play host to either the 2022 or the 2023 NFL draft, with a good chance they will have it at their planned Eagan facility.
• Mike Zimmer will go up against his former coaching partner in Jay Gruden on Sunday when the Vikings visit Washington. The two worked together in Cincinnati. “It was great,” Zimmer said of their time together. “He worked very hard. We always had fun competition like every day, in the spring mostly, but it was fun.”
• Stefon Diggs is from the Washington, D.C., area, and played in college at Maryland. “It’s going to be exciting, my first time coming home, having a game back home,” the second-year Vikings receiver said. “I’m not thinking about too much of a homecoming, but I’m definitely excited to see my mom and just get back to playing in my old town.”
• The Vikings’ Cordarrelle Patterson is one of six players in NFL history to score at least four kick return touchdowns, four rushing touchdowns and six receiving touchdowns.
• Mike Wallace caught 39 passes for 473 yards and two scores in 16 games for the Vikings last season, but now he is thriving in Baltimore. Through eight games he has 39 receptions for 614 yards and four scores, including a 95-yarder.
• Three-sport standout Ryan Duffy of South St. Paul signed a letter of intent to play baseball for the Gophers. Duffy is the quarterback on the Packers football team and also wrestles.
• Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter is one of two NFL players, along with Brandon Graham of the Eagles, with at least four sacks, one pass deflection, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery this season.
• Jim Brower, former Minnetonka High School, Gophers and major league pitcher, has been part of back-to-back World Series-winning organizations. He was a minor league pitching coach for the Royals in 2015 and filled that same role for the Cubs this season.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and Sundays at 9:30 a.m. E-mail: email@example.com