University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler called the academic progress in Gophers athletics “remarkable” at the Board of Regents meeting Wednesday and added that athletic director Norwood Teague had the department “clearly moving in the right direction.”
Teague used his annual athletics report to the regents to showcase the academic success and update the group on fundraising and the department’s gender-equity efforts.
The Gophers, for the second consecutive year, had the highest-ranking Academic Progress Rates (APR) of all public institutions in the country, behind only private schools Northwestern, Notre Dame, Duke and Stanford. The average cumulative grade-point average for all Gophers student-athletes was 3.27 — a number regent Thomas Devine called “really outstanding.”
As Teague was speaking, a separate Big Ten announcement echoed the school’s progress. Seventy-two Gophers student-athletes earned the conference’s 2014-15 Distinguished Scholar Awards for maintaining GPAs of 3.7 or higher, the second-highest number the program has received (86 in 2011-12) and second-highest in the Big Ten, behind Michigan State (78).
Teague and his staff “should be applauded” for their work on academics, Devine added.
Teague said the fundraising progress toward the $190 million “Athletics Village” remains at $70 million, but the school is “on the verge of solidifying” some large gifts. At least one of those gifts is expected to come from the local corporate community. Teague said that he has received a “very, very positive response from the list of corporations throughout the Twin Cities and Minnesota,” including one unnamed CEO he met with that morning.
“They know that we need to catch up,” Teague said. “We’ve done a good job of communicating where we are and what we need to do to get to where we want to be.”
The regents are expected to vote on approving the project at their September meeting, and groundbreaking could occur by mid-September.
When two efforts conclude — the Department of Education’s investigation into Gophers athletics Title IX compliance, and a similar internal review — Kaler said the school will release “just one equity plan that sets the direction for Gophers athletics.”
He said there was no timeline for receiving DOE investigation results. He added, “Of course, in just about all we do, there are improvements to be made, and I assure you if we find things we can do better in regard to Title IX and Gopher athletics we will.”
Teague, deputy athletic director Beth Goetz, Deputy General Counsel Tracy Smith and Kimberley Hewitt, director of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action, presented a gender-equity report, and Goetz said both participation opportunities and scholarship distribution met Title IX guidelines for the past school year.
When asked by regent Michael Hsu what the school’s biggest “weakness” is regarding gender equity, Smith told regents the school needs to find a home for the track and field program. “Track is our first focus for Title IX purposes,” she said. The current track would be demolished for the Athletics Village, and the department is expected to announce a new home for a track and field complex this summer.
• Teague said the university is looking into expanding its radio affiliate lineup for football, to get game broadcasts “in every cranny” of Minnesota.
• The athletics department budget for the fiscal year 2016 is $107.2 million, up from $96 million in fiscal year 2015. Teague highlighted the new “full cost of attendance” scholarship rules as a reason for the increase, along with rising travel costs for teams and recruiting.
• Ongoing facility improvements include: The 1940s roof on Williams Arena has been replaced, the Sports Pavilion has a new video board and interior updates to Mariucci Arena are continuing.