Gophers athletic director Mark Coyle understands it's part of college sports when coaches and administrators are mentioned as possible candidates at other programs.

In a wide-ranging interview Tuesday with the Star Tribune, Coyle said he has felt "humbled" when contacted about different opportunities, including recently at USC.

But Coyle, who has been at the U since 2016, spoke about how comfortable his family is in Minnesota and how excited he is to lead the Gophers during a remarkable period of change for college sports.

"This is home," Coyle said. "Search firms have reached out to me. But our kids have grown up here. This is home for us, and we're very happy in Minnesota. We're excited to be here."

More from the Q&A, shortened for length:

Q: Big Ten realignment news dominated the offseason. How is this good for the Gophers, and are there some disadvantages with it, too?

A: We had a head coaches' meeting, maybe a week or two weeks ago and we were talking about what [does] competitive success means in the new Big Ten. Because there are 18 teams and there's still only one Big Ten championship. We talk about postseason opportunities, whether it be football in the bowl game or [other sports making the] postseason and NCAA championship play. We want to make sure that we're relevant. I take great pride in our program in the Directors' Cup finishing in the top 10-11 every year. If we continue to do that, we'll continue to be relevant on that national level. But there's no doubt the Big Ten just got a lot harder and a lot more competitive.

Q: What will it be like for you to work for a fourth president after they replace Joan Gabel?

A: I'm very excited about [interim President Jeff Ettinger] and working with him this year. I think 12 of the 14 presidents in the Big Ten are new like in the last three or four years. So, think about the turnover. It's bonkers. Gene Smith at Ohio State who is an absolute stud. I have the utmost respect for him as an athletic director. He announced his retirement at the end of this academic year. So, I think I'm gonna move up to third or fourth in the Big Ten in tenure. I'm only in Year 8 here.

So I think what we've all been through with COVID, the pandemic and everything, you see a lot more turnover in the president's job and in the AD jobs. We just feel really fortunate. We talk about alignment. I think it's really important to have alignment with our Board of Regents, with our president, with our athletic program, to make sure we're doing the things that our campus wants us to do.

Q: Where do you feel P.J. Fleck's football program is right now?

A: It's hard to believe that he's starting Year 7 here. He and I have gotten incredibly close. I am so thankful for what he and his wife, Heather, do every day for our program. And obviously, you know, winning matters. That is a big, big deal at this level. But you look at all the other things he does behind the scenes — he and Heather do — I feel really fortunate to have him here.

Obviously, we have high expectations. We open up with Nebraska, who's a great program. Great tradition. Great fan base. They're gonna be really good on Thursday night. We're gonna be really good on Thursday night.

Q: With issues popping up nationally — gambling, hazing — what can you as an AD do to make sure the problems surfacing at Iowa and Northwestern aren't happening at the U?

A: You always have to be mindful. And every student-athlete that comes to Minnesota has my cell number. It doesn't matter what sport. We have the U anonymous reporting system. We make sure our student-athletes understand that if Mark Coyle is not doing something right, or a coach, or administrator, whatever it may be, you can report anonymously. Our student-athletes know they can report to our faculty athletic reps if they see anything they don't feel cool about.

I meet with every team when they come back at the start of school year. We talk about gambling. Obviously, we're paying attention to what's going on down in Iowa and Iowa State and some of the challenges they've had.

Our compliance department this year, we have some training that will take place. Our football team already has been through that training. All of our other programs will go through that training this fall in September and early October. So, again, we just continue to be very proactive. But I feel really comfortable. We have really good people leading our programs.

Q: What conversations have you had with men's basketball coach Ben Johnson? How tough is it to be patient during a rebuild but wanting to see more success on the court?

A: What I really appreciate about Ben is he understands there's a sense of urgency. And we're going to do it the right way. Not for a second do I question Ben Johnson. I feel so fortunate to have an opportunity to work with him.

And what I appreciate about Ben is there is not an hour that goes by that I do not talk about NIL and the impact … He's built this program with younger kids. Those freshmen are now going to be sophomores. We have a talented freshmen class coming in. He signed some good recruits in the next couple years, so we'll continue to support him and to be patient with him.

But he clearly understands that winning is a big part of what we do here. And again, I have every bit of confidence in Coach Johnson. But we've got to build our NIL. We've got to give him the tools necessary to help him to continue to recruit.

Q: Are you concerned NIL will turn into a bidding war for the top athletes, and how do you compete if it does?

A: Yeah. NIL is not supposed to be used for recruiting. But that's what it's used for. And I'm so grateful for our coaches because we have not made false promises to kids. When we recruit, we tell kids if you have questions about NIL, you need to ask the kids on that team. And they can tell you what our NIL money looks like.

Jeremiah Carter is doing a wonderful job helping us organize our NIL and working with Dinkytown Athletes. But you're going to need NIL to be successful. It's not going away, and we've got to learn how to embrace it. And when we talk to donors and fans about it, they're trying to get their arms around it and understand what it is.

Q: How is the transition going to new women's basketball coach Dawn Plitzuweit?

A: We are so grateful to have her. I can't tell you how many similarities there are between Dawn and P.J. [Fleck]. They could be brother and sister. Two of the most intentional people I've ever been around.

She's very focused on the fundamentals — on the old school way. What we need to do to be competitive. I think we're gonna see some really good results because of Dawn.

Q: Big Ten realignment and growth — when does it stop in your opinion?

A: I don't think we're done. I have no inside scoop. That's just Mark Coyle's perspective … I don't think conference realignment's done.

Star Tribune staff writer Randy Johnson contributed to this story.