New Gophers athletics director Norwood Teague sat down with the Minnesota Daily on Friday to discuss Tubby Smith’s contract, his facilities plan, fundraising and his first experiences on the job.
How was your first week here at Minnesota?
It was terrific. It was a time to meet a lot of people. I’ve been all around town meeting with donors, meeting with coaches, others in the department and the University. It was terrific. This is a wonderful, wonderful place, and I’m thrilled to be here.
You had only so much time in your first week, but I’m sure many were begging for your attention. Who did you talk with first?
I kind of followed the lead of the staff here and who they think I should talk to, because I don’t know who I should. They will prevent me from making a mistake, they’ll make meetings with people they think I should see first week, first two weeks. I just saw Dave Larson, who is on the Board of Regents, met with Dave. That was fun … I met with Tom Moe, former AD here. People like that give you good history and good background.
What did Tom say?
He was just telling stories. Telling me good stories about how things transpire here at Minnesota. He gave me a great summary of why we moved to the Metrodome and how the process worked moving back over here. How he built political support and how he was the lead shark in that.
The public often criticized previous AD Joel Maturi for his 25-sport, broad-ranged philosophy. What will you do to keep, adjust or shed that philosophy?
I’ve had that question a lot since I’ve gotten here. I just said, "We're a Big Ten school, a major research University. Having 25 sports fits our profile." I’m not led right now to even consider researching the elimination of sports. I think sometimes it can be a ... I don’t know if you’ll call it a "fools gold" or whatever it may be, but you don’t get rich by cutting sports. You don’t save as much money as you think you will. Plus, most of our sports, especially on the Olympic sports side, are extremely successful, or they have a great facility. I’m not led to even look at that right now.
Minnesota has a large base for amateur men’s soccer and men’s and women’s lacrosse. Would you be open to adding sports like these down the road?
It’d be tough to consider that. I think very few schools are adding sports right now. Sure, I’d love to add lacrosse or men’s soccer, but it’s not something we’ll be able to do at any time.
Minnesota and Northwestern are the only Big Ten schools that break even on their yearly budget, meaning they use money from their University’s central fund. Maturi did a noticeable job of lowering that subsidy. What must you do to keep it a trend?
You have to sell football tickets; you have to fill the football stadium. In addition to fundraising being a part of it, you have to look for extra revenue, whether it be corporate sales, concessions … There’s revenue streams everywhere, and you have to try and treat it like a business sometimes. I don’t like calling it a business, but sometimes it is. You just try to maximize the positive flow of cash, see if you can make it happen.
You’ve been known as the creative fundraising type. Where will you start in exploring new sources of revenue?
I’m not so sure I know right now. There’s areas I’ve heard. I’ve gotten recommendations from meeting with donors, meeting with alumni … they have ideas. Some may be possible, some may not. You really need to look below the surface, and it’s going to take some time to figure that out.
Maturi said it would only be right to institute a system like preferred seating under his watch. Do you foresee any unpopular decisions you may have to make within your first year that are necessary for the bottom line?
I don’t know of any right now. Those will present themselves as you move forward. I don’t know of any that are looming out there. I do appreciate Joel doing the preferred seating. I’m glad it wasn’t something I had to do right away, and I appreciate that getting done. Now I know it’s tough, it’s a hard thing to swallow for fans. But, there may be others like that. I’ll do my best to try and make the best decision possible.
With Tubby Smith’s contract, you’ve said it is in its ‘11th hour,’ but what’s holding it up?
I think the biggest thing was getting me here, letting me finish it up. They were getting close, and I was getting ready to transition here, getting ready to move. Part of it was getting me here, settled in, and I think we’ll be finalizing it very, very soon.
You’ve said you’d like to institute a facilities master plan as one of your first duties. What do you see on the top of the list?
Practice facility for men’s and women’s basketball is big. I think it’s been proven that any team that builds one, it’s a huge shot in the arm to your program. Tubby and Pam [Borton] need that. We have the plot of land behind Williams Arena. I’m really glad that’s set, because sometimes the hardest part is finding a place to put it. We need to move that forward, and that is a top priority.
Anything else besides the basketball practice facility?
That’s why I want to institute the plan, sit down with a consultant and see what really are the top priorities. For me to guess right now — I’d probably make a mistake … I want to get a group in here to help us with that.
What about the smaller programs? The outdoor track needs repair, and the team had to push back its year to host the Big Ten championships because of the conditions.
That’s the role of an AD — to care for all sports. It’s a delicate balancing act. It’s about communicating with your coaches, it’s about developing a plan. There’s certainly football, men’s basketball and hockey, which are our moneymakers, and we need to take care of them. But it’s just not in my philosophy to push anything else aside. I want to make everybody important. Serve all sports.
What was your impression of the U during your first week?
I think it exceeded my expectations. I knew I was going to meet a lot of great people, and of course that took place, but I think I saw so much hope and potential in what we can become, and that’s thrilling for me.
What reactions have you been getting from Gophers fans?
They’ve been great. There’s a tremendous amount of school spirit and passion here at the U. Just imagine if we elevated some of our revenue sports — there would be mania in a lot of ways.
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