When he was Minnesota’s athletics director, Joel Maturi rarely found time to himself in his old office at the Bierman Field Athletic Building.
Now, up in his third-floor office of the 1901 University Avenue SE building, sometimes time alone is all he has.
“It’s much quieter up here,” Maturi said. “Like last Friday, I think I was the only one on this floor.”
Maturi, who was the Gophers’ AD for 10 years, is transitioning to his new role as adviser, donor liaison and educator.
He stepped down as AD in February, saying, “we have a new president, and we have an old athletics director.”
Now, he’s more than a month into his newly created position as special assistant to President Eric Kaler, who took office just a year ago.
His new gig isn’t located in the Office of the President — that wouldn’t accurately depict his job description anyway. Instead, inside 1901 University Avenue SE, next to Williams Arena, Maturi is housed with members of the kinesiology department.
In February, Kaler designated fundraising and “special projects” as two of Maturi’s new responsibilities.
Maturi will also teach one sport management course in the fall and raise money for the College of Human Education and Development, all while using his experience to advise new AD Norwood Teague and Kaler on any questions they may have.
“He’s been invaluable,” Teague said. “It’ll be great going forward to have him here — someone I know I can lean on for advice or history on any issues that come my way.”
‘A new lifestyle’
Maturi will still earn $345,000 for his one-year term as special assistant — the same as his AD salary — but he said going from 14 to 16 hours a day to the typical 9-to-5 schedule has been a learning curve. For instance, he’s gone from roughly 200 emails a day to about 30.
“I’m trying to get used to a whole new lifestyle,” Maturi said. “It wasn’t just at Minnesota. I’ve always been a workaholic.”
Maturi said he is happy to be done with the extensive work hours, sleepless nights and “negativity” that surround being an AD.
But he’s been a high school teacher, a coach, an associate athletics director as well as an AD at three programs, and he said it’s the people he misses.
“Some things I miss terribly,” he said. “It’s lonelier up here. I miss the interactions. I miss the student-athletes, the coaches preparing for their seasons.”
Maturi wakes up at 5:30 a.m., instead of 4:30; he doesn’t need to be in his office until 8:30, and he’s even found days when he can leave around 3 or 4 p.m.
A devoted gym rat, he said he still works out every day. The athletics complex at Bierman used to be his place, but now he exercises at Ridder Arena — a change he said he made to “get out of [Teague’s] way.”
Maturi has held that philosophy since he announced his retirement.
“Joel [Maturi] has been great when I’ve asked for help,” Teague said. “He’s certainly let me get acclimated as I see fit, on my own.”
Maturi regularly meets with the University’s Foundation president Steve Goldstein and members of the kinesiology department within CEHD regarding his course and raising money for its programs.
But he said his biggest asset so far has been connecting Teague with the right donors and boosters, as a liaison, helping to smoothly transfer existing relationships for the new AD.
“One thing I have that neither Norwood [Teague] or Kaler have is I’ve been here for 10 years,” Maturi said. “I know many of [the donors], not all, but many. And some like me better than others.”
Maturi said he’s received many job offers in the area, but he can’t speculate on what he’ll do after his one-year contract as special assistant is up.
“Much depends on my health, and if I still enjoy what I do,” Maturi said. “And if people think I’m doing a good job at it.”
A lifelong educator
As his time at Minnesota continues, Maturi said he’ll look to drop the fundraising responsibilities and mainly focus on teaching — a lifelong passion of his.
“At his core he’s an educator,” said Liz Eull, Kaler’s deputy chief of staff. “He’ll put a lot of time and energy into preparing for [his course].”
He’s only teaching one course on sports facilities and event management this fall, but Maturi said he’s going to bring “his A-game” and that he can’t guarantee students will like his style.
“But I promise you I’ll come energized and prepared,” he said.
Eull, former CFO of Gophers athletics, has worked with Maturi since they both joined Minnesota in 2002. When she left for a job in Kaler’s office, Maturi followed a year later.
With no major violations during his 10 years as director of Gophers athletics, Maturi has been indispensable in helping with the University’s institutional control, Eull said.
“His experience as athletics director at Minnesota was unique,” Eull said.
Eull was referring to Minnesota’s athletic compliance. Since the academic fraud scandal involving former Gophers men’s basketball coach Clem Haskins and 18 players from 1994-98, Gophers compliance reports go directly to the University’s general counsel — not its athletics director, which is the standard.
“His experience working in that structure is beneficial in his wisdom,” Eull said. “We ask him what has and hasn’t worked before with him.”
Maturi said his new job is much more “hands-off” than he’s used to. But he said he’s been able to use his free time to revive the old coach in him — something he said he never would’ve had the time to do as an AD.
Three times a week, he mentors Eull’s daughter, Natalie, a DeLaSalle High School senior for an hour at a time on the basketball court.
“Natalie [Eull] and Joel [Maturi] have known each other since she was 7,” said Liz Eull. “She’s always been a big fan of his and has come to respect him as a basketball coach.”
Natalie Eull suffered a concussion two years ago. Using her previous season as a rebuilding year, she turned to Maturi to help coach her back to form.
“Being the educator that he is, he’s helping her with things outside of the technical aspects,” Liz Eull said. “Her confidence, assertiveness on the court.
“Having worked with him for nine years, I learned a lot about who he is as a person. … He’s the kind of person you want in your kid’s life.”
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