New University of Minnesota Athletics Director Mark Coyle sat down with the Minnesota Daily on Thursday for the second edition of a monthly Q&A.
Coyle discussed the soccer team’s Big Ten regular season title, the state of the football team and the upcoming wrestling season, among other topics.
The soccer team won a share of the Big Ten title Wednesday, marking your first title as AD. How does that feel?
All titles feel great. I was excited for [head coach Stefanie Golan] and those young ladies. They’ve worked incredibly hard all season. [I] had a chance to be out there [Wednesday night] and see the excitement that they have … but obviously they have bigger goals in mind. The Big Ten Tournament is starting on Sunday … I know they’re excited, but they also have their eye on a bigger goal, which is a great place to be.
With the men's basketball season about to get underway, how would you describe the state of the men's basketball team?
I’ve been really appreciative with how hard they’ve worked over the summer, and I’m not talking about on the court … they did a lot on the student-athlete development side. [Head coach Richard Pitino] and his staff brought in a lot of speakers to talk to the team. I think those things were important, but make no mistake — the season’s getting started, and people pay attention to how we perform on the court as well. … We got a strong recruiting class. Coach Pitino has talked about that strong recruiting class, so I’ll be anxious to get started and see what they do on the court.
Same question with the women’s basketball team. What did you see from them over the summer?
… I’ve been here five months now, so I’ve had a chance to get to know [head coach Marlene Stollings … and our other coaches. I love the passion and commitment they have for our program. [I] had a chance to go to the scrimmage on [Saturday] after the Homecoming football game and watch both teams. Our women’s team lighted it up with a lot of points, which was great to see. But again, I know they’re excited to get started, and I’m excited to watch and support and do everything I can to help them accomplish the goals they have.
The men’s and women’s hockey teams’ seasons are underway. What does it feel like to be at a hockey school now?
I was here from 2001 to 2005, and last year at Syracuse, we had women’s hockey back there and enjoyed those. It’s great. [Head coach Brad Frost] got his 300th win last week at Ohio State, which is a credit to him and his program and all those things. [I] had a chance to watch the men play last Friday night — my first game back at Mariucci since I [came] back. It was great to be back in the arena and watch that. Obviously, the results we wanted it to be different, but they’re working hard, and we’re excited to get the hockey season started for both the men and women.
Right before the hockey season started, head coach Don Lucia signed his extension. Can you explain your decision and thought process behind signing him?
… I believe in taking a holistic approach in looking at all your coaches. If you look at Don, I think 13 championships in 17 years as our coach, two national championships and the national championship game a few years ago and had a tough loss to, I believe, Union. Our kids, academically, are doing it the right way. Socially, our kids are doing it the right way. … My job is to support all of our coaches. I look forward to working closely with Don to try to help him achieve the goals we have, which is to compete on the national level of hockey.
The football team recently had a close win against Rutgers. How do you feel about the state of the team? Is this where you’d hoped they’d be? (Note: This interview was conducted before the 40-17 win over Illinois.)
I joke, ‘It’s great when they win them all.’ We’re 5-2, and we have a very important game on Saturday at Illinois, and any time you have a conference game on the road, they’re important. As … I’ve talked about before, in my five months, I’ve enjoyed getting to know [head coach Tracy Claeys]. I know that staff worked incredibly hard. I know our student athletes are working incredibly hard. Again, we look forward to taking it one week at a time. … We’ll go past that and move forward.
Five football players have restraining orders placed on them, preventing them from being at TCF Bank Stadium. What is the extent of your involvement with the situation?
I really am not involved. Obviously I stand by our University’s statement, and obviously we will comply with all court orders, and we will be respectful of that process.
How do you feel about where the volleyball team currently is? (Note: This interview was conducted before a 3-0 win against Rutgers and 3-0 win against Penn State.)
They’ve been road warriors. … It’s great to have them home. They play[ed] Friday night against Rutgers and Penn State on Saturday, so obviously two very important conference matches. … We had just been ranked number one in the country, so it’ll be a great atmosphere this weekend, but again, coach McCutcheon and those young ladies have done a phenomenal job and have created a culture where you expect to compete at the highest level, and that’s our goal for all the programs. …
The wrestling team starts their season soon coming off a tumultuous offseason. What are you looking to see from them on and off the mat?
We’re ranked in the top ten in the preseason poll, which is great. That’s where Minnesota wrestling belongs. [We have] a great wrestling tradition here, and I’m so thankful for [interim head coach Brandon Eggum]. He has stepped into a spot where he’s leading that team, and I’ve been thankful for [assistant coach Luke Becker], other assistant coaches and our students on that team. They’re all working hard, and again, I’m thankful for how everybody has handled that situation. We look forward to moving forward, moving on and doing great things with Minnesota wrestling.
What are your plans for Halloween?
Halloween is my favorite holiday with my kids because they’re absolutely dialed in. They get the magazines with the Halloween costumes. It feels like August, September, when they start circling some of the outfits they want to be and some of those things. I always enjoy watching my kids have a fun time. I’m thankful I’ll be able to be home this year on Halloween. I wasn’t last year, at Syracuse. … I’ll be spending time with the kids, watching them do their trick-or-treating. Hopefully … I can bum some candy off of them.
Do they circle a costume for you?
They don’t. They have not circled a costume for me. I’m trying to think what a good costume would be for me to go as. One is going as [Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott], and the other one is going as a wild Vikings fan … Vikings gear head to toe. We’ve got kind of an NFL theme going this year, and they’re excited. Maybe I should go as an official. Keep those two separated or something like that. …
Editor’s Note: This Q&A has been edited for clarity and length.