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University of Minnesota

Eager for the challenge

April 24, 2012

Norwood Teague spoke at a news conference at TCF Bank Stadium, flanked by U President Eric Kaler.

New Director of Athletics Norwood Teague spoke at a news conference at TCF Bank Stadium April 23 flanked by U President Eric Kaler.

Photo: Eric Miller, University Athletics

Norwood Teague thinks the ceiling is high for success in Gopher athletics

By Rick Moore

It’s been a whirlwind couple of days for Norwood Teague. On Sunday he was announced as the lone finalist to become the U’s new director of athletics. A day later he was providing sound bites to a gaggle of local media wanting to know everything about him, from his thoughts on the ideal number of Gopher sports to his tastes in television shows and music.

Welcome to the Big Ten.

Teague was officially introduced as the U’s next athletics director by President Eric Kaler at a news conference Monday afternoon in the Gophers locker room at TCF Bank Stadium. Pending approval by the Board of Regents, he will begin work at the University on July 1, succeeding Joel Maturi, who has overseen the U athletics department for 10 years.

Teague has spent the last six years as AD at Virginia Commonwealth University, and has more than two decades of experience working in intercollegiate athletics. At VCU, he oversaw continued success both in the classroom and at sporting venues, as well as remarkable growth in gifts to the school’s annual and capital funds.

In his tenure, VCU’s baseball, basketball, soccer, golf, tennis, and track programs all captured Colonial Athletic Association championships and NCAA tournament berths, and the Rams men’s basketball team made a memorable trip to the Final Four in 2011.

“Norwood is the real deal and a true professional. He has a vast and deep knowledge of big-time college athletics administration and marketing experience,” Kaler noted at the press conference. “I am extremely confident that he is fully equipped and has the capacity, and then some, to manage our entire athletics program, from football to softball and from rowing to wrestling.”

‘The sky’s the limit’

Between the TV interviews at the edge of the TCF Bank Stadium football field and a live, drive-time radio spot, Teague took a few minutes Monday to chat about what drove him to leave a successful gig at VCU and venture north to the great unknown.

He talked about the potential for greater success in athletics here—“The sky’s the limit,” he says—and about how coming to the University of Minnesota, at a gut level, just feels right.

“I think ‘fit’ is extremely important when you look at a job and you look at what you’re going to do,” he says. “Early on, my sense was I fit here. I hope I can bring some of my skills as a leader to the table and elevate the program. That excites me, and I think it can be done.”

"After he met with the broader search committee this morning—no easy audience—there was a spontaneous round of applause," says Mary Jo Kane, search committee co-chair. "Not a standing ovation because we are, after all, Minnesotans. ... That's about as good as it gets on first impression."

His two-decade track record is impressive, and includes stops at the University of Virginia, the University of North Carolina (his alma mater), and Arizona State. And he certainly has elevated VCU. Since his arrival there, the VCU athletic annual fund has increased more than 119 percent, with annual average increases of more than 20 percent.

In that sense, he sees himself both as an enthusiastic fund-raiser and a “friend raiser,” a role he’s ready to embrace in Minnesota.

“When you have 260,000 alumni in the greater area, there’s a lot of potential there,” he says. “I know some have been not engaged. Well, we’ve got to work hard to engage as many of them as we can. I love doing that. That really is a passion of mine.”

Teague says he’s attracted by Kaler’s leadership. “He has great vision. He’s a great person and we certainly clicked when we spoke,” Teague says. “I think it’s also very good to come in as an athletic director with a president who is beginning his tenure, so we can be a team together and partner early on.”

He’s also committed to academic success for student-athletes, and at VCU the GPA for all student-athletes was 3.0 this past year.

“It’s one of the top priorities, if not the top priority,” he says. “At an institution like Minnesota, with the academic reputation, it’s going to be more important within the athletic realm. I think winning and having high academics can be accomplished; it can coexist. As the leader and as the athletics director, I will set the tone that we will achieve in that area, and we will put a lot of resources into that and support it at a high level.”

‘Undercover About-to-be-Boss’

How intrigued was Teague at the notion of coming to Minnesota? On Easter weekend, before he had even interviewed for the position, he took a trip to the Twin Cities. Once here, he wandered the streets of Minneapolis and stealthily gauged the attitudes of Minnesotans on the U and on Golden Gopher athletics.

Teague trending

At about the time of his press conference, Teague created a Twitter account for his new role. An hour later, @GoldenGopherAD had 359 followers, and a day later, that number was pushing 1,000.

“I walked around Dinkytown for three hours, ate lunch there, went downtown, and went everywhere,” he says with a smile. “When I was going those places I was asking questions to everybody whose attention I could grab, kind of disguising who I was. I just picked people’s brains both on campus and downtown about the U, about athletics, about how they perceive us. And it was really informative. I got a great feel for what people thought.

“The main thing I felt and heard is that people really want to win. People are passionate about that. I think they know that Minnesota will do it the right way, but they want us to compete at the highest level in the Big Ten. Equally, they want to win and they know that we can.”

 Read more and watch videos related to the hiring of Norwood Teague at GopherSports.

Tags: Athletics

Related Links

More coverage on the hiring of Norwood Teague

Norwood Teague bio on GopherSports