- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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Minnesota wisely chose to introduce Norwood Teague as its next athletic director Monday in the home locker room of TCF Bank Stadium. It was a reminder that football, more than any other varsity sport, drives an athletic program and must be supported and enhanced by the man leading the athletic department. Teague brings superb basketball credentials to the U, not least of which is his ability to both hire and retain Shaka Smart at VCU, where Teague has served as AD since 2006. He also has shown tremendous clout as a fundraiser. What he hasn't done is lead a department with an FBS football program, although he has worked in three departments that have them: North Carolina, Arizona State and Virginia.
Teague will start his new job July 1 if approved by the school's regents. He takes over for Joel Maturi, the Gophers' AD for the past decade.
"It's great to be back at a football school," Teague said at his introduction.
ESPN.com caught up with Minnesota's new AD on Monday to discuss the football-specific elements of his new job.
You mentioned your desire to be at a school with football. Why was it important for you?
Norwood Teague: I worked around football for 13 years, and I missed it. I love football and enjoyed my time at Virginia and Arizona State and North Carolina, and just wanted to get back into it. I'm excited for the opportunity.
What are some of the challenges that football presents when you're leading a department?
NT: It's just more demands. It's more demands on you financially, it's more demands as far as workload for a department. But that comes with it. Football, in so many ways, is the driver of college athletics. It's can be high-maintenance, but you love it, and you have to support it in the highest level, and that takes a lot of work, both from a funding standpoint and a headcount standpoint.
Minnesota has a big piece in place with the stadium. From your perspective, what's next for football? What needs to be done to further enhance that program?
NT: Well, the stadium certainly is a tremendous step in the right direction. Moving forward, I've got to evaluate the soft spots that we have with the football program. Coach [Jerry] Kill and I have had some dialogue, and I'll find out a whole lot more there. Marketing is always key. We've got a great marketing staff here, but I need to support them as best I can in order to fill seats and build the atmosphere in and around games. So, there's plenty to do. I've got a lot of evaluation in the next six months to get there, but I think the future's very bright.
What did you know about Coach Kill coming in, and what's your opinion of the head coach?
NT: Certainly the opinion with Gophers fans is very positive toward him. He is a relentless guy, and he is building a really solid program. Really I've heard nothing but great things about him here. I knew of him from a variety of different people who had worked with him in the past. I know the current athletic director [Jeff Compher] at Northern Illinois [where Kill worked previously] and I knew the previous one [Jim Phillips, who hired Kill at NIU]. So I've been thoroughly impressed. He's doing a great job, and he'll continue to do so here.
You mentioned in your news conference that [Big Ten commissioner] Jim Delany had a role in you going to VCU. What happened there?
NT: I called him, I think the day before I took the VCU job, because I was a little hesitant about going to a non-football job within college athletics. He was great in that he said, 'Your experience is vast in football over the last 13 years, so don't worry about that. I would go ahead and take that job, enjoy it, get great experience and you'll have the chance to take the next step soon.'
Did you have a chance to talk to him about this job?
NT: I have not. I looked forward to doing that. He is certainly arguably one of the more powerful guys in college athletics. I look forward to working with him, and he's really a visionary to say the least, someone who is very well respected.
You went up to Minnesota during Easter weekend before things really got going with the job. In talking to people, what was their feeling about the football program and what needs to happen to get it to the next level?
NT: I detected right away a very, very strong interest and passion in the program in wanting to win and wanting to compete at the highest level in the Big Ten and in the nation. I detected also that people believe that we can, and we should be. There's a strong, strong passionate following and a following that wants to succeed.
You did a lot of fundraising at VCU. How much easier was that process after a breakthrough like the Final Four last year? Does that need to happen at Minnesota before you make a lot of progress, or can you do so without a Big Ten title or a big-time bowl appearance?
NT: We had made some real progress before that and had a multimillion dollar expansion to our basketball arena, and 90 percent of the money was already committed before we went to the Final Four. Now when we went to the Final Four and had a shot in the arm like that, if anything, your expectations for yourself go up. I felt like as soon as that happened, we had to capitalize, so my sense of urgency was even greater. With that, there was a lot more work, and we were able to capitalize on it, but we had done so much good work beforehand and had so much in place, and I felt wonderful about that. The Final Four was more a sense of, 'Oh my gosh, we've got to capitalize on this.' We ran even harder and did a good job at capitalizing.
From talking to people there, do you get a sense of why it hasn't happened for Minnesota football? Great tradition going back decades and decades, but recently, they haven't had a breakthrough in football.
NT: There's probably a number of things I could venture to guess, but to be fair to the program, I've got to analyze that a little deeper. I'm sure playing in the Metrodome was not a help in the long run. Having an on-campus facility, that's just brilliant. I'm going to evaluate other areas to really get to that point, so it wouldn't be too fair for me to comment on that too much right now.
How familiar are you with the Big Ten, and what does it take to succeed in a conference where football really is the driving force?
NT: I'm very familiar. I have several good friends who are ADs in the league, and several that I've worked with. I know Mike Thomas very well at Illinois, Jimmy Phillips at Northwestern. I know Gene Smith at Ohio State very well. So I'm well aware of the league. I've never been in the league, but I know what it takes, and I'm excited to get rolling here.
Minnesota wisely chose to introduce Norwood Teague as its next athletic director Monday in the home locker room of TCF Bank Stadium. It was a reminder that football, more than any other varsity sport, drives an athletic program and must be supported and enhanced by the man leading the athletic department.