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Thursday, February 9, 2012
MWC commish open to Minnesota AD job

By Adam Rittenberg

Minnesota's search for a new athletic director might not be limited to sitting ADs.

What about a conference commissioner running the school's athletic department?

Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson told the (St. Paul) Pioneer Press' Marcus Fuller that he's "open" to discussing the athletic director vacancy at Minnesota, his alma mater. Thompson has deep roots at Minnesota, as his brother and several other family members attended or currently attend the U. He grew up about 115 miles West of Minneapolis in Redwood Falls, Minn.
"But there would be a million questions to learn more about the position," he told the Pioneer Press. "Is there a budget deficit? Is fundraising the issue? Is the focus on rebuilding the football program? Are there academic concerns? Is there a support system to graduate student-athletes? There would be a lot more to know about the needs and wants of the athletic department before you can even think about taking the next step."

Thompson has been a conference commissioner since 1987, leading the American South Conference for four years, the Sun Belt Conference for eight years, and the Mountain West since its inception in 1999. It might make sense for him to make a move now, as the Mountain West and Conference USA are discussing a merger. Also, Thompson helped build the Mountain West into the nation's best BCS non-automatic qualifying conference, only to see the league lose its top two teams (Boise State and TCU) in the latest round of realignment.

He hasn't worked for a university since 1980, when he worked in Kansas State's sports information department. But he's certainly an intriguing candidate if Minnesota chooses to go that route.

Other potential candidates, according to the Pioneer Press, include Stony Brook AD Jim Fiore, former NFL coach and Minnesota alum Tony Dungy, former Minnesota Vikings general manager Jeff Diamond and Iowa AD Gary Barta, who is from Minneapolis.