Teague discusses bundling, coaches

The Gophers’ athletics director also talked about the upcoming game basketball game in Puerto Rico.

by Sam Kraemer

The Minnesota Daily met with University of Minnesota athletics director Norwood Teague on Wednesday for the second edition of “Talkin’ with Teague.”

Teague discussed Gophers coaches, Gov. Mark Dayton’s letter regarding the athletics department’s ticket bundling policy for this year and other topics.

The University recently extended deals with Nike and Bauer. What factors played into these decisions?

They’re great partners. They’re great brands. Our student-athletes love the partnership, and it really just works well for us on a number of different fronts.

[Was Minnesota] approached by other companies?

We only extended [the deals] with them. We didn’t rebid it. Really, the only time you probably get approached is when your contract ends, so we didn’t get approached by anyone.

The football team is on the brink of the top 25 and is in contention for the Big Ten West. How would you grade [head coach] Jerry Kill’s performance in re-establishing the program?

Jerry continues to manage the program in an incredible way. I’ve said on many occasions that I wish people could see him during the week and how he conducts and manages the program — and that means from a recruiting standpoint, from a practice standpoint, from just everything he does to run it. … The results of that show on the field, and we’re at a great position. It’ll be a fun year as we play the last four games.

The “M” Club [Hall of Fame] just inducted 14 more members this month. How important are alumni relations for the athletics department?

They’re tremendously important. Our “M” Club is very interwoven into everything that we do. We’re in a major metropolitan area, and there [are] so many athletic alums that live in the area that support us. To honor them, and to have a conduit for them to be involved in what we do, is very important. …

Gov. Dayton wrote a letter to the University this month denouncing the decision to sell bundled season tickets to students. The policy was subsequently changed. Was this a learning experience for the athletics department?

I think more than anything, we learned we have to communicate better the “why” of what we’re doing. And the reason why we did that was to package together tickets to reward our very passionate and loyal fans. That was the sole motivation.

Many times, what you do can be misconstrued. But that was the “why” of what we did. We need to communicate that better moving forward.

Have you been in contact with Gov. Dayton about improving the athletic department’s communication strategies moving forward?

No. When I say communication, I mean just broad communication to everybody to tell why we’re doing it and what we do. We wanted to reward rather than punish in that situation.

Brad Frost and Don Lucia are two of the most successful current coaches in college hockey. How high are the expectations for the two hockey teams?

I’m thrilled with where they are. We’re both No. 1 in the country. Can’t ask for more at this point in the season.

I think those two guys are doing a terrific job. It’s going to be a fun year. They both have talented squads, and they do a super job.

As far as expectations are concerned, I want them to run their program at a high level, and that means across the board. If they can do that, everything will take care of itself.

How important is it for you to have two of the top college hockey coaches coaching in [Minnesota], the “state of hockey?”

It’s thrilling for me because Gopher hockey is that important to the University and to the state. Those are two programs that a lot of people follow, to say the least, and we owe that, big time, to our fans. So yeah, it’s thrilling to have them here.

Are you going to Puerto Rico for the Armed Forces Classic?

I’m not going because we play Ohio State [in football] the next day. To get back here in time would have been tough. And [head men’s basketball coach Richard] Pitino and I talked about it. He said, “You should probably stay here since we’re playing Ohio State.”

What does a game like that do for the program’s recognition?

First of all, it’s on national TV. It’s on ESPN. And that’s now viewed by about 110 million homes. Being on ESPN is a huge benefit, not just to the athletic department, but to the University as far as branding and marketing is concerned.

And then Richard [Pitino] is playing his dad. That’s more intriguing, so the viewership numbers will be even higher because of that. It’ll be a lot of fun.

It doesn’t just help athletics; it helps the University as well.

What have you seen from [head women’s basketball coach] Marlene Stollings since her arrival? Have you discussed any goals with her for her first year?

Marlene is doing a great job. Marlene is very focused and passionate about what she does. [Stollings] and her staff have an incredible work ethic. They really get after it. They recruited well. I’m thrilled about what they’ve done, and it’s going to be a lot of fun watching them on the floor.

As far as her goals, I know her goal is to get in the NCAA tournament and advance. She’s going to have high goals. Marlene is demanding of herself, so it’s going to be a fun ride.

Was it a priority to bring in an up-tempo style to the women’s program?

I think the kids enjoy [it], and it’s easier to recruit to an up-tempo program. But that wasn’t the only reason we hired Marlene. I’ve seen her in two different jobs do a really masterful job at programs that were challenging. And before that, she was at high Division I [programs], and I knew her there. So I’ve watched her grow, and when we were looking at coaches, she rose above the rest. It was an easy decision.

Have you had any involvement in the [Washington] Redskins discussion?

I have not. It’s been more of a University issue. I’ve stayed on the sidelines with that.