New AD Maturi to face many challenges

K.C. Howard

By Ben Goessling and David La Vaque

Named the University’s lone finalist for its athletics director position July 2, Joel Maturi’s official approval by the Board of Regents on July 12 was anti-climactic.

While Maturi attended several meetings with administrators, coaches, athletes and the general public since becoming a finalist, the regents needed no such forum, naming Maturi unanimously and without deliberation.

Maturi, 57, inked a five-year deal including a $275,000 base salary. Additional bonuses and incentives could increase the value up to $400,000 annually.

The Chisholm, Minn., native resigned after four years as the athletics director at the University of Miami, Ohio.

Minnesota’s athletics director position – one of “only two or three” Maturi said he would leave Miami of Ohio for – comes with its share of challenges.

ï Separate for 29 years, the University’s men’s and women’s athletics departments merged July 1, primarily to cut costs. Maturi must now decide the fates of senior associate athletics directors Jeff Schemmel and Regina Sullivan.

ï The athletics department faces a $21 million budget shortfall over the next five years.

ï Men’s gymnastics, along with men’s and women’s golf, face elimination after next season unless $1.8 million is raised by Feb. 1.

ï The University is under NCAA probation until 2006, following violations by both the men’s and women’s basketball teams.

In addition, Maturi hopes to improve student-athlete graduation rates. Miami of Ohio graduated 72 percent of its student-athletes, a figure 16 percent higher than Minnesota.

Last month, Maturi met with approximately 15 student-athletes – most of whom were members of the men’s and women’s gymnastics teams – and discussed his athletics philosophy.

Maturi spoke about his desire to be a visible figure in the athletics department and mentioned his goal to travel with each team at least once each year.

Maturi said he “did not take this job to cut sports” and expressed his desire to increase fund-raising efforts rather than eliminating teams.

Before the meeting, men’s gymnastics senior Clay Strother had publicly voiced displeasure with Maturi’s involvement in cutting teams at Wisconsin, Denver, and Miami of Ohio – including men’s and women’s gymnastics at Wisconsin.

But after the meeting, Strother said he felt differently.

“I’m still concerned about the possibility of losing gymnastics, but I really liked his positive attitude,” Strother said. “I was impressed he tackled the tough issues without having to be asked about them.”

At a public forum in July, Maturi spoke at length about his plans to raise money primarily through increasing attendance and marketing teams throughout the state.

“The state needs to know we are Minnesota’s flagship institution,” he said. “I’ll go to the high schools, the communities, anywhere and everywhere, to let them know this is our state team.”