Maturi starts NCAA oversight job

The former Gophers athletics director started the position in August.

Former Athletic Director Joel Maturi, right, speaks with one of his students, Junior Kyle Weinmeyer, left, before class at TCF Bank Stadium's Media Room on Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013. In addition to his roles on campus, Maturi now serves on NCAA's Committee on Infractions.

Chelsea Gortmaker

Former Athletic Director Joel Maturi, right, speaks with one of his students, Junior Kyle Weinmeyer, left, before class at TCF Bank Stadium’s Media Room on Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013. In addition to his roles on campus, Maturi now serves on NCAA’s Committee on Infractions.

Jake Stark

Once, former University of Minnesota athletics director Joel Maturi was responsible for making sure that University athletics complied with NCAA rules.

Now, he’s making sure the rest of the country follows them.

In August, Maturi began his new position on the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions, an independent body that decides whether Division I athletics programs have broken NCAA rules. He was one of eight new members added to the formerly 10-person committee.

“I’ve always been a pay-it-forward kind of an individual,” Maturi said. “If I can help make college athletics better, I decided to go ahead.”

For years, the committee has reviewed every case in which athletics departments were accused of major NCAA infractions.

But last year, the NCAA decided the job was too much for the 10-member committee to handle.

“This is a big job,” Maturi said. “It just became a big burden for them.”

Now, only seven or eight members will hear cases at any given time, a move Maturi said will help reduce the workload for committee members.

He said the new members will bring a different perspective to the committee because most of them are “closer to the reality” of college athletics.

“Obviously, five years from now, I’ll be pretty far removed, too,” he said. “If I’m going to be involved in these cases, I need to stay on top of what college athletics really is, because it’s changing.”

‘It’s OK to report violations’

When Maturi first arrived on campus in 2002, the University was recovering from one of the worst academic scandals in decades.

In 1999, it was reported that former Gophers head basketball coach Clem Haskins tolerated major academic fraud within the program.

In response, the NCAA placed the University’s men’s basketball program on probation for four years.

Maturi was hired two years later, while the school was still on probation.

“Joel had a high level of integrity while he was here,” said University Office of Athletic Compliance Director J.T. Bruett. “He made it very clear when he came in that compliance was to be taken seriously.”

Former Gophers head football coach Glen Mason said Tom Moe, the athletics director before Maturi, did most of the work to alleviate the damage of the scandal.

“I think we were already in great shape before Joel arrived,” Mason said.

Under Maturi, the University athletics department had no major NCAA violations.

Maturi estimated the athletics department had about 20 minor violations per year, most of which were self-reported.

Maturi said he encouraged the University to self-report every violation during his tenure. He said he’s seeing more self-reported infractions around the country now than he did 10 years ago.

In 2009, Maturi encouraged the University’s Office of Compliance to investigate allegations against head wrestling coach J Robinson. The allegations, instigated by a Minnesota Daily report, said some wrestling coaches, wrestlers and former wrestlers were renting and selling properties to one another, and some acquired properties directly from Robinson. 

Robinson was found to have not broken any NCAA rules, but the incident demonstrated Maturi’s commitment to running a clean program.

Robinson did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

“It used to be the mentality of, ‘Oh, we don’t want to say we did anything wrong,’” Maturi said. “It’s OK to report violations.”

A man of integrity

When Maturi looks around the NCAA, he said, he sees more pressure to win than ever before — and that means more temptation to cheat.

“It concerns me,” he said, “and I don’t think it’s going to go away easily.”

Though he said he wants to make sure the rules are enforced, Maturi said being fair in his decision-making will also be a priority.

Former Gophers women’s cross country coach Gary Wilson said he’s confident Maturi can handle the new job.

“He’s a man with the most integrity of anyone I’ve ever met in my life,” Wilson said. “He’ll be the best person for the job they could have hired in the United States — and five foreign countries.”