Regents officially approve Maturi as new AD

Ben Goessling and

Named the University’s lone finalist for its athletics director position on July 2, Joel Maturi’s official approval by the Board of Regents last Friday was anticlimactic.

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

The Chisholm, Minn., native will resign after four years as the athletics director at the University of Miami, Ohio later this month. Maturi, 57, starts at Minnesota on August 2, though he will meet with coaches and administrators prior to his start date.

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 built-in challenges.

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

ï President Mark Yudof’s acceptance of the Texas job leaves Maturi working under an interim president in Robert Bruininks,

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 February 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.

Maturi arrived on campus last Monday and spent Monday and Tuesday visiting with various athletics groups.

On July 8, he met with approximately 15 student-athletes – most of who were members of the men’s and women’s gymnastics teams – and discussed various aspects of his athletic philosophy.

Maturi told students he views athletics as a “family,” and said one of his main goals is to increase the level of community athletes have with one another.

Maturi spent a large portion of the 45-minute meeting talking about his desire to be a visible figure in the athletics department, and mentioned his goal to travel with each team at least once a year.

He also discussed the potential elimination of the men’s gymnastics and men’s and women’s golf teams and the role of women’s sports in Minnesota’s new combined athletics department.

Maturi won over a skeptical group of athletes when he said he “did not take this job to cut sports,” and expressed his desire to increase fundraising efforts rather than eliminating teams.

Before Monday’s meeting, men’s gymnastics senior Clay Strother had been outspoken about Maturi’s record.

Strother publicly voiced his 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.”

Strother said Maturi is “a great candidate for the position,” and added, “it relieves some stress to know somebody will fight for us.”

On Tuesday, Maturi entertained questions in a public forum at the Sports Pavilion.

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.”