Admiration for Maturi

Much ink has been spilled about the impending retirement of University of Minnesota athletics director Joel Maturi.

Most of it centers on his legacy as viewed through the narrow prism of what the public deems as athletic success — contracts, budgets, buyouts, bowl games, AP rankings and prestige. As if the nuances of shepherding a 25-sport Division I program can really be boiled down to the bottom line or a neat list of rankings.

Yet the voices of student-athletes who competed under his tenure are conspicuously absent. At the end of the day, shouldn’t the student-athletes themselves, the ones for which Maturi’s decisions have had perhaps the greatest impact, be the ones to judge his performance?

If we were using that metric, one would be hard-pressed to find a negative review. As a student-athlete at the University from 2006 to 2011, I speak for more than just myself when I say that student-athletes had a deep admiration for the work ethic and values that Maturi brought to the athletics department.

Unfortunately, the impact of hearing that getting one’s degree is more important than winning a Big Ten championship can’t be reflected in AP polls. And the knowledge that your athletics director knows you by name doesn’t show up in performance reviews.

Of course, critics will say that given Maturi’s support of non-revenue sports, my admiration is biased, as I ran track and field.

But they’re missing the bigger point. The very fact that so many student-athletes in non-revenue sports left Minnesota with a positive and meaningful athletic experience, and more importantly their degrees, speaks volumes about Maturi’s ability to lead with perspective and integrity.

Those who can’t wrap their minds around that idea don’t understand the true purpose of collegiate sports and thus really shouldn’t be spilling ink on the subject in the first place.