New coach already off to winning start

Krista Theis

The announcement of a new men’s basketball coach is not the only coaching news in Minnesota athletics recently.

Last week, Matt Bingle was named coach of the women’s track and field team.

Bingle had been serving as interim coach since November, when longtime coach Gary Wilson decided to step down to an assistant role after 21 years.

Wilson said he thinks Bingle has done a wonderful job in his years with the team and has proved himself worthy of the position.

“We would not be the team we are today if it wasn’t for his work,” Wilson said. “He’s done more than I ever dreamed could be done in a short period of time.”

This is Bingle’s fifth year with the Gophers, and his impact on the team was realized very soon after his addition to the program.

After just one season as an assistant, Bingle was promoted to associate head coach in 2004.

Since then, he has helped guide Minnesota to its first-ever Big Ten Outdoor Championship, last spring, and led the Gophers to their first Big Ten Indoor Title in February.

Bingle has had a great influence on the team’s recruiting over the past few years and has attracted some of the nation’s top talent to Minnesota.

Perhaps his main impact throughout his time with the team, however, has been the way he has worked with the team’s sprinters, hurdlers and jumpers.

“When I hired him five years ago, it was to get more points in that group,” Wilson explained. “He took that and ran with it and obviously the rest is history.”

Becoming a head coach in the Big Ten has always been a dream of Bingle’s. But the position wasn’t just handed to him after Wilson stepped aside.

Athletic director Joel Maturi said he wanted to go about the process the right way and have an open search for a new coach.

According to Maturi, there were three candidates for the position, but in the end, he felt Bingle was the best person for the job.

Maturi said the athletes on the women’s track and field team have great respect and appreciation for Bingle.

The success of the team under Bingle’s leadership as interim coach obviously played a part in the University’s decision to promote him.

However, Maturi said there was more to it than that.

“Winning the championships added to our beliefs that he was the right person,” Maturi said. “But, very importantly, we also felt he is an individual that represents the good things about collegiate athletics, such as guiding them academically and socially in their growth.”

Maturi has made it clear by all his recent hires that he wants coaches of character. Bingle might fit that mold.

Earlier this season, Bingle said he is more concerned with the process of developing his team than he is with the results his team produces.

“We don’t necessarily focus on results. It’s more about making good choices that lead to good results.”

As Bingle signed his multi-year contract as head coach of the women’s team, Wilson agreed to stay on as an assistant for another six years, while remaining head coach of the women’s cross country team.

Wilson said he feels good that the committee saw the same potential in Bingle that he sees and is looking forward to working with someone he can trust.

“I would not have given up the head job if I didn’t feel that he was up for the position or would out-interview anybody that might apply,” Wilson said.