Athletics Director finalist hopes to create a culture of accountability

After a monthslong search, University President Eric Kaler named Mark Coyle as the sole Athletics Director finalist.

Mark Coyle, the newly named Gopher Athletics Director answers the media's questions during a press conference held at TCF Bank Stadium on Wednesday.

Maddy Fox

Mark Coyle, the newly named Gopher Athletics Director answers the media’s questions during a press conference held at TCF Bank Stadium on Wednesday.

Mike Hendrickson

Mark Coyle, a former Gophers athletics administrator, is poised to become the next University of Minnesota Athletics Director.

On Wednesday afternoon, University President Eric Kaler named Coyle the athletics department’s next leader, pending Board of Regents approval. As part of a five-year contract, Coyle’s base salary will amount to $850,000 per year — nearly double that of former Athletics Director Norwood Teague.

“[Coyle] is a proven talent and we are investing in him, and with that investment, in the future of our program,” Kaler said at a press conference Wednesday. “Mark brings the know-how to lead us to the excellence we seek in all we do at the University of Minnesota.”

If approved, Coyle, 47, will direct an athletics department that has been under intense scrutiny in recent months.

The position was vacated last August following the resignation of former Athletics Director Norwood Teague after he admitted to sexually harassing two colleagues.

The department has been roiled by audits over mishandled spending, Title IX compliance concerns, criminal investigations of some men’s basketball players, and poor performance from higher-tier sports such as men’s basketball and men’s hockey.

Coyle said he is determined to bring more accountability to the department.

“Any leader, in any leadership position, their job is to come in and create accountability,” Coyle said. “I think it’s my job to come in, take a look at it and create … a culture of accountability.”

He also hopes to bring consistency and stability to the program.

Coyle was the University’s associate athletics director for external relations from 2001 to 2005, where he managed marketing, sales, communications, the ticket office and licensing.

He served as a deputy athletics director at the University of Kentucky and as Boise State University’s athletics director after leaving Minnesota. Most recently, he was Syracuse University’s top athletics administrator — a position he assumed in June 2015.

Coyle resigned from Syracuse on Wednesday morning. Minnesota will spend up to $500,000 to buy out Coyle’s Syracuse contract.

During his tenure at Boise State and Syracuse, Coyle guided both athletics departments through turbulence.

Boise hired Coyle three months after the NCAA sanctioned the school for rule violations in five sports.

Before Coyle went to Syracuse, the NCAA had also recently placed the school’s basketball and football programs on probation.

At Wednesday’s press conference, Coyle held back tears as he described the feeling of coming home to the Twin Cities after being away for 11 years. Coyle and his wife are Iowa natives; their two children were born in Minnesota.

“I remember when [my daughter] turned three. The benefit of being a director of marketing is, you can have Goldy come to your house for your daughter’s birthday party,” he said. “I remember Goldy Gopher walking down the steps of our basement with [my daughter] singing the Minnesota fight song.”

Although he was fond of his time at Syracuse, he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to lead Gophers athletics.

“[Syracuse] treated me and my family so well, and I regret the timing,” Coyle said. “There was one place I was going to leave Syracuse for and it’s Minnesota.”

Kaler said Coyle was one of six semifinalists in the Athletics Director search, and first met him in January. Kaler announced Coyle as the sole finalist for the position Wednesday morning.

The search for Coyle included a 16-person committee and a search firm — Turnkey Search. The University paid the firm $150,000 plus expenses.

Beth Goetz, the University’s interim athletics director, had previously expressed interest in taking over as the permanent director.

Kaler said he would like Goetz to remain at the University, and has encouraged her to do so.

Regent Michael Hsu, who met with Coyle Wednesday morning, said he was impressed with the selection.

“I don’t think we could’ve done any better in terms of finding a fitting … athletic director,” Hsu said. “He has everything we need to take us to the next level … I’m excited to see what happens next.”