Bruininks talks football, Kaler, CLA 2015 report

Bruininks has been in contact with President-select Eric Kaler.

Conor Shine

The Minnesota Daily sat down with President Bob Bruininks to catch up after a busy month that included the naming of his successor and the firing of head football coach Tim Brewster.

Eric Kaler has been named the next president for the University of Minnesota. Have you had a chance to meet with him?

I called Dr. Kaler on Saturday. We had a lengthy conversation that lasted perhaps an hour or so.

My wife Susan and I hosted [Kaler and his wife] for a tour of Eastcliff on Tuesday afternoon after we returned from a national meeting.

WeâÄôve had some extensive conversations and weâÄôve agreed that we will set up a series of meetings between now and when he assumes responsibility of this position on July 1 of next year.

IâÄôve made a pledge to him, the UniversityâÄôs Board of Regents and the academic community that IâÄôll do everything possible to make this the smoothest hand off in the UniversityâÄôs history. âĦ

I think the best thing we can do to ensure the success of our next president and ensure the long-term future of the University of Minnesota is to continue to use every day between now and July 1 to do what is necessary to protect the University and strengthen its academic programs.

The University will make its biennial budget request to the Legislature this spring. Have you put any thought into how you will involve Eric Kaler in that process?

We are working overtime on this particular issue; itâÄôs one of the biggest issues that weâÄôre wrestling with and addressing at the present time.

It is very challenging, but weâÄôre going to do everything possible to adjust to our economic circumstances in a way that will protect the UniversityâÄôs quality, its productivity, its impact and do so in a way that will continue to assure affordable access for our students.

ItâÄôs a very challenging environment, but weâÄôll definitely engage [Kaler] in this process and obviously engage very extensively the academic community.

WhatâÄôs the status of the search for a new head football coach?

WeâÄôre screening candidates now. ItâÄôs very difficult to interview candidates that are actively coaching during their season so weâÄôre doing all the background research, all the due diligence on potential candidates.

ItâÄôs a very extensive process that involves deep analysis of rich background information, statistical information, historical information, references on key potential candidates, background information of all types that we think will help us make a very good and informed judgment.

This process will also include a very strong level of expertise in Division I athletics, especially with respect to football. The athletic director is leading the search, but heâÄôs consulting widely with the best athletic directors in the country, particularly those who have recently completed successful major searches.

WeâÄôre working with one of the finest search firms in the country, we are consulting regularly with other knowledgeable people including past football coaches, coach Tony Dungy and many other people.

What qualities are you looking for in a football coach?

We obviously want a coach with a strong profile of experience in a Division I football program. This experience should preferably be as a sitting coach with a proven record of achievement.

I think another thing weâÄôre going to look for is whether this coach has had a good record in recruiting, compliance, strong ethical principles and values, and has the experience of really turning around a major football program and putting it into what I consider to be a stronger winning tradition.

ThatâÄôs what we need to do at the University of Minnesota.

Now I have some other things that I really care about as the president of the University of Minnesota. I want a football coach âĦ deeply committed to the academic values and work of the University of Minnesota along with a strong commitment to link the University to the broader communities of Minnesota.

WeâÄôre asking a lot of our football coach. We do justifiably believe that the University of Minnesota should have a winning tradition.

When do you hope to have a coach chosen by?

We hope to get this concluded by the holidays, if possible, but it will depend on the availability of people to talk to us.

Do you plan to meet with the boosters and former players who have been critical of Athletics Director Joel Maturi and started the website savegopherfootball.com?

IâÄôve been following this with great interest. IâÄôm disappointed, quite honestly, with their tactics and approach.

I donâÄôt think itâÄôs representative of former Gopher football players or the broader community.

I fully appreciate and recognize that people are disappointed with the current state of our program. There isnâÄôt anyone in the world more disappointed than the athletics director and the president of the University of Minnesota. âĦ

With respect to whether I plan to meet with them, I donâÄôt plan to meet with any particular subgroup that has particular interests, but I do plan to meet quite extensively with people interested in Gopher football. âĦ

I must tell you I take a rather dim view of some of the behavior IâÄôve seen. I donâÄôt think itâÄôs in keeping with what I expect of people who have a strong commitment to our program and I quite honestly think some of them have some particular self interests âÄî theyâÄôre after the appointment of a particular candidate.

My own judgment is thatâÄôs not the way to run a process. We are going out to find the best available football coach; that means we have to survey the field of eligible candidates, and we have to go about this in a professional and confidential manner to be successful in the end.

The CLA 2015 report was recently released. Have you had a chance to take a look at it and what are your thoughts?

The CLA report is part of the request we made of every academic support unit in the University to undertake a searching examination of their mission, their programs and to think creatively about how to position themselves in what we consider to be a very challenging economic environment.

The purpose of this effort is to try to maintain and increase the academic excellence of the University of Minnesota, with the recognition that weâÄôre in a very difficult recession, and we likely will face additional state reductions in the UniversityâÄôs base budget.

IâÄôve had a chance to give a preliminary review to the CLA report, and I think the people on the committee that produced it have done an outstanding job of identifying the issues, the important decisions and priorities that need to be made to maintain the centrality, the importance and the quality of the liberal arts at the University.

Did any particular strategies or recommendations in the report stand out for you?

I think there are some excellent discussions that have to do with improving the productivity and efficiency of the college and the University more broadly so that precious dollars can be invested more in our academic core mission than in institutional overhead.

I think all of those recommendations are very strong. IâÄôm drawn to the creativity in the report that speaks to the issue of whether there are areas where the college can actually grow its academic profile and reach new students.

CLA and other colleges in the University have substantially increased full-year equivalent students in the last 10 years and I think there are additional things that we can do.

There are additional degrees, particularly at the masterâÄôs degree level for working adults, that I think the University should pursue and can do so with some reasonable increase in investments.

When can we expect similar results from other colleges?

The other colleges should be submitting their reports over the next couple of months.