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Teague to replace Maturi as U athletics director

President Eric Kaler called Monday the beginning of a new era in Gophers sports.
Norwood Teague addresses the media Monday during a press conference announcing his hiring at TCF Bank Stadium.
Image by Marisa Wojcik
Norwood Teague addresses the media Monday during a press conference announcing his hiring at TCF Bank Stadium.

Virginia Commonwealth University athletics director Norwood Teague has been named as Joel Maturi’s successor as Gophers athletics director beginning July 1.

With Teague at his side, President Eric Kaler called Monday the first day in a new era of Gophers sports. Teague, who will leave the AD job at Virginia Commonwealth that he’s had since 2006, talked about his strengths in fundraising, his commitment to a “broad-based” athletics department and his lack of recent experience with a football program.

Teague, 46, signed a five-year contract Monday that awards him an annual salary of $400,000 — an increase from Maturi’s $345,000 pay — plus benefits, retirement contributions and an “incentive compensation” plan that could give Teague up to an extra $100,000 per year for meeting performance metrics. Maturi, who will retire as AD June 30, had a similar provision in his contract.

At the University of Minnesota, Teague will earn nearly twice as much as his $240,000 annual base salary at VCU. “I think Minnesota athletics in the next five or 10 years has an unbelievable opportunity for dramatic growth,” Teague said Monday. “I think the ceiling is very high.”

Announced as the only finalist by Kaler on Sunday, Teague was the frontrunner to take the position before the University made it official early Monday. The Board of Regents still has to approve the hire at its May meeting.

Teague comes from a VCU athletics department that has 16 sports and has gained national recognition since his arrival in 2006 — specifically through its men’s basketball team’s run to the Final Four in 2011.

“I’m extremely confident he is fully equipped and has the capacity and then some to manage our entire athletics program,” Kaler said Monday. “From football to softball, from rowing to wrestling.”

The next AD made clear his commitment to a wide range of sports at the University. Maturi has preached a commitment to all of the University’s sports — whether they make money — throughout his 10 years as AD.

“I believe strongly that 25 sports is probably right in the wheelhouse of a good number,” Teague said.

VCU doesn’t have a varsity football program — a fact Kaler felt was necessary to address before Teague could speak Monday.

“Norwood has 20 years of big-time college sports experience, and most of those two decades have been spent in Football Bowl Subdivision programs,” Kaler said. “Football is not new to Norwood.”

Prior to joining VCU, Teague held positions at North Carolina, Arizona State and Virginia — all schools with FBS programs.

The University’s struggling football program will be the biggest obstacle for Teague, as a football team is often the financial lifeblood of a modern athletics department. The University’s team has not been to the Rose Bowl in 50 years.

“I wanted to get back to a football job,” Teague said.

Kaler discussed the “long, diverse and demanding” checklist for his ideal candidate.

Experience, commitment to academic excellence, marketing success, fundraising, gender equity commitment and winning were among the criteria of the University’s search committee. Kaler said Teague fit those criteria.

Dave Mona, a member of the 23-member committee that advised the search, said the search committee’s criteria were rigorous.

“But Teague seemed to fit,” Mona said. “He had everything on the checklist, and plus the personality.”

Robby Robinson, VCU’s associate AD for corporate partnerships, said Teague’s personality sets him apart. He said Teague’s jump from a mid-major school to a major conference like the Big Ten will be smooth.

“Everyone in Minnesota will very soon understand how good of a move it is for not only Norwood but for the Gophers,” Robinson said.

The school touts Teague’s time at VCU as bringing it to “new heights,” according to his online biography. He led a campaign last fall to build a $10 million practice facility for men’s and women’s basketball and other sports.

Robinson, who has worked with Teague since 2009, said Teague’s outgoing nature helps him raise funds and market a brand for an athletics department.

“When you have that kind of personality, people naturally gravitate towards you,” Robinson said. “When they’re gravitating towards the athletics director, they gravitate towards the athletics department.”

According to VCU’s online bio, Teague increased the school’s athletics fund by more than 119 percent, with annual average increases of more than 20 percent.

“He’s about as well-rounded of an administrator, manager and CEO-type that I’ve ever been around,” Robinson said.

Kaler and Maturi have said it is important for the next AD to be business-oriented, specifically at a Big Ten school, where budgets expand annually and the athletics arms race is continuous.

In February, Maturi told the Minnesota Daily that “the next [athletics director] will be far more business knowledgeable than I and far more important for that aspect of college sports.”

Minnesota’s athletics budget breaks even every year with help from central University funds. But Teague said the Twin Cities metro area was another pull to take the job.

“It’s a great environment for college athletics, a great environment for fundraising,” Teague said. “Competing with professional teams — I think that’s an asset rather than a liability.”

With so many Gophers fans in the Twin Cities, Teague said there are plenty of possibilities for fans to fill seats and contribute to the department financially.

Teague has worked in large metro areas with professional sports teams before at Arizona State University in Phoenix, as well as in Richmond, Va., while at VCU.

“He’s prepared his whole career for this job,” Mona said. “It’s clear he wants to be here.”

Teague said before he took the job at VCU, he was hesitant to take the position at a non-football school. But he said advice from Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany convinced him that he would eventually make it to a program with football.

“I’m glad my dream came true,” Teague said. “I’m glad I’m at a football school.”

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