Internal emails reveal concern over U’s response to Teague misconduct

The Board of Regents will meet in early December to review the findings of two investigations into the athletics department.

Brian Edwards

Emails released Monday by the University of Minnesota offer a glimpse into the school’s strategy for handling the resignation of its former athletic director.

More than three months after Norwood Teague resigned because he sexually harassed several women, the University released about 1,500  pages of documents, across which regents, donors and alumni show both criticism of and support for the school’s reaction to Teague’s resignation.

The University will also present the findings of two investigations into the school’s athletics department on Dec. 8, according to multiple media outlets.

While some members of the University Board of Regents were supportive, Regent Michael Hsu  said in emails that the board should have been informed about Teague’s situation earlier.  

“[University President Eric Kaler] did not inform anyone at the Board for over two weeks,” he said in the email to the board’s chair and vice chair. “[A]pparently he did not see this as something important enough that you should be aware of.”

In an Aug. 7 email, Amy Phenix, chief of staff for Kaler, acknowledged the University’s desire to keep the matter confidential — even from regents — until the school received Teague’s official resignation letter.

Board of Regents Chair Dean Johnson and Vice Chair David McMillan were informed of the resignation on Aug.1, and the rest of the board was told on Aug. 6.

Hsu said in the email that the Board of Regents should oversee hiring an outside investigator and have the legislative auditor review the University’s sexual harassment policies.

“This is a high level, highly paid and highly visible position that requires [Board of Regents] approval for hiring and therefore should be of concern when the employee resigns under these circumstances,” he said in the email.

The emails also showed how the University tried to control the narrative fed to media in the aftermath of the announcement of the resignation.

Phenix criticized Johnson over his interactions with the news organizations on Aug. 11 when he spoke about the hiring of Teague, she said in the email.

“I think he simply needs to not make a decision about responding to media calls without first talking to [University spokesman Chuck Tombarge], and, if all agree he should respond, he has to get messages from us and be prepped,” she said in the email.

Phenix said in the email that Johnson made incorrect statements about Teague’s hiring and the length of time an audit would take to complete.

“We wouldn’t let [Kaler] go out there without sufficient facts and prep time, and we shouldn’t let the Chair of the Board do so either,” Phenix said in the email.

Teague resigned when he sexually harassed two colleagues, but after more complaints surfaced Phenix said in an email that the University wouldn’t be surprised if more occurrences came to light.

The University also reached out to what it called “10 influential donors” on the day Teague’s resignation was announced.

“This has the potential to be more significant than East Cliff, Najarian and Markingson,” Hsu said in an email, referring to past University scandals. “We need all hands on deck, and the flow of information needs to improve.”