The Minnesota Daily sat down with athletics director Norwood Teague on Tuesday for its third edition of “Talkin’ with Teague.”
Teague discussed bowl game revenue, the new scholarship seating plan and Jerry Kill’s Big Ten Coach of the Year award.
On behalf of Teague, the athletics communications department declined to comment on the suspension of men’s basketball player Daquein McNeil, who was charged with two felony counts of assault late last month.
Jerry Kill was just named Big Ten Coach of the Year, the first for Minnesota since Glen Mason won it in 1999. What does this honor do for the profile of the program?
It’s an honor, I think, for the whole state of Minnesota. It’s an honor for the University. It shows that we have a great leader as our football coach. I’m thrilled for him, and he deserves it. A lot of credit obviously goes to him, but his staff he has around him makes such a big difference in what we do.
And lastly, but not least, the student-athletes that play — those guys had a huge part in it.
Did you worry about the possibility of coach Kill leaving to take the head coaching jobs at Michigan or Nebraska?
No. I know he’s very happy here. I know he’s ensconced in building the program, and he’s committed for the long term. He loves being the head coach of the Gophers.
The Aquatics Center was recently dedicated to the late Jean Freeman. What impact did she have on Gophers athletics?
I never knew Jean, but [I’ll] tell you what, I continue to hear unbelievable things about her with the impact she had on student-athletes, the impact she had on Gophers athletics. She was a special human being.
Did the dedication serve as a way to honor her contributions to the University?
Absolutely. To say that we still hear about Jean constantly, years after her death, she must have been an amazing person. I think it’s the least we could have done.
A recent Star Tribune column reported that David Larson, a former U of M regent who passed away in October, left a donation of $15 million to the athletic facilities plan. Can you confirm this?
We can’t confirm it. It’s not confirmed yet — we’ll put it that way. [Donating] is a whole different ball of wax.
The athletics department recently announced a new plan to increase scholarship seating. What was the motive for this plan?
Like I said when we announced it last week, I cannot see us in the coming years staying in the black without doing something like this because our costs have continued to go up. And really, since 2009, the only significant augmentation we’ve had in our budget has been primarily our Big Ten TV money.
We haven’t raised prices, except last year we raised the face value of tickets. We haven’t raised our scholarship seating amounts since we moved into TCF.
It was something we had to do to balance our budget, to be smart from a financial standpoint and continue to maintain an excellent department.
Could this plan be described as an attempt to keep up with the “arms race” in college athletics?
That’s more operational dollars. None of that [scholarship seating revenue] would be used to build buildings. It’s more for our day-to-day expenses that have gone up. Our medical expenses have gone up dramatically. Our equipment expenses have gone up a ton. Our travel has gone up, and we really haven’t done anything to help soften those blows. It’s just something we had to do.
And also, when you look at how we compare to our Big Ten brethren, we weren’t even in the same stratosphere as to what we were doing.
How have Gophers fans reacted to it thus far?
For the most part, it’s been more positive than negative. I mean, there are some that have sticker shock and don’t understand what we’re trying to do, and I expected that. But the further we’ve gotten away from the announcement, I think the more we’ve been able to talk to people on the phone, meet with people and tell people why we did it, and it’s been better.
So do you think there’s been a realization about the plan and its motive?
I think so. There will be people that do not and will not understand what we’re trying to do, and that’s fine. We have a lot of people that buy season tickets. Our department did a great job explaining it and messaging it. I knew in my heart that it was something we had to do. It was not an option.
Will the University expect extra revenue with Ohio State playing in the College Football Playoff?
We won’t know until all of that’s over when the fiscal year closes. And what happens there … is the bowls pay the Big Ten, then the Big Ten distributes the revenue evenly. So it’s hard to say how much that would be for us by just going to the [Buffalo Wild Wings] Citrus Bowl.
[The Citrus Bowl pays] for a certain amount of expenses for us to go down there, to fly and stay and what not. But the core money goes back to the Big Ten, and then it’s distributed evenly among the Big Ten teams.
So even though Ohio State is playing in the playoff, that doesn’t differentiate from the pool of bowl money Big Ten schools share?
Yes. I don’t think any of the “Big Five” schools get paid directly from the bowls. They’re paid some — we get paid $2 million to go to the Citrus Bowl, but that pays for our band to go down there, our team to go down there and stay. But the bulk of our money goes to the league.
On Sunday, the football team received confirmation that it will be playing in the Citrus Bowl. What does playing in a New Year’s Day bowl mean for this team?
It’s on ABC national, that’s not a regional split, so it’s a big-time pop from a TV standpoint as far as sports viewership is concerned across the nation. Again, New Year’s Day has a brand with it like no other. Citrus Bowl has a brand with it that’s pretty darn good, and we’re thrilled to be in it. And we’re also in Florida. We have a lot of recruits in Florida, and we’ll continue to have a lot of recruits in Florida. It only helps our presence down there, so it’s a real big get for us.
What are your expectations for next month’s NCAA Division I Convention?
There’s going to be a lot of discussion on autonomy, a lot of discussion on cost of attendance.
Autonomy and cost of attendance, I think, are voted on, and I expect cost of attendance to pass. There’s a lot of things that are changing, and we have to be smart and adapt as we go along.