Tennis coaches glad to be back

by David McCoy

David Geatz is entering his 18th season as Minnesota’s men’s tennis coach.

But to him, eight months has proven much, much longer.

That’s how long Geatz waited while the University and NCAA conducted their investigations, thinking he had coached his last match at his “dream job.”

“I never thought I was going to come back,” Geatz said. “The compliance people were telling me, ‘Well, I think it’s a major violation.’ And I kept saying, ‘You know, we didn’t do anything intentionally.’ And so the NCAA did all their investigation and said it’s a secondary violation and you’re coming back. But did I expect to? No.”

Assistant coach Adam Cohen said he was a little less pessimistic during the investigation than Geatz, although he tried to prepare for the worst. He said he tried not to get his hopes up and felt he had a “50-50” chance of keeping his job.

Geatz also said he wasn’t sure he would get to keep his job even if the NCAA did find the violations to be secondary.

But regardless, he said, if he would have lost his job, he would have deserved it.

“I always think about 99 percent of the time in life you get what you deserve,” Geatz said. “And if I would have got fired, I would have looked back on myself and said, ‘Well did you deserve it?’ And I probably would have had to say yeah.”

The University submitted its internal investigation to the NCAA on Feb. 21 and placed Geatz and Cohen on paid leaves of absence. They hired David Wheaton as interim coach March 2.

The investigations stemmed from “improper benefits” given to student-athletes at a summer tennis internship program at the North Oaks Golf Club in North Oaks, Minn.

According to documents from the University’s investigation, two players were paid approximately $15,000 combined before they completed work at the club.

Sophomores Andres Osorio and D.J. Geatz, David Geatz’s son, were suspended from the team in November.

David Geatz and Cohen were found guilty of six minor violations and were suspended without pay by the University on May 2 for one month.

While suspensions are often steps backward, for David Geatz and Cohen, it was a sign of new beginnings.

“It was a big feeling of relief,” Cohen said. “For the investigation to start in October and for us not to find out until the second of May, that was a pretty long time to wait to find out if they were going to keep us or not – to get an answer and the answer we wanted to get.”

David Geatz said the incident occurred because he honestly thought what they were doing was OK.

Athletics Director Joel Maturi said the fact that David Geatz and Cohen did not intend to break any rules played a crucial role in their not being fired.

“The reason I supported coach (David) Geatz and coach Cohen from the beginning and I think the reason the NCAA did not determine them to be major infractions were that I do not for a minute believe that coach Cohen and coach (David) Geatz intentionally did wrong,” Maturi said.

Maturi also said David Geatz’s previous 17 years of commitment to the University and his history of good compliance also played big parts in his decision.

David Geatz and Cohen both said they have no idea what they would be doing right now if they had been fired, but that coaching, at least in the Big Ten, was probably out.

Other coaches – in the Big Ten and elsewhere – expressed much happiness that David Geatz and Cohen were returning, said Avery Ticer, who graduated in May.

“At the NCAA singles tournament, a lot of the coaches came up to David Wheaton and myself and said they were so happy to see coach Cohen and coach (David) Geatz come back,” Ticer said. “And that was the general consensus out of everyone that I talked to.”

David Geatz said being away from his team was tougher than he thought it would be, and that he and Cohen are now ready to put the incident behind them.

David Geatz said he had job offers from “big schools” that would have paid more than he makes right now, but he’s never wanted to coach anywhere else and he wants his last day on the job to be with the Gophers.

He’s just thankful that day hasn’t come yet, he said.

“When I first interviewed for the job, I said it was my dream job,” David Geatz said. “How many guys get their dream job twice and it’s the same job?”