Yudof revisits athletic scandal with governor

Kristin Gustafson

When University President Mark Yudof met with Gov. Jesse Ventura last week to discuss the $134.3 million the University hopes to win from the Legislature next session, talk drifted toward the University’s men’s athletics scandal.
But the governor showed little interest in taking sides on the issue.
Ventura shook his head when the scandal was addressed and said he was glad the University is autonomous. The governor’s interest in athletics was more focused: He said he wants to watch more University athletic events this year and start swimming regularly at the University Aquatic Center.
Richard Pfutzenreuter, associate vice president of finance and operations and the governor’s former high school swimming opponent, said talk shifted from the scandal and swimming to Willie Nelson’s visit with the governor regarding Farm Aid, an annual benefit concert supporting family farming.
But the meeting between the University president and state governor focused mainly on money the University will request for the next legislative session. This is Yudof’s second biennial capital request since he was hired as University president on July 1, 1997.
“He was a little bit surprised that we were there to talk about the capital budget,” Pfutzenreuter said of Ventura. “It’s early.”
He said the capital request does not need to go the governor until October.
But Pfutzenreuter said he and Yudof wanted to go to Ventura before this week’s Board of Regents meeting to review the request.
Topping the University’s list of 10 capital improvements is a $16 million request to fund multiple improvement projects. These improvements will bring the University up to code, addressing fire and life safety, accessibility, hazardous material abatement and environment, and infrastructure issues on all campuses.
The University’s second priority is requesting $35 million to complete construction on the East Bank’s Molecular and Cellular Biology building. The Legislature granted the first $35 million of this $70 million project in 1998.
“We’ll be back to get a roof on it,” Pfutzenreuter said.
New buildings and renovations add $83.3 million to the legislative wish list for a West Bank art building, a St. Paul microbial and plant genomics facility, St. Paul greenhouses, a Crookston liberal and fine arts building, a Morris science and math instructional and research space, a Duluth music practice and performance space, as well as a new Duluth sports center. Additional projects include forestry and agricultural research improvements in Morris, Cloquet, Crookston, Grand Rapids, Waseca and Itasca.
Pfutzenreuter said Ventura listened attentively to the plans.
Ventura has said he wants a smaller bonding bill this year. Bonding bills lend money to state institutions and are later paid back to the state with interest.
“He’s cautious,” Pfutzenreuter said.
In 1998, the University requested $249 million for capital improvements, which included about two-thirds state funding. The Legislature approved $200 million — with the state’s portion close to $130 million.

Kristin Gustafson covers University administration and welcomes comments at [email protected] She can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3211.