University of Minnesota Athletic Director Joel Maturi will announce today that he will be stepping down in June, at the end of his contract, to make way for new University President Eric Kaler’s own athletic director hire. A formal announcement will be made by Kaler and Maturi at 11am CST today, from TCF Bank Stadium.
Over his 10-years, Maturi has delivered a handful of National Titles (Men’s and Women’s Hockey, Wrestling), and made several key hires and fires. He played a critical role in getting funding for the Gopher football program’s return to campus, culminated by the construction of TCF Bank Stadium. He also just recently got the University to move forward with building a new baseball stadium for the perpetually competitive Gopher hardball squad. And Mr. Maturi was always extremely accessible. He could easily be spotted at all major, and many minor sporting events in his sport jacket chatting with fans and students, not just the big money donors. And he was always quite diligent in responding to all his emails, fans and critics alike, giving extremely respectful responses to even the worst and ugliest of comments sent his way (some on the Gopher message board ‘Gopherhole.com’ have put this to the test).
But by and large, the reaction from Gopher fans will be likely ‘good riddance’. Maturi’s committment to the non-revenue sports always seemed to be annoyingly high, relative to the floundering football and basketball teams. And there was always the fun rumor that because Maturi previously worked as an asssociate AD at Wisconsin, that he was some part of a sinister plot of the Badgers to keep Goldy down. His hiring of Tim Brewster was disastrous to the football program, and while his hiring of Tubby Smith was initially thought to be brilliant, even that has been questioned as a good hire. Tubby will now have to hold his breath to see if Maturi’s successor is as obstructionist when it comes to building a practice facility.
Maturi’s most recent major hire of current football head coach Jerry Kill, seems now to be a solid and respectable choice (but really the jury is still out on that one). But the manner at which Maturi conducted coaching searches seemed to be unorthodox at times, and absolutely dumb-founding and head-scratching at others (see Joel’s bumbling pursuit of Barry Alvarez and Brady Hoke).
University President Eric Kaler has spoken several times in the past about his committment to making Gopher football great again, as he understands and appreciates that which a successful football program can do for the University as a whole. Hopefully his hire of the next Athletic Director reflects that understanding and committment. I suspect it will.