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Since arriving at the U last summer, Athletics Director Norwood Teague has been on a sprint to elevate all facets of Gopher sports. He's traveled around the state and beyond getting to know people and developing relationships, which Teague says is critical to his success. This native of the South is thrilled to be in the Midwest, guiding Minnesota's most visible college sports program. Among his favorite things here? The weather. Really.
What's your vision for Gopher athletics?
We're doing a master facility plan right now, and that's going to be the heart of the vision. We're also doing a strategic plan. I think it's important for a new athletics director to come to campus and engage the stakeholders, engage the staff, and formulate a vision with them.
Talk more about the facilities plan.
Part of it will be a football support facility that will have new offices, a weight room, and a training room. There's also going to be an academic advising building for use by all student-athletes. We'll also have a basketball practice facility for our men's and women's programs. Women's gymnastics needs a building; wrestling needs a facility. We'd like to make enhancements to existing facilities for volleyball and golf. The list goes on. We want to be as comprehensive as we can be.
What role will philanthropy play?
It will probably rely 100 percent on philanthropy. We've got to show a compelling reason why we need these things. Often in college athletics, the facilities I'm talking about tend to be "wants" rather than "needs," but here at Minnesota they are needs. We need them to enhance both the athletic and academic performance of our student-athletes, and also to improve the overall student-athlete experience here.
What are donors telling you?
There are common themes. There's a strong desire for Gopher football to succeed. Of course, there's a strong desire for all of our programs to succeed. There's a desire to have women's athletics remain strong, and we've got to maintain and build in that area. The U is a fascinating place because it's the only school in the state that competes at the Division I level in every sport. It is the flagship in many ways, unlike any other place that I've been. There's a lot of passion out there for the Gophers, not just in the Twin Cities, but in the outstate area too.
Where have you traveled so far?
I have been all over. I haven't hit every town, but I've been to lots of them. I've been down to Mankato and up to Brainerd and Moorhead, just to name a few. It's been fun.
What do you tell people when you meet them?
Our athletics success is a lot more than just winning games or doing well on the field or court. If we continue to improve, and have our student-athletes excel at a higher level, it will be a source of pride for this entire state that could be revolutionary in many ways. It's bigger than athletics, and that really excites me.
Any surprises since you took the job?
I knew there was an unbelievable amount of passion for the Gophers throughout the state, but it's been a great surprise how strong and deep that feeling is. Something someone told me recently holds true: If the state was being invaded, most of the citizens would surround the U because it's their school and they feel a great deal of ownership in this place.
Can you point to any early successes?
We've had some sustaining things like our academic success, which has been on an uptick from the year before I got here. This fall was incredible. We had 70 academic all-Big Ten members. Thirty-one of those were football players. We're on the precipice of other great things, whether it be fundraising, building new facilities, or hiring additional staff. There's a lot of optimism in the department, and to say that I'm optimistic would be an understatement.
How do you get to know the student-athletes?
When I can, I travel with the teams on the road. I also see students around the athletics offices and practice facilities. I'm on committees with student-athletes. Over time those things stack up and really become great relationships.
You have an active Twitter account. Is that really you?
Yeah, I do my own tweeting. It's an evolving experience as I figure out how to best use it. Sometimes it can be used in a way where all you get is negative feedback. I want to shine a great light on athletics here and to give some insight.
How's your first Minnesota winter?
It's wonderful. I'm more of a cold fan than a hot fan, so winters here are a good thing for me.
Do you get out and play in the snow?
I plan to. I'm going to cross-country ski. I look forward to snowmobiling. And I definitely will ice fish.
Follow Teague on Twitter: @GoldenGopherAD