VIRG FOSS: Maturi leaves mixed legacy
History will eventually be the judge of the role Joel Maturi played as athletics director at the University of Minnesota. It was announced Thursday that Maturi will "retire" at the end of the current school year, ending his 10-year run as boss ma...
History will eventually be the judge of the role Joel Maturi played as athletics director at the University of Minnesota.
It was announced Thursday that Maturi will "retire" at the end of the current school year, ending his 10-year run as boss man of athletics.
His out-of-the-box hiring of Tim Brewster as football coach will forever stain his resume, though. As good as some of his other accomplishments have been, football drives the athletic programs and Gopher football is sub-standard at best.
The jury remains out on his hiring of Jerry Kill to replace Brewster, who talked a big game but never delivered one. Kill at least resonates with the people, who don't feel a need to run off and wash their hands after meeting him.
Several years ago, I visited with Maturi a bit in the bowels of Ralph Engelstad Arena when he was here for a UND-Minnesota hockey series. He was mingling among the media in the press room, chatting with us all.
To his credit, Maturi was open to talking with anyone, about most anything, and I liked him for that.
Someone asked him about the upcoming football game with NDSU, and he talked about that for a bit.
Then without being asked, he said Minnesota would play North Dakota in football as well, once the controversy swirling over the school's nickname was resolved.
Maturi added that he felt it was important that Minnesota play the Football Championship Subdivision schools in the area such as NDSU, South Dakota, South Dakota State and even UND. He pledged to continue doing that.
Maybe all that will change down the road with Maturi on his way out.
It's not done Minnesota much public relations good to play the Bison and Coyotes in Minnesota's nice new outdoor stadium and lose to both teams.
Those losses exposed Minnesota football as no better than a high level FCS program, despite a huge advantage in scholarships over the smaller regional schools.
Nor has it helped when schools such as NDSU put nearly as many fans in the stands in Minneapolis for a game with the Gophers as the home team could draw.
So, while one has to applaud Maturi for a commitment to keep regional schools on Minnesota's schedule, losing to them left a definite black mark on Minnesota athletics.
Minnesota will hire a new boss for athletics in due time. Down the road, we'll all learn whether the Coyotes, Jackrabbits, Bison and the team formerly known as the Flickertails will pop up on the Gopher football program.
I would suspect that will change. The Bison and Coyotes gained much from beating the Gophers, certainly wedging a foot into the state in recruiting. And what Minnesota lost in prestige, respect and support from its fans for losing to so-called lesser teams was even greater.
So, the pending departure of Maturi from athletics at Minnesota is far more than the passing of leadership at the school.
It could have direct impact on football programs at regional schools if Minnesota goes another direction once Maturi is gone. The value of future meetings with regional schools will certainly come under scrutiny of a new boss.
So yes, Maturi will be leaving Minnesota to mixed reviews, no doubt.
But in these parts, regional colleges owe Maturi a big thank you for his willingness to schedule them in football.
It's ironic, then, that losing to the Bison and Coyotes and the disaster of Brewster's hiring contributed to the end of Maturi's tenure.
Foss is a Hall of Fame journalist who reported on sports for 36 years for the Herald until his retirement. He writes a weekly column from October through April. Contact him at email@example.com or at (701) 772-9272.