Teague on Williams Arena: ‘It’s a classic’

MINNEAPOLIS — University of Minnesota athletic director Norwood Teague met with Twin Cities media Thursday to discuss a variety of topics regarding to the Gophers athletic program. Among the talking points were Williams Arena, football coach Jerry Kill’s contract status and the possibility of an outdoor hockey game on campus.

The highlights:

On the lack of a basketball practice facility: “I think the basketball facility is critical in a number of different ways. The one thing I’ve said about that is that’s not a want, that’s a need. It will happen. It’s just a matter of when. I think the money to raise is out there. It’s just a matter of fitting it into plan and moving it forward. So I do feel good about that, but it’s critical. I guess it’s been a phenomenon of the last 10 years, of practice facilities. You can look at them and say, ‘Are they really needed?’ You do really need them. Our guys have trouble at times getting into Williams at times to shoot. Our women have trouble at times getting in Williams to shoot because there are a lot of people that use it. Our dance team is in there or there is an event in there in the middle of the day that people don’t realize is there and it limits your flexibility.”

On potential changes to the 85-year-old Williams Arena, home to the men’s and women’s basketball teams: “I think we would like to add on amenities there. I don’t feel like we have to do a whole lot to the inner bowl. I just think it is too classic and it’s too historical, it’s too much a part of the state. I’ve seen when you move arenas and you leave your classic place, it hurts in many ways. I can name many ways  — your crowd, your feel of the arena. We’ll do some touch-ups on Williams, but I don’t think we need to blow up the inner bowl. There’s a lot of great things that are there.

We’ve looked at that, but I don’t think we’d play with that. Years ago, there were times that they put 20,000 people in there. I still don’t know how we did that. The fire marshal would have me in jail. I think it’s pretty good where it is. You’ve got to be careful nowadays. I think we did a great job with TCF in building it at the level that it’s at. You don’t want to build anything too big because sometimes if it is too big it’s sometimes more of an negative than being too small. If the demand is there and it feels like a treat to get in, that helps. … As far as basketball is concerned, obviously the other night (against Indiana), the Barn was as good as I’ve seen it, and obviously I’ve been here a short period of time. I get a lot of emails and comments about bringing the Barn back to the way it used to be. I hear everybody loud and clear. It shows that that place is as any place in college basketball. I know it is older, but it’s classic. We need to get that thing back to when it’s consistent like that on a regular basis because it was absolutely fantastic.”

On discussions of a possible raise for Jerry Kill, who is the lowest-paid head football coach in the Big Ten: “I haven’t talked to his agent. I’ve talked to Jerry about it, and we want to work hard in that area. It’s going to be an issue going forward because he’s the lowest paid by several hundred thousand dollars. I’m not sure if we’re always solid on what that number is because you have bonuses and other elements that go into other coaches’ salaries, but yeah we’ve got to get him up. When you’re in the bottom of the league and you’re in the bottom by far from the 11th-place coach, that’s an issue. So we’ve got to work hard to do that. Jerry feels good. He knows that I’ll help him in those areas moving forward because it’s important. One thing is paying his staff. We’ll work on those areas moving forward, too, because it’s a free market so people leave and get paid more and whatnot.”

On the expansion of the Big Ten to include Rutgers and Maryland and the idea of further expansion: “It’s not always my favorite part of college athletics. I don’t want to destroy leagues and change things that maybe don’t need to be changed. But I will say things do change. We’ve all got to understand that. … I’m not always comfortable with it, but things do change. As far as where we are, as we begin to discuss these things, it looks like the divisional makeup will be good for us. It’ll be very regional. And the Big Ten did a great job and a pretty extensive survey on what fans felt like the breakdown of the division should be. It was very much a regional message, so I felt good about that. In our discussions two weeks ago, I sat in the back with a grin on my face. Moving forward, about other expansion, I don’t know what will happen. It seems like we’re in a little bit of a lull right now. Will we have power conferences with 16 teams? We might because everybody has to take care of themselves. We took from the ACC, but again, the ACC took from the Big East. It’s tough. But I feel good about where we are.”

On the 25 Gophers sports and the possibility of adding of more: “There could be a time it would change. I would think it would be more of an addition than a subtraction. At least that’s what I would think. All of our sports do extremely well. They have great alumni bases. They’ve either won a lot and been successful or they have a great facility. I don’t see it changing. The lacrosse thing is mentioned all the time. … We’ll look at it. I don’t know. It doesn’t mean it would happen any time soon. But we’ll see. The budgets are thin. There’s a lot of talk about, ‘You guys are flush with cash.’ I tell you, we’re not. We support 25 sports, and it’s great and we want to do it and we will do it. It’s tough to add.”

On the prospects of the University of Minnesota hosting an outdoor hockey game in the future: “We’re looking at that now. I know that (former AD) Joel (Maturi) had looked at it before and there were definitely some costs. I heard a number the other day about how much it costs to scrape the snow off the field, and it’s a lot. But we want to do that here. Obviously, it would be 10 or 15 degrees cooler here (than it was in Chicago, where Minnesota played two weeks ago). I know the ice was not as favorable as they wanted. We’re going to look at it and look at it hard and get creative about it. A lot of people said to me, ‘Well, they need to put the ice down for two weeks. The Zambonis and everything will make it better.’ I said, ‘It was there for two weeks in Chicago.’ They were having high school games. I think the Miami/Notre Dame game was a little bit worse than ours. We’ll see. We want to make it happen if it can happen.”

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