Teague impressed with Gophers fan support

LAS VEGAS — Just months into his new job as the athletic director for the University of Minnesota, Norwood Teague made the trip to Las Vegas to take in the Gophers football team’s season opener Thursday against UNLV.

Teague took over for Joel Maturi as Minnesota’s athletic director in mid-June. Prior to heading the Gophers’ athletic department, Teague held the same position at Virginia Commonwealth University since 2006. He spoke with the media in the press box at Sam Boyd Stadium prior to Thursday’s game and touched on a variety of subjects. Here’s what he had to say.

On witnessing his first Gophers football game since taking over as athletic director: “It’s thrilling to be back in football, for me personally. I took a bit of a five-year hiatus [VCU does not have a football program], but I worked in it for 13 or 14 years, so it’s great to be back. I’m thrilled with our crowd. Obviously, when we have a game like this, on this date, at a location like this, it shows how many Gopher fans are out there. That is encouraging to me because it shows a lot of what we can do, and that’s thrilling.”

On the impressive turnout of Gophers fans that made the trip to Las Vegas: “I knew that we would have quite a few at the alumni tailgate, because we virtually sold out on that number. But it was more than I thought when you eyeball it. Not only that, but there’s a lot of other tailgates that are going on — big tailgates that were going on all around the area. It shows what we have and the support and passion that we have out there.”

On the discussions about the attendance numbers at TCF Bank Stadium: “I know there’s been a lot out there about our student attendance and whatnot. Personally, I’ve kind of got to see and feel it. There’s a lot that I’ve kind of been able to determine in three months. That’s one that I need to eyeball a little bit more to get a feel of where we’re struggling and where their opportunities lie. You never know. We could get some great momentum and have an unbelievable year attendance-wise. We’ll keep working at it.”

On what he’s heard from fans about their trust in second-year coach Jerry Kill: “I think there’s a lot of enthusiasm right now. I’m new to it, but from what I hear and see, I think there’s a lot of enthusiasm that’s out there. I feel great about that. While I know there are hurdles that we’ve got to hop over in the future, I still think there’s a lot we can build on here. That’s a credit to the support and the fans. We’ve got to deliver from our end and do a better job.”

On the Gophers’ upcoming season openers, which will no longer be on the road: “We have an agreement with the State Fair that we’ll play on Thursday night. We haven’t agreed on the timeframe, but it’ll be for years to come that we play Thursday night — this exact night — at home. It’ll be before the academic year starts, which is good, and it’ll be away from Labor Day weekend, the actual Saturday and Sunday, blocking parking for the State Fair. It’ll also be one that’ll assure us of a good night game. Time start will be favorable.”

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