Joel Maturi steps down as U of M athletic director

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Joel Maturi addresses the news media
Outgoing University of Minnesota Athletic Director Joel Maturi speaks at a press conference Thursday morning at TCF Bank Stadium. University president Eric Kaler is at right.
MPR Photo/Tim Nelson

Longtime University of Minnesota athletic director Joel Maturi announced his resignation at a news conference Thursday.

Maturi, who turns 67 next week, will retire from his position on June 30, when his current contract ends. Maturi will remain on the university's staff for the next year as a faculty member and fundraiser.

"It makes a lot of sense to make the change now," Maturi said at the news conference Thursday at TCF Bank Stadium. "We have a new president and an old athletic director."

University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler praised Maturi's service to the university.

"Joel is first and foremost a terrific human being and a tireless champion of our university," Kaler said.

Kaler said the search for a new athletic director will begin "as soon as possible." He said he feels confident that a new athletic director will be in place on July 1.

Maturi and Kaler said the decision was a mutual one.

Tubby Smith
Gophers basketball coach Tubby Smith talks about the departure of his boss, athletic director Joel Maturi, at TCF Bank Stadium.
MPR Photo/Tim Nelson

"We've come to this decision together," Maturi said. "It makes sense. It's the right time."

At times, Maturi appeared to choke back tears. He told reporters that he knew the news conference would be emotional for him.

"A lot of people wondered if I'd get through today," he said. "It's part of who I am."

A reporter asked Maturi to comment on how much of his tenure will be defined by his management of the school's football program — an area in which Maturi attracted criticism for his hiring decisions.

"I think that's all in the eyes of the beholder," Maturi said. "I've always judged myself as I've tried to judge others, on the process."

He added, "I'm not naïve, some of the decisions were a whole lot better than others, but that's the reality of life."

The announcement comes after an abysmal season for the school's football team, and struggles in Williams Arena by the men's basketball squad. But the school has also won two national hockey championships, by both men and women, during his tenure.

Maturi, 66, is a native of Chisholm, Minn., and has had a lengthy career in sports and sports administration. Maturi coached various sports at the high school level in Wisconsin for 20 years. He was inducted into the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame in 1992.

Maturi moved to college athletics in 1987, taking a job as assistant athletic director at the University of Wisconsin. He was later promoted to associate athletics director.

Maturi left Wisconsin in 1996 to become athletics director at the University of Denver. He left that position in 1998 to become the athletics director at Miami University of Ohio. He was hired by the University of Minnesota in 2002.

Maturi joined the University of Minnesota at the same time Bob Bruininks became its president.

Maturi ended the news conference with a story about a recent visit from long-time sports journalist Sid Hartman.

Hartman asked him about his plans for retirement, Maturi said, and told him, "You're not going to continue, are you? It's a tough job. You've gone through heck, and you're getting old."

Maturi then told reporters, "I'll leave it at that."

(MPR's Tim Nelson contributed from Minneapolis.)