Goetz keeps U athletics focused on future amid Teague scandal

Beth Goetz
Beth Goetz was named interim athletic director for the University of Minnesota on Aug. 7, 2015.
Courtesy of the University of Minnesota

Beth Goetz has stepped up as the interim athletic director at the University of Minnesota following the surprise resignation of Norwood Teague on Friday, which came after allegations surfaced that he'd sexually harassed women working at the university.

While University officials say they're planning an outside investigation of the school's athletics department, Goetz, who served as Teague's second-in-command since 2013, says she's confident the scandal won't hurt player recruitment or efforts to woo donors to fund a proposed $190 million athletics complex.

Goetz said she's never experienced sexual harassment in the industry and had never heard rumors of Teague's behavior before the incidents emerged. She spoke with MPR News host Phil Picardi about the department's future on Wednesday.

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What conversations have you had with President [Eric] Kaler about repairing the damage at the U of M?

I think our focus has really been on looking at how we can best support our student athletes, and our coaches and the community through that challenging time and really move things forward as quick as we can.

It is a challenging time. One of Teague's key responsibilities was fundraising at the U, and that includes raising money for the $190 million athletics village. What have you been hearing from donors since you stepped into this role?

I've spoken with a lot of our donors and key influencers as have our fundraising staff, and really the feedback has been tremendous. What we've heard is that it's never been about one person. It's been about the university and helping to support our student athletes.

How do you feel about doing that fundraising for those facilities?

We've all been involved in that project, I have been as well. We're excited about aggressively pursuing the completion of that project, and we're confident that we're going to keep moving forward and that will happen on schedule.

There's been a lot of talk that Norwood Teague had a history of inappropriate contact with women. You've worked closely with him over the past couple of years, were you aware of any such behavior before the recent allegations?

I've never seen, nor heard any incidents of sexual harassment prior to this issue coming to light.

Do you think there's a problem in big time college athletics with gender discrimination in general?

I think that's something that is specific to individuals and institutions, but something we all need to be aware of. I've been fortunate not to have experienced that type of discrimination personally, but when it's brought to light I think it's important that it's addressed immediately and handled appropriately.

There's going to be an outside investigation into the athletic department, I'm guessing you're expecting to hear lots of questions from those who are doing the investigation.

I'm sure. And in a situation like this, you welcome the outside eyes on what you're doing. We're glad that we're having an outside group come in. We want to know any areas we need to improve on and we're committed to making the changes there.

Have you spoken to Norwood Teague since he stepped down?

I've had a brief conversation with him since that time.

Is there any message that he wanted donors or student athletes to hear?

He offered his sincere regrets and shared that he was immediately seeking treatment.

Do you think the news of his resignation will hurt when it comes to recruiting student athletes to the U?

It's a conversation that has to be had. But student athletes are really focused on the great academics that the university has to offer and the relationship that they build directly with the coaches.

Are you interested in staying in the [athletic department's] role permanently?

Right now we're just keeping our focus on what's going on today. There will be lots of great candidates for President Kaler to consider. But we're trying just to look forward and looking at what our student athletes, our coaches and our community need.

This situation with the change at the top of the [athletics] department, do you think it's not a distraction to the university's athletic programs?

Certainly the news and events were disappointing, but past that initial distraction, people have a job to do, they're passionate about it, and that's really where their daily focus is. We've not seen any disruption in the day-to-day here and their pursuit of excellence.

This interview was edited and transcribed by MPR News reporter Jon Collins.