Gophers AD steps down
By Marcus R. Fuller
St. Paul Pioneer Press
MINNEAPOLIS -- Gophers athletics director Norwood Teague resigned three years into his tenure Friday following a sexual harassment investigation that included inappropriate texting as well as touching involving two University of Minnesota employees.
University President Eric Kaler said during a news conference that the school’s investigation has ended but declined to comment on any pending lawsuits from the victims.
“I think he realized that his resignation and entry into a treatment plan for his alcohol problem was his best way forward,” Kaler said. “So, we’ve terminated the investigation and we parted ways.”
The police departments at the U and the city of Minneapolis have no reports listing Teague. Court records show no traffic violations or criminal history for Teague in Minnesota.
According to three transcripts supplied by the university, Teague made sexually inappropriate physical and verbal contact with two women during what he said in a statement was a university event.
“I had entirely too much to drink and behaved badly towards nice people, and sent truly inappropriate texts,” Teague said. “I’m embarrassed and I apologize to everyone involved.
“This neither reflects my true character, or the character of this great, great university.”
According to statements from the victims, Teague gave the women unsolicited backrubs and pinched them on the buttocks and waist. In addition, he asked one woman, “Why haven’t you married your boyfriend?” and he asked the other if she “would be open to cheating on her husband.”
One victim later received text messages, which Teague told her he was sending as they sat together, asking if she would be interested in skinny dipping and soliciting oral sex. It appears text messages were sent to only one of the victims.
While talking the next morning, the victims discovered they each had similar experiences with Teague the night before.
Kaler said he first learned of, and addressed, the issue with Teague the next day, ordering an alcohol screening and launching an investigation. When the harassment occurred is unclear. Teague said it was “recent,” and Kaler declined several times to disclose the event or date on which it occurred because it would compromise the anonymity of the victims.
The U president made it clear he did not fire Teague, saying that had the AD not resigned, the “investigation process would have gone forward through the Office of Equal Opportunity.” Afterward, there would be findings “accompanied by a recommendation for discipline, and that recommendation could include up to termination.”
Kaler wrote a letter to Teague after the incident in which he stated: “(A)s we discussed, such behavior is unacceptable. I am concerned that your drinking was excessive and impaired your judgment. I requested and you agreed to seek an alcohol abuse screening assessment from a qualified health care professional and share the results with me.
“In addition, you will not contact either of the two women who were subject to your advances either in person or through electronic or other written means unless professionally required. Likewise, you will refrain from making inappropriate sexual advances, either verbal or in writing, including through social media, text messages or other forms of electronic communication in general in context of your role as the Athletic Director.”
Beth Goetz, the Gophers’ deputy athletics director hired from Butler University in March 2013, has been named interim athletics director.
Teague, 48, was named the Gophers’ AD in April 2012, replacing Joel Maturi, who ran the department for 10 years. Teague came to Minnesota after six years at Virginia Commonwealth University. The Raleigh, N.C., native was associate AD for five years at the University of North Carolina, his alma mater.
VCU assistant athletic director for communications Scott Day said Friday that Teague did not have any incidents while running the Rams’ athletic department.
“The reports from Minnesota are unfortunate,” Day said in a statement. “Norwood Teague left VCU more than three years ago. We are not aware of similar complaints against Teague during his time at VCU.”
Kaler said Teague will not receive a severance package but will get three months of Cobra insurance “because it is a health issue.” He also could be retained as a consultant at an hourly wage of $285 during the transition to a new AD, according to Kaler.
Teague came to Minnesota after the hiring of football head coach Jerry Kill but was responsible for helping Kill’s program reach a higher level with better resources and facilities.
After opening fall practice Friday, Kill called Teague’s resignation a “distraction” and that he would “probably have to step my game up a little bit” in fundraising.
Teague hired men’s basketball coach Richard Pitino and women’s basketball coach Marlene Stollings. The Gophers’ administration met Friday with the coaching staffs of the sports teams on campus, including Stollings.
Stollings said she talked to her players about Teague’s mistake being a “teaching moment.”
“You’re only one bad decision away from perhaps negatively affecting your career,” she said. “It happens at the highest level. It happens to presidents and professional athletes. Today, it happened to us and our institution. In terms of it having a direct impact on us, it’s not something we really feel. We’re focused on our goals and our future.”
Teague and associate AD Mike Ellis, who hired Stollings to be the coach at VCU, also hired her to replace Pam Borton at Minnesota last year.
But Stollings said she’s not worried about not having the person who hired her around moving forward.
“I have a six-year contract,” she said. “In any profession, if someone who hired you is no longer there, on some level that’s disappointing. But we’re very future-oriented and forward-thinking. We’re full speed ahead with what we’re doing with the program. I have great confidence in President Kaler and his team with what they’re going to do in replacing Norwood. I’m sure they will bring in somebody who is highly touted and well-respected and will do the job. Our focus is on doing our job.”
Volleyball coach Hugh McCutcheon was hired by Maturi, but he arrived on campus at the same time as Teague. The former Olympic coach believes the Gophers can overcome this incident and continue to improve as a department.
“We’re at in institution that takes these things seriously and takes swift and appropriate action,” McCutcheon said. “I don’t think in any way it’s representative of our athletic department and our school. It’s an isolated incident with some serious consequences for that person. The executive group that we have here is certainly strong. Everyone respects Beth and will be supportive of our leadership. We have some great things going on with the fundraising and the (Athletes Village).”
Teague had been responsible for fundraising for the new Athletes Village, which included a football practice facility, football performance center, men’s and women’s basketball practice facility and Athletic Center for Excellence. The last known fundraising total was $70 million for the $190 million project, but the ongoing Title IX investigation with the U’s track makes groundbreaking a complicated issue.
Kill, who is coming off the Gophers’ first New Year’s Day Bowl game since 1962, said last week that construction is expected to start in September or October.
He talked to Kaler at length Friday about what steps need to be taken to stay on schedule.
“I said at the very beginning that I was going to make sure that we have that done by August, and if not, they should fire me,” Kill said. “I believe I said that. I guess they gave me an extended couple of months, but I’m going to keep pushing and grinding, and we will get it done. Nothing is ever easy, but I think we will get it done. I’m optimistic.”
Pioneer Press reporters Charley Walters, John Shipley and Andy Greder contributed to this report. The Pioneer Press is a media partner of Forum News Service.