Minnesota’s new master facilities plan – with a basketball practice facility as one of the priorities -- should be finalized by April, Gophers athletic director Norwood Teague said at a press gathering on Thursday. “I’m very excited for the future,” Teague said. “It’s going to be a fun next five to 10 years.” A basketball facility is near the top of the list, with Teague again describing the implementation as a “need” and not a “want.” “I guess it’s been a phenomenon of the last 10 years, and you can say, ‘Are they really needed?’ You do really need them,” Teague said. “Our guys have trouble at times getting into shoot, and our women have trouble at times getting into shoot. There’s a lot of people that use it, our dance team’s in there, or there’s an event that’s in there in the middle of the day, and it limits the availability … 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.” Breaking down the total project into costs for individual pieces, like the practice facility, will come down the road. But for now, Teague estimated that the full facilities plan could cost in the $80 million to $125 million range. Teague has said in the past that the full plan could include a basketball practice facility, a new football building, a women's gymnastics facility, a wrestling facility, office enhancements and a center for student-athlete academics and dining. The university is still looking at exactly where all the money will come from – how much they can feasibly raise privately and where the rest would come from. “Money doesn’t grow on trees, and I know with the state budgets and things like that, we want to be very smart about what we do,” Teague said. “If it’s too expensive, we’ll have to cut back in areas. But right now with construction costs being pretty favorable, it’s different than it was five years ago, so you’ve got to go in and evaluate it. We need to get what we need and be smart about that. We don’t want to go crazy and spend in a way that’s going to be unwise.” In that regard, Teague noted that the facilities don’t have to be extravagant, as seems to be the trend in college athletics – not just building something functional, but something with an overload of “flash” as Teague called it, and luxurious amenities. “We’ve traveled around to a lot of facilities that maybe are a little over the top, and I don’t know if we need to do that,” Teague said. “I think you need to get what you need and have it done in a first-class way, and then after that, your people make all the difference. And if you have great people, combined with the facilities that you need, I think then you’re rolling.” Once a blueprint is in place, Teague said a tour around the state is planned to help raise money and drum up excitement for the program and the plans. “Really go around and shake hands and renew, rejuvenate the pride in Gopher athletics,” he said. “I’ll tell you what because one thing I have learned after being here eight months is that it seems like everybody cares about the U and Gopher athletics. You maybe didn’t go here, but your dad went here or your mom went here or your great uncle went here. And it’s the only Division I school in the state. And I’ve been in four states with Divison I schools and it doesn’t compare. And that’s a positive, but it’s something we have to do a better job of reaching out.” Other notes from today’s press conference:
- Teague reiterated that he would not evaluate Gophers basketball coach Tubby Smith’s performance until the season was over, saying that he wanted to make that a university policy in general with all coaches. He did however, remark on a couple of aspects concerning Smith.
- Teague said he talks with Smith often about the ups and downs of the season, and said he has been handling the wear like “a pro.” “All coaches take it hard when they lose,” Teague said. “No matter who they are. I don’t think we can ever understand the amount of anguish they go thorugh. Weight loss. Stress on the face. He’s not immune to that … He’s done this a long time, and he rolls with the punches.”
- Teague on the buyouts the university is still paying off (Glen Mason, Dan Monson, Tim Brewster): “It’s a part of the whole financial equation of everything we do, not just a specific sport. It always plays into your budget decisions. But for us, the buyouts that we’re paying now have been budgeted, so it’s not like it’s new. So it is what it is.”
- On Smith’s poor record in February: “I’m aware of it. But I’m also aware of a lot of other places it happens. Greg Paulus at Ohio State is a good friend. We went to breakfast the morning of the Ohio State game and Greg said, ‘Norwood, you have to understand. These are the two toughest weeks in college basketball for players.’ They’re in the heart of the regular season. Christmas is long in the rearview mirror, and they can’t see March yet. Teams do erratic things during that time period. I look at it for every program, that February is tough. It’s a grind.”
- Teague said he gave Smith a hug in the locker room after the Indiana game on Tuesday. His general thoughts on the atmosphere: “The Barn was as good as I’ve seen it, and obviously, I’ve been here a short period period of time. I get a lot of e-mails and comments about bring the Barn back to where it used to be, and I hear everybody loud and clear, but it shows that that place is as good as any place in college basketball. I know it is older, but it’s classic. We need to get that thing back to where it’s consistent like that on a regular basis because it was absolutely fantastic. My ears were ringing all day yesterday after being in there.
- To that point, Teague reiterated that he doesn’t have any plans to tear down Williams Arena and rebuild. Instead, he wants to add amenities and do a few touch-ups. Overall, he’s happy with the state of the inner bowl, including the number of seats, he said. “I just think it’s too classic,” he said. “It’s too historical; it’s too much a part of the state. I’ve seen when you move arenas and leave your classic place, it hurts in many ways. It hurts your crowd atmosphere and feel of your arena. And we’ll do some things, some touchups 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.”