With Thursday morning's announcement that Joel Maturi will step down as athletic director for the University of Minnesota effective June 30th, you could seemingly hear a sigh of relief from Gopher Nation.
Maturi's run as Gopher AD was certainly not a smooth one. In his decade at the helm, the high points were few while the low points were numerous and sustained.
When Maturi took over the program, Glen Mason was leading the Gopher football team to the middle of the Big Ten. Mason's teams would continually start the season hot and work their way into the Top 25 but could never get over the hump to earn a spot in a major bowl game. After the historic collapse against Texas Tech in the 2006 Insight Bowl, Mason was fired.
The search then started for a new football coach. Boosters and former Gopher football players clamored not to have Maturi leading the search, but Maturi took the lead anyway. After completing his search, Maturi decided to hand the reins to a tight ends coach from the Denver Broncos, Tim Brewster.
Brewster had never been the head coach or even a coordinator at any program other than a short stint at a high school. Brewster subsequently showed why, leading the team from mediocre to downright horrible, losing multiple times to DI-AA schools. Brewster was finally fired in 2010 after a 1-6 start to the season.
Under Maturi's tenure, the Gopher football program did not reach a major bowl game and has not won a bowl game since the 2004 Music City Bowl.
The basketball program has also underacheived under Maturi's tenure. After the rightful firing of Don Monson during the 2006-07 season, Maturi scored a coup in the hiring of legendary coach Tubby Smith.
However, Maturi has been unable to secure funding for a practice facility for the basketball team, and this is seen as part of the reason that Smith has been unable to recruit top high schoolers, hurting the development of the program at large. The basketball program hasn't won an NCAA tournament game under Maturi's regime.
The baseball team still does not have a home field on campus after years of trying. The women's basketball and hockey teams have gone downhill. The lack of any semblance of success with the top three sports (football, basketball, hockey) has put the University of Minnesota into one of the jokes of the Big Ten. While the overall success of the smaller sports has put the program into the top 20 in Director's Cup standings (out of over 300 schools), that means little if there is no success in the major sports.
Even the successes that Maturi has had are marked by disappointment. Getting TCF Bank Stadium built was a major event for the football program, but in its second year the Gophers failed to sell out most games, even with one of the smallest seating capacities of the Big Ten football stadiums.
The smaller, non-revenue sports have had success, but few notice this because they are overshadowed by the failures of the major revenue-producing sports.
Maturi was able to take a program reeling in the wake of the Clem Haskins basketball scandal, a program that was bleeding money, and turn it into a clean and slightly profitable entity. But when you're a program competing in the Big Ten, it takes more than that to be termed a success. Maturi had the reins for 10 years and was unable to elevate the program. It is time to make a change.