The St. Paul Pioneer Press published a back-and-forth between reporters Bob Sansevere ("BS") and Minnesota athletic director Joel Maturi ("JM") today, regarding Minnesota's recent hire of Northern Illinois coach Jerry Kill. To call it "unusual" might not do the exchange justice; it's probably requires reading in full. Here's just a snippet, revealing just a fraction of the candor Maturi displayed today:
BS: You're the one who said you'd try to get another Tubby.
JM: Yeah, I did. I offered it to Barry Alvarez, and he didn't take the job.
BS: I've heard you say that three times now. Did you truly say, "Barry, do you want to come here and coach the Gophers?"
JM: Yeah, I did.
BS: And his response?
JM: He said, "I like what I'm doing. And my days of coaching are done."
BS: So you were sincere when you asked?
JM: Well, I know Barry pretty well now.
BS: But it was a serious offer?
JM: Oh, yeah. Heck, yeah. I said, "If we could make this work."
Yes: Maturi asserts, repeatedly, that he would have given the Minnesota job to Alvarez, who is on the doorstep of 64, hasn't coached in five years, and has spent the last 20 years in the service of Minnesota's biggest and longest rival. Amazingly, that offer wasn't accepted.
One might notice that "Tubby" comment at the beginning of the excerpt above. That's a reference to Minnesota coach Tubby Smith , who was a high-profile coach from a high-profile school. Upon firing Tim Brewster earlier this year, Maturi had said that he would make another "Tubby Smith" hire. Regardless of the overall quality of the hire, which will become apparent over the next few years, Jerry Kill probably doesn't qualify under those guidelines. That, according to Maturi, is the fault of the guidelines, not the school:
BS: Do you feel the Tubby Smith comment was taken out of context?
JM: Well, I guess what I'm trying to tell you is, I knew we weren't going to get a BCS head coach. Now, I'd like to get a splash like that. Let's be honest about it. I'm not trying to downgrade Minnesota. The intention was to get somebody people can accept, people will feel good about, and hopefully will be successful and revered as much as Tubby Smith. It's words that I wish I would have taken back, quite frankly.
BS: The kind you'd like to shove back in your mouth?
JM: Yeah, I would. I'll be honest with you in regards to that. Again, I'm not trying to discredit us or whatever it is, but how many BCS head coaches would leave there to come here? If you could give me a couple, I'm willing to listen to you, especially successful ones.
In other words, Maturi is fully and freely admitting that he had no shot at bringing a big name to Minnesota, new stadium be damned.
Now, there's one crucial piece of background information that will help this all come into much sharper focus: Maturi's contract is up next year, and there's a strong sentiment in Minneapolis that Maturi won't be back. He'll be in his late 60s by the time his contract expires, his teams at Minnesota have struggled as of late, and he has little incentive to stay at the post. Most damningly, he has abandoned the typical non-committal press-speak, and that's a sure sign that his tenure's just about at an end, and that end is of his own volition.