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Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)
Over the years, the University of Minnesota's Board of Regents has heard its share of bad news in the annual reports delivered by the athletic department. Athletic director Mark Coyle gave them plenty to be happy about Wednesday, as he summed up a season of academic honors, athletic success and improved oversight.
Coyle submitted his annual report at a meeting of the Board of Regents at the U's McNamara Alumni Center. He outlined progress made toward his three principal goals — accountability, consistency in leadership and creating strong campus relationships — as well as a record-breaking season of fundraising and academic achievement. Coyle also announced a budget of $121 million for the upcoming fiscal year.
The report was well-received by regents, including Chairman David McMillan, who called it "very inspiring'' and lauded the Gophers' "tremendous set of achievements.'' Regent Dean Johnson, a champion of Gophers sports who was frustrated by the misconduct and scandals of the past, praised Coyle's leadership in shepherding the department to higher ground.
"You and your team have done absolutely stellar work on behalf of the University of Minnesota,'' Johnson said. "All the statistics, all the trend lines are moving in an extremely positive position.''
Gophers athletes earned a collective grade-point average of 3.24 during the spring semester, equaling the highest in the department's history, and every sport recorded a team GPA of at least 3.00. It marked the ninth consecutive semester in which the overall GPA was 3.20 or higher.
The Gophers also set a school record with 351 academic All-Big Ten honors last school year. The department's graduation success rate of 92 percent was its best ever and the highest of any public school in the Big Ten. During the 2017-18 school year, Gophers athletes earned 10 academic All-America honors and 23 academic all-district citations, the second-highest numbers in U history.
The department's overall athletic performance also was strong. The Gophers finished 19th among all Division I schools in the Learfield Directors' Cup standings, which ranks programs according to success in postseason competition. They won six conference championships and had three athletes — Obsa Ali (outdoor track), Sarah Bacon (diving) and Kaitlyn Long (indoor track) — win NCAA individual titles.
"We want to make sure we set the tone from the top, that doing it right at Minnesota matters,'' Coyle said. "It's nice when you have good news to tell.''
Other highlights of Coyle's report:
· The department has raised more than $108 million for its Athletes Village complex, which Coyle called a "transformational facility'' that has had an immediate impact on athletes' performance and well-being. More than $123 million has been donated to the "Nothing Short of Greatness'' campaign, which will fund a host of athletic department initiatives.
· The Bierman Gym has been renovated into a new practice space for the wrestling team, with the entire cost covered by private donations. Other facility improvements also are underway, including installing air conditioning and new LED lighting in Maturi Pavilion and updates to the Jean K. Freeman Aquatic Center. A new golf training center and outdoor track and field stadium will be completed in the next six to eight months.
· Athletes are now receiving 7½ hours of training about issues surrounding sexual misconduct, nearly double what they had in the past. Athletic department staff also is receiving ongoing training in that area, as well as financial management.
· The department has cleared seven audits that were in progress when Coyle was hired in 2016, including one that gave Coyle and his executive team high marks.
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