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Updated: October 7th, 2011 3:29pm
Gophers AD Joel Maturi on Michigan loss: 'I never expected what I saw'

Gophers AD Joel Maturi on Michigan loss: 'I never expected what I saw'

by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com
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10/7/2011
Maturi 'surprised' by talent level with Gopher football
Gophers AD Joel Maturi joins Judd & Phunn live at Mariucci Arena to talk about the state of the Gopher hockey and football programs.
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MINNEAPOLIS -University of Minnesota athletic director Joel Maturi knew his football program had some rebuilding to do under new coach Jerry Kill, but Maturi admits he was taken aback by last Saturday's 58-0 loss at Michigan.

"I knew it was a rebuilding process," Maturi said during an appearance on "Judd & Phunn" on Friday morning on 1500 ESPN. "I never expected what I saw last Saturday and I don't think Jerry did either going into it."

Said Maturi: "Maybe I should be more aware of the talent level of what we had. I didn't think it was as bad as it seemingly is. All the kind of things that caught up to the problems that we have. We did beat Illinois and Iowa the last two games of last year. We do have most of those kids on the football field this year. You kind of wonder, what is it?"

Maturi traveled with the Gophers to West Lafayette, Ind., for Saturday's game at Purdue. The Gophers are 1-4, including 0-1 in the Big Ten. Purdue is 2-2 overall, but is coming off a 38-10 loss against Notre Dame.

Purdue coach Danny Hope is under pressure to turn things around. Maturi admits he's eager to see how the Gophers play on the road against the Boilermakers.

"Purdue doesn't have the talent that Michigan has and they're being challenged a little bit, too," Maturi said. "If we're significantly behind them in our process it will really frighten me and tell me it's going to be a long this year and long next year ..."

Maturi acknowledges that change is not easy and that many of the Gophers players have been through a lot with coaches and assistants coming and going on a consistent basis.

"They've listened to a lot of coaches tell them, 'Be patient, we're building, we're building,'" Maturi said. "And you know what? All of us, all of a sudden you're mindset is enough's enough. And you out go and right off the bat they make some plays (at Michigan) and you start saying, 'Are you kidding me?'

"I've seen it at the pro level let alone at the collegiate level and all of a sudden you just take that step backward. And that's the challenge that the coaching staff has. I believe in Jerry Kill, I believe in his coaching staff. I do think that the kids need to believe in them a little bit more and that's the challenge that we have."

As for Kill's health, Maturi expressed confidence that the coach is doing much better after battling a series of seizures earlier in the season. Maturi also points out that he was aware of Kill's condition.

"I did do the homework on the front end, contrary to what most people believe," Maturi said. "I did know he had seizures. I obviously knew that he was a cancer survivor. I talked to medical people about what that meant and was it a safe hire from a physical standpoint? I got the OK there.

"I didn't know I'd (see him) experience (a seizure) on the sidelines. I didn't know that would happen, let alone many more in the hospital that occurred the week after. But he's healthy, he's back and we're lucky to have him."

Lucia signs contract

Gophers men's hockey coach Don Lucia told "Judd & Phunn" that he has signed the three-year contract extension with the university that has been a work in progress since last spring.

This was the last season of Lucia's previous contract and recruiting would have become very difficult if he didn't get an extension. Still, the Gophers have not made the NCAA tournament in three seasons and Lucia has come under pressure to return the program to its glory years.

Maturi said he did not want to "get into great detail about the contract," when asked if it was an ironclad three-year agreement.

"It's a situation where if indeed he were not to be successful and we had to make that kind of decision the buyout isn't 100 percent for the term of the contract," Maturi said. "It's that type of thing. It's very similar to what we did with Tim Brewster. ... We didn't have to buy him out more than had we dismissed him from the initial (contract). There's some security for Don and there's obviously some security for the University of Minnesota."

Told that there would be some boosters who wondered why Lucia was getting a contract extension, Maturi said:

"The extension part comes partly because of the recruiting aspect. Recruits who are going to come to Minnesota assume they are going to play for Don Lucia. They wouldn't sign unless they wanted to play for Don Lucia. But what I would proudly tell you is that in all my years as an athletic director I've tried to look at the big picture of each and every coach that I've hired.

"I'm not naïve to the revenue aspect. I'm not naïve to the coaches that need to win, especially in the revenue generating sports. But I also do try to look at what I call the total experience.

"Whether it's academics, whether it's NCAA compliance with rules, whether it's involvement in the community. All those kinds of things. And you know what? We're lucky to have, in my opinion, a coach the stature of Don Lucia because he does all those kinds of things right. ... The guy did win two national championships here, he has won a few WCHA banners and I just believe he deserved an opportunity to right the ship."

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd
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