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Updated: June 18th, 2012 10:16am
Teague says Tubby Smith's contract negotiations are in the '11th hour'

Teague says Tubby Smith's contract negotiations are in the '11th hour'

by Nate Sandell
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Incoming University of Minnesota athletic director Norwood Teague has barely had time to settle into his new position, but he is already closing in on finalizing the first major deal of his tenure.

Teague, who stood outside the Bierman Athletic Building on Monday to speak to reporters before the start of his first official day on the job, insisted the long-anticipated contract extension for men's basketball coach Tubby Smith is almost in place.

"We've been in discussions with his agent (Ricky Lefft) and I know it's pretty far down the road," Teague said. "I think it's in the 11th hour and you'll hear more about it pretty soon, but I need to talk to the legal council before I talk about any specifics."

Smith has been pursuing an extension for months, but negotiations between the University and Leftt have stalled on several occasions. After Teague was introduced in April as the successor to former AD Joel Maturi, Smith confidently remarked that a deal was "pretty much done" and awaiting Teague's approval.

Two months later, the two sides have yet to reach a final agreement. Teague stayed in contact with Smith and Lefft while he wrapped up his final days at his previous post as AD of Virginia Commonwealth University.

Teague appeared to have no concerns about the numerous hold-ups that have occurred during the negotiation process.

"What happens with these negotiations is that you get the bulk done and then these little things hold you up," Teague said. "Then you worry that they're larger things and they are really not."

Smith has two years remaining on his current deal, which would pay him close to $1.8 million per year.

Expectations have been significantly heightened for the Gophers as they prepare for the their fifth season under Smith. The "U" has fallen short of the NCAA tournament in back-to-back seasons, leaving factions of the fan base disgruntled. With a strong core of emerging talent and the return of star forward Trevor Mbakwe, who is still recovering from ACL surgery he underwent last December, the Gophers will face pressure to in the top half of the Big Ten next year.

Nate Sandell is a contributor to 1500ESPN.com.
Email Nate | @nsandell
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