Without a permanent athletics director since August, Minnesota has hired the new leader of its athletics department.
Mark Coyle, who spent much of the past year as the athletics director at Syracuse, was announced and introduced as the new Minnesota athletics director Wednesday afternoon.
Prior to his tenure at Syracuse — which began last June and didn't even last a full year — Coyle was the athletics director at Boise State and the deputy athletics director at Kentucky. From 2001 to 2005, he was the associate athletics director for external relations at Minnesota, making his hiring a homecoming of sorts.
"I am so honored to have the opportunity to return to the University of Minnesota and the Big Ten," Coyle said in the school's announcement. "This is a tremendous athletics department made up of talented student-athletes and accomplished coaches. I loved my time in Gopher athletics during an earlier part of my career, and I look forward to leading the athletic programs of this great university."
"We are thrilled to welcome Mark back to the University of Minnesota," university president Eric Kaler said in the announcement. "Mark’s previous contributions and experience in Gopher athletics combined with his leadership credentials at major athletic departments such as Syracuse, Boise State, and Kentucky make him the ideal candidate to lead Gopher athletics into the future."
Former athletics director Norwood Teague resigned in August amid accusations of sexual harassment. Since, Beth Goetz has served as interim athletics director. She was reported as one of four final candidates for the job earlier this week — along with Northern Illinois athletics director Sean Frazier, Penn State deputy athletics director Phil Esten and an unnamed candidate — though Coyle was announced earlier Wednesday as Minnesota's lone finalist for the job.
Coyle's challenges in the department's two highest-profile sports are steep.
Minnesota went through a tumultuous football season with former head coach Jerry Kill abruptly retiring in the middle of the season due to health reasons and Kill's defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys given a three-year contract as the new head coach. After Kill led the Gophers to back-to-back eight-win campaigns, they finished just 6-7 this past season.
In men's basketball, Richard Pitino will enter his fourth year as head coach this fall. The program has been plagued with off-the-court issues leading to suspensions and dismissals — including the arrest of junior Reggie Lynch on probable cause for criminal sexual conduct this past weekend — and the most recent campaign featured just eight wins, the program's lowest total since 1968.