U of M paid search firm $112K to find Teague – a common practice for universities


The University of Minnesota paid a well-known search firm more than six figures to help find Norwood Teague as an athletics director candidate – a high-paying task that's becoming an industry standard.

Figures released by the university show Atlanta-based Parker Executive Search was paid more than $112,000 to help find a replacement for former Athletics Director Joel Maturi back in 2009, the Pioneer Press reports.

The Star Tribune notes Teague was the only finalist.

As for Parker Executive Search, the Business Journal reported last week it was also used by the University of Minnesota Duluth in the school's hire of Athletics Director Josh Berlo. Berlo is facing criticism for the sudden departure of women's hockey coach Shannon Miller, the Business Journal said.

The prevalence of search firms

Search firms being paid big bucks to do time-consuming background work on potential candidates is becoming more and more common. Do a Google search for "athletics director search firm" and scroll through the pages. You'll see multiple reports noting universities contacted a search firm to help find a new director or coach.

In 2013, USA Today reported the estimated average price for a firms' help is about $75,000 per search, plus added expenses. But it can run much higher. In 2014, the publication Texas paid $266,990 to find a new head football coach, and Colorado State paid $320,000 for a search in 2011.

Last summer, the University of Southern Florida paid $100,000 to have Texas-based Eastman & Beaudine run its search for an AD, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

The benefits of hiring a company that is essentially a headhunter? It cuts down the long hours university employees have to spend vetting candidates, saving time on that end. It also allows for confidentiality, the Tampa Bay Times says. A search firm may not be subject to the same Freedom of Information requirements that a school would be during a search.

It also gives universities plausible deniability. A school spokesperson can say they haven't spoken with Candidate A because they actually haven't – the search firm has, the Times explains.

ESPN visited the Parker Executive Search offices two years ago, and got an inside look at some of the benefits.

A contract at the time usually ran from $60,000-$90,000, plus expenses, ESPN said. Universities would get access to a wealth of information about candidates (likened to a dating website by ESPN writer Dana O'Neil), plus all of the logistics would be handled – requesting interviews, scheduling travel and arrangements, doing background checks, negotiating the contract on behalf of the university, and more.

Forbes asked if the cost of hiring such firms is worth it – getting different opinions from different people.

More on the Teague fallout

The Star Tribune also reported that Teague failed to disclose to the search firm or the university that he was the subject of a gender discrimination complaint while he was the AD at Virginia Commonwealth University. The complaint was filed by VCU's women's basketball coach in 2012, and the school settled the complaint by paying Beth Cunningham $125,000, according to the newspaper.

The university released the information in a statement late Monday afternoon, saying Parker told school officials “it had no knowledge of any illegal or inappropriate behavior concerning a candidate’s history or current employment.”

The background check it conducted on Teague didn't reveal the complaint, and when Teague himself was asked whether there were any potential issues of "controversy or concern" that the U should be aware of, he “signed a statement indicating no such issues exist," according to the Star Tribune.

The statement from four of the search committee members went on to say that Teague wouldn't have been hired had they known about the allegations of gender discrimination, MPR News reports.

WCCO reports the University of Minnesota's Aurora Center, a victim counseling service, has seen more calls since the Teague news broke. The center's director, Katie Eichele, told Esme Murphy whenever there's publicity around incidents, they tend to get more inquiries.

In a response to Star Tribune reporter Amelia Rayno's story that she was harassed by Teague, University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler encouraged others to come forward. He noted victims can do so through the confidential UReport service at 1-866-294-8680 or ureport.ethicspoint.com.

Over the weekend, Sports Illustrated ran a story about sexual harassment of female sports reporters, and how it happens more frequently than most people realize.

Also touched on in the piece is how the Star Tribune would be legally required to proceed if an employee, like in the case of Rayno, went to her superiors with reports of sexual harassment. Marcia L. McCormick, a law professor at Saint Louis University, told Sports Illustrated the Star Tribune "only had to act reasonably, and not perfectly" in the matter, and explains the legal nuances of the matter.

The person selected to run the athletics department in the interim, Beth Goetz, spoke with both WCCO and the Star Tribune over the weekend.

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