University of Minnesota’s Mark Coyle Named 11th Best AD in Nation

Photo: RICHARD TSONG-TAATARII • [email protected]

The University of Minnesota continues to climb the ranks of the nation’s top athletic departments. They get to add another feather to their cap today, after their own Mark Coyle was named the 11th-best Athletic Director in the country, by

Coyle was given an A- grade by Brett McMurphy and Jeff Goodman of Stadium and was praised for his ability to hire top coaching talents, especially in football. Obviously, Coyle geniusly hired P.J. Fleck at Minnesota, but his past hires include Bryan Harsin while at Boise State and Dino Babers while at Syracuse. Both have been lauded as great hires.


Prior to becoming athletic director at Boise State and then Syracuse, Coyle worked for the University of Minnesota from 2001 to 2005, as an athletic administrator. His reunion with the Gophers was consummated back in May 2016. Under his watch, Gopher student-athletes have recorded some of the highest GPAs in school history. The U of M has also lead the Big Ten in Academic All-Americans every year Coyle has been at the helm.

This list doesn’t include success in other sports, outside of Football and basketball. If it did, Coyle would climb even higher up the list. Minnesota has become a force all over the sports spectrum, both inside the conference and on the national stage.

The Gophers have won 15 conference titles in nine different sports, under Coyle. Then last year, Fleck (who Coyle hired) led the football team to an excellent 11-2 record and the most successful season in 60+ years.

Richard Pitino could be considered a question mark, but Mark Coyle didn’t hire him. At worst, the basketball program has been stagnant during his tenure. Pitino’s biggest black eye is home-state recruiting but, with the transfer market opening up more and more every year, Pitino’s success in recruiting could take a turn for the better, too. He has already been praised for his early handling of the transfer portal.

As a whole, there’s no doubt the department is on an upward trend.

If that wasn’t enough, the Gophers also finished in the top-20 of the Learfield Director’s Cup in 2017-18 and 2018-19. That’s only the second time in the last 15 years the school has done so. This is a big deal, within the athletic department world. Not only does the cup signify success on the field, but off of it, as well. Their Director’s Cup ranking puts them in the top seven percent of all Division I programs, nationally.


Coyle ranks only behind Ohio State’s Gene Smith and Wisconsin’s Barry Alvarez within the Big Ten. Maybe another Axe victory will push him above Alvarez…

As for nationally, Coyle ranks behind notables like Joe Castiglione (Oklahoma), Jack Swarbrick (Notre Dame), Scott Woodward (LSU), and Rob Mullens (Oregon). Definitely not a bad list to be associated with.

However, there are some names listed ahead of Mark Coyle that are questionable, including Ray Anderson (Arizona State), Whit Babcock (Virginia Tech) and Danny White (UCF). That may not sit too kindly with Gopher fans.

Danny White of UCF? Aren’t they nearly FCS-status? Are we going to start ranking the NDSU AD in these lists, too? AD’s like White, Anderson and Babcock make the list because McMurphy and Goodman were making their judgements based solely on football and basketball… but still.

Even with its flaws, this is a huge deal for Coyle and the Gophers. Fans should definitely revel in it. Stats bumps like this should continue to bring a renewed faith within the University of Minnesota and its alumni base.

Hopefully, it also provides a selling point for any future hires and/or recruits.

Jack Kewitsch | Minnesota Sports Fan

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