STrib: Mark Coyle, Phil Esten: How Minnesota's top athletics directors are living with NIL


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Nov 11, 2008
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The two Division I schools in Minnesota exist in different financial realities and philosophical spaces. The U of M a state school entrenched in a Power Five conference with enrollment over 50,000. St. Thomas a private Catholic university with teams in several conferences trying to learn how to be a Division I program with enrollment under 10,000.

But Coyle and Esten were surprisingly similar in saying that their overriding hope is once the dust settles on these changes, they can get back to a more holistic look at the relationship between academics and athletics. They both said their core ethos remains: provide an experience to student-athletes that is about the rest of their lives not just the years they're on campus.

Is that actually possible? At a time when the NCAA can't win a court case, where every challenge to the traditional structure of college athletics seems to succeed, the most difficult reality might be that athletics directors and universities and the NCAA are no longer in control.

"I think good, bad or indifferent, the pandemic showed us anything can happen at any time," Coyle said. "The last four years in college athletics has just been a shifting landscape and it's going to continue to be a shifting landscape."

That's Division I athletics in the NIL era. Unstable ground and very few opportunities to settle your feet, close your eyes and take a deep breath.

Go Gophers!!

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