When Joel Maturi ’67 arrived as a freshman at Notre Dame in 1963, his intention was to join the Irish football team as a walk-on. But due to lingering injuries from high school, he was unable to pass the physical. That disappointment turned into opportunity the following season, though, when new ND coach Ara Parseghian offered Joel the chance to serve as a student trainer.
“He did everything from taping ankles to running errands, making sure guys got proper care…whatever was needed,” recalled Leo Collins ‘67, a member of the 1966 national champions and long-time friend of Maturi. “And he did everything with dedication and skill.”
For Maturi, it was a birds-eye look at how a top-notch program operated, and he turned those lessons into a Hall of Fame career as a coach and athletic administrator. “To see how he operated back then, how he cared about people and treated others with respect, it’s not surprising how his career went,” noted Collins.
Maturi’s career began in Madison Wis., as coach and AD at Edgewood High School, the area’s main Catholic school. In 1987, after 20 years at Edgewood, he made the extraordinary move to become an NCAA Division I assistant athletic director, moving a few blocks to the University of Wisconsin. “I was in the right place at the right time,” Maturi says modestly. But of course it was his leadership skills and ability to connect with others that drew UW’s attention.
From there, Joel served two years as the Director of Athletics at the University of Denver and four at Miami (Ohio) University before being named the Director of Athletics at the University of Minnesota in 2002 until his retirement in 2012.
In each position, Maturi consistently did all that he could so that the coaches and staff could do what they do best (coach and support) and that the student-athletes left with a degree and a positive and meaningful athletic experience. He helped guide the merger of the men’s and women’s athletic departments at Minnesota and worked to develop a culture of compliance, fiscal responsibility, equity and diversity. He guided a massive upgrade in athletic facilities, included bringing football back to campus with the building of TCF Bank Stadium in 2009.
Maturi served on several NCAA and Conference Committees, including the NCAA Management Council, where he served as a Division I liaison to the National Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. He presided as Chair of the Big Ten athletic directors as well as the NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey Committee and directors of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.
“In each role, I always felt my job as an athletics administrator was for me to do all I could so that the student-athletes, coaches and staff would be successful,” Maturi says. “That meant for me to listen, to be respectful, to be open and honest in my dealings with all, while maintaining my faith and integrity in the process.”
Maruti’s influence has won him countless friends at all levels of athletics, from coast to coast. He was honored by his hometown of Chisholm, Minn., where football is now played on Maturi Field; and by the University of Minnesota, where the Sports Pavilion is now Maturi Pavilion. He has been inducted into the Chisholm High School Hall of Fame, the Edgewood High School Hall of Fame, Wisconsin Basketball Hall of Fame, the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center Hall of Fame, the Madison Sports Hall of Fame, and was named the Wisconsin Sports Person of the Year in 1993. He was a finalist for the National Athletics Director of the Year in 2009.
In retirement, Maturi continues multiple roles, including serving on the NCAA Infractions Committee and several University of Minnesota boards and committees. He serves as President of the Minnesota High School Basketball Hall of Fame Committee, on the Board of Second Harvest Heartland, the Sundet Foundation, is active in his Church and speaks to University classes and at service and high school events.
Joel is active with the Notre Dame Club of Minnesota. “He is quick to volunteer to help make our community better,” says Collins. “Whatever the need, whether it’s feeding the homeless at Catholic Charities, or anything else, Joel goes above and beyond. He is a great gentleman and family man. Just a sincere, honest, great guy. He is a true Notre Dame man.”