By Bruce Strand
WAVERLY, MN Waverly native David Gutzke, 57, a vice president with U.S. Bank in Minneapolis, was listed as one of the nine top candidates for the Gophers’ athletic director job in a recent Star-Tribune article.
“I’m thrilled, to be honest,” said Gutzke.
He recently had “a good interview” with Turnkey, the search firm hired by the university. “They will whittle it down to 10 or 15 names to present to the search committee. I’ve heard they want it done by July 1,” Gutzke said.
The Star-Tribune noted that Gutzke “comes heavily recommended from top executives at U.S. Bank” and has built a career in wealth management.
The Daily Gopher, which covers the University of Minnesota, assessed: “He has contacts who trust him with large bank accounts” and “has been successful in corporate America.”
The Star-Tribune’s list, which is not official, includes Beth Goetz, current interim AD; Northern Illinois AD Sean Frazier; Peter Najarian, an options trader and former Gopher football captain; Bob Stein, former Gopher All-American and NFL player who was the first CEO of the Timberwolves; deputy ADs Gene Taylor at Iowa and Phil Esten at Penn State; Western Collegiate Hockey Association commissioner Bill Robertson; and Mountain West Conference commissioner Craig Thompson.
Gutzke says he has the blessing and encouragement of U.S. Bank, which he serves as advisor to business owners and executives, and their families.
“It would be difficult to leave U.S. Bank, the best place I’ve ever worked. It has great culture, people and leadership,” Gutzke said.
However, leading the U of M’s athletic department would be “exhilarating and challenging,” he declared, adding that he regards the institution as the most important in the state and the Upper Midwest.
Gutzke is campaigning on four pillars:
• Leadership (setting a strong tone, making hard decisions, holding people accountable, building respect for the school).
• Fundraising (articulating how sports success impacts the whole university).
• Community Connection (getting fans back from boardrooms to small towns, keeping grads locally employed to build a long-term alumni base). • Athletes’ Experience (making it a positive one, lasting a lifetime).
He would stress connecting with local firms. “I know three of the four ownership groups of the pro teams,” he said, “and a lot of the Fortune 500 (executives).” Also paramount, he said, is reaching out to state high school coaches, as Jerry Kill was doing.
Gutzke also sought the job in 2012 when Norwood Teague was hired, but he didn’t get an interview. “I had totally forgotten about it,” Gutzke said, “but a few weeks ago, some friends took me out to lunch.” That was a group of fellow executives, U of M alums, devoted to the Gophers, who urged him to seek the job on the strength of his leadership and business skills.
When Gutzke was a senior safety and tight end at Howard Lake-Waverly High School in 1975, he heard that a Gopher football coach planned to scout him at an upcoming game.
“I was very excited,” said Gutzke, who’d been cheering for the Gophers at Memorial Stadium with his dad since age 8, “and people in town were excited about the ‘U’ coming to our small town to watch me.”
Alas, the coach didn’t show up, and Gutztke never heard back from the Gophers.
He embarked on a successful career in wealth management, currently as a vice president of U.S. Bank in Minneapolis.
His only brush with the Gophers has been working basketball camps with Bill Musselman after his college days but now Gutzke is hoping to land a major role at the University of Minnesota.
Gutzke grew up in Waverly, where his father, Al, a Minnesota Baseball Hall of Fame member, was postmaster. His mother, Geraldine, previously a high school principal, worked for her two brothers at a bank and real estate agency. The brothers, Gutzke’s uncles, were also farmers, and Gutzke hauled hay, cleaned bins, and tended cattle for them in the summer.
His father died of cancer when Gutzke was just 16, and his mother died, also of cancer, in 1988.
A three-sport Lakers standout, Gutzke was inducted into the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted Sports Hall of Fame this year. He was a captain and all-conference performer in football (safety, tight end), basketball (forward), and track (hurdles, long jump, relays). He was also the homecoming king.
Mark Graham, Gutzke’s uncle, assumed the role of family patriarch, and gave the youngster, still reeling from his dad’s death, some crucial post-high school advice.
First, Graham recommended that David attend a prep school out east, Phillips Andover Academy, before college.
Gutzke thrived that year in Massachusetts, bolstering his academic discipline, starring in football and track, packing on 25 solid pounds, making interesting friends like John F. Kennedy Jr., and earning the school’s Schubert Award for athletics and character.
“I could have gone anywhere, after that,” Gutzke said of his football career. He heard from several colleges, including Princeton.
Graham told him. “If Princeton wants you, don’t come back here. Don’t visit anywhere else. There’s lots of families out East who’d give their right arm to get their kid into Princeton.”
So he headed for New York. At Princeton, the 6-foot-3-inch, 210-pound safety was an All-Ivy his senior year. His career highlight was making two interceptions and 14 tackles in a victory over Harvard when his cousin, Kevin Graham made the trip to watch a game. “The downside of playing at Princeton was none of my friends could see me play, so that was special when Kevin made the trip,” Gutzke said.
The Vikings signed him as an undrafted free agent in 1981. He lasted until the next-to-last cut. Coach Bud Grant was nice about it. “He answered all my questions. He said the league was looking more for smaller and faster defensive backs,” Gutzke recalled.
One consolation was the equipment manager sneaking him a bag as he left, telling him not to open it until later. The bag contained his Vikings practice jersey, which he still has.
With the Vikings, he got to know several of the established players and made one lifelong friend, the standout offensive tackle Tim Irwin. Along with other Vikings, they would go hunting in the Waverly area and get a nice meal afterward from Gutzke’s mom.
Irwin, now a judge in Knoxville, TN, delivered an emotional tribute at Geraldine’s funeral in 1988, and wrote one of Gutzke’s letters of recommendation for the AD position this year.
Shaking off the Vikings disappointment, Gutzke moved on to his business career, earning his masters in business administration degree at the University of St. Thomas, then working on Wall Street for six years.
He returned home when his mother became ill, and has remained in the area. He lives by Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis with his wife, Jeannette and daughter, Annika, a freshman at Blake School, who participates in lacrosse and rowing.