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Northern Michigan giving fans a voice in athletic director search

April 9, 2012
By MATT WELLENS - Journal Sports Editor ( , The Mining Journal

It's been 15 months since I returned to the Northern Michigan University athletics' beat, which I originally worked for four years from 2003-07 at The North Wind and The Mining Journal as a student at NMU.

One of the top complaints levied by fans this time around is the perceived disconnect between the university and the community.

I say it goes both ways, with some in the community not only having a disconnect with the university, but with reality.

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Like many universities in the country including Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin, NMU will never, ever serve booze at sporting events on campus again, so stop whining about it and put down the bottle, can or red Solo Cup.

Instead focus your energy on things that can be changed such as ticket prices, facilities and game-day atmospheres, just to name a few of the concerns brought to my attention.

Take all of your gripes, and bring them yourself to the next possible athletic director of Northern Michigan University.

Starting Tuesday, NMU will bring to campus the three finalists chosen by its search committee to replace Ken Godfrey, who stepped down in January. The hope is to have one of these three candidates in place as the Wildcats' next AD by May 1.

University of Alaska-Fairbanks athletic director Forrest Karr is the first candidate coming to town, and he'll be available to the public at 3 p.m. on Tuesday.

David Diles, the director of athletics and chair of the Department of Physical Education, Recreation and Athletics at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, will visit a week later and be made available at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, April 17.

The final candidate, North Dakota Senior Associate Athletic Director of External Affairs Sean Johnson, will be available at 4:15 p.m. on Thursday, April 19.

Each candidate will make a public presentation during the listed time and date in the Pioneer Rooms at NMU's University Center detailing their vision for the future of Wildcat athletics, rec sports and the United States Olympic Education Center.

Before each of the candidates' arrival, I will be reaching out to all three in hopes of giving you a deeper glimpse into their time at their respective universities and to go beyond what is printed on their resumes - which are available online at

The first profile - Forrest Karr - can be read in today's paper on 1B.

I also hope to get in contact with their colleagues and the coaches they supervise to get their thoughts on the man that supervises them.

With that information, I encourage every fan of Wildcat athletics to make their voice heard. The university will be providing feedback forms not only on site, but online.

Like those who fail to take part in the democratic process and not vote in local, state and national elections, fans that refuse to voice their opinion have no basis to complain about whoever the search committee recommends and whoever NMU President Les Wong hires as the next AD.

It's the community's chance to show it's not disconnected from the university. In return, hopefully the university proves it's not disconnected from the community.

Together, we all can make sure NMU finds the right leadership for Wildcat athletics.

Matt Wellens can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252.



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