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New NMU AD Karr ready to take action, but not without careful thought

May 31, 2012
By MATT WELLENS - Journal Sports Editor ( , The Mining Journal

MARQUETTE - Former Northern Michigan University President Les Wong and his replacement, Interim President David Haynes, liked the idea that new athletic director Forrest Karr could make an immediate impact on Wildcat athletics having worked hand-in-hand with the 'Cats for the last eight years at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Karr hopes to do just that in his first few weeks with the hockey and football programs. However, the former Nanook AD also knows the importance of thinking things through.

That's why, he said, Northern needs a game plan.

"I think we'll take immediate action. But one thing I learned in Fairbanks, it does really take a year to really understand the environment," Karr said Tuesday from California.

"I know that I'll be making a lot of decisions. I'm used to doing that. I know that I will make some bad decisions. I'll make some that I'll look back on, regret, or say, 'Boy, I didn't understand the full picture or have all the information when I made that decision.'

"I want to limit that mistake," he added. "I know that even with the full information, you're not going to make the perfect decision and sometimes, there's not a perfect answer.

"I don't want to make the mistake of rushing and making decisions without really understanding the culture, the environment and the bigger picture."

Karr plans to pull a page out of the Wisconsin Badgers' playbook upon his arrival in Marquette with a department game plan, something he outlined Wednesday via a video call from California before a crowd of coaches, administrators, supporters and media at an introductory news conference inside the Berry Events Center's Wildcat Room.

Karr's department game plan is based on a document from the UW athletic department - which Karr worked in from 2001-04 as the women's hockey team goaltending coach - that works off of a number of indicators, such as Title IX compliance, conference titles, grade point averages or even minority hiring.

Those indicators are then discussed and prioritized with members of the athletic department, including coaches, administrators and staff members, in small groups to develop a set of yearly goals.

"I want to talk to them about what they think is important to make the whole department successful," Karr said. "What are they seeing as the top five priorities to make the department successful? Whatever keeps recurring or showing up again and again, those will be the indicators that we use.

"It's almost like strategic planning, but I want to look at it in a different way," he added. "The department is a team and this is our game plan for the team."

The departmental game plan does more than provide information to the Wildcats' new AD, but it allows Karr to get to know the men and women he previously interacted with as an opposing AD.

The game plan also gives Karr something he can take to supporters of Wildcat athletics as he attempts to strengthen the department financially.

One of Karr's specialties at UAF was corporate sponsorships, having racked up 80 partners upon his departure from Fairbanks. He hopes to duplicate that success in Marquette.

"The other thing it allows is the corporate sponsors and donors and other people supporting the department to kind of get on board and see what we're shooting for as a team, what our goals are," Karr said.

"They are going to want to support that. I think that people like to give support when you have a plan and are going in a certain direction."

Before Karr can start working on the departmental game plan, though, he has a few important matters to tackle.

The Wildcat football team is looking to secure a non-conference home football game to start the 2013 season, preferably against an NCAA Division II opponent.

Karr plans to work on that as soon as Friday during a meeting with around 30 athletic directors from Division II schools out West.

NMU will host a Division III school, Wisconsin-La Crosse, in Week 2 of 2012.

"I've had a couple good conversations with football coach Chris Ostrowsky," Karr said. "I really enjoyed speaking with him and his plans for the program.

"One of the things we really need to get into place is a non-conference home football game for the 2013 season. The conference schedule is one-game shy."

After that, Karr will join head hockey coach Walt Kyle, Haynes and soon-to-be former interim AD, Associate Athletic Director of Operations Steve Reed, at the WCHA meetings in Detroit from June 12-14.

There, the nine schools that will make up the league in 2013-14 plan to finalize plans for scheduling, postseason play and other league matters.

Karr said the league has moved beyond the subcommittee phase - Reed was a part of marketing subcommittee for NMU while Karr served on the scheduling and postseason play subcommittee at UAF - and is now speaking regularly via conference calls with the most recent happening on Wednesday.

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



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