MARQUETTE - The night before the official announcement, an unnamed source within the Northern Michigan University track and field team tipped The Mining Journal off about the retirement of head coach Tom Barnes and by morning, the story was posted online.
Within hours of the story going live and long before the announcement was officially made by the university, NMU athletic director Forrest Karr had candidates contacting him about becoming the next head of Wildcat women's track and field.
"If you have people out there that are an assistant coach at a college or university somewhere that are interested in being a head coach, they are going to be prepared and have their materials ready," Karr said. "They are waiting for these types of opportunities to show up."
Despite a late start in the summer college coaching carousel, Karr has received a flood of applications from people hoping to replace Barnes and continue the growth of a nationally ranked program entering its 10th season.
Students arrive on campus in just over 20 days, but the next coach will inherit a strong foundation that includes three-time All-American junior pole vaulter Jamie Roberts of Iron Mountain and two-time All-American sophomore triple jumper Sherice Hewett.
Assistant coaches Jenny Ryan - who is currently serving as the interim head coach - and Kevin Kean are also being retained with Ryan handling the paperwork and Kean overseeing the offseason conditioning.
Recruiting is also done for 2012-13, meaning the stage is set for a smooth transition to the program's next head coach.
"This actually is a good time, especially given that we have a strong program," Karr said. "We have a lot of returning student athletes that have done a nice job both in the classroom and competing."
Karr and Ryan said the program is looking not only for its next coach to be a good role model and positive influence, but to fill a gap in coaching specialties.
Ryan, who is also the head women's cross country running coach, specializes in distance events having coached athletes like returning senior Mallory Celaya, who hold school records in the indoor and outdoor 5,000-meter runs, as well as the 3,000-meter steeple chase.
To compliment her specialty, Ryan and Karr said someone with more experience in the jumps, sprints and field events would move toward the top of the list.
"We want to look for someone who is a good role model, someone who is a positive person that looks out for the athlete and the student," Ryan said. "We're going to look a little bit for someone that has experience with the jumps and the sprints and the field events, because I have a stronger side on the distance."
As of Wednesday evening, Karr said the university had received at least 38 qualified applicants for the position. The closing date for applications is Aug. 10.
For his first coaching search as NMU's AD, Karr will use a search committee comprised of himself, Ryan, Roberts, head Nordic skiing coach Sten Fjeldheim, athletic trainer Jason Laxo, faculty athletics representative Julie Rochester, and associate athletic directors Bridget Berube and Steve Reed.
While Karr isn't setting a deadline for making a hire, he did say time constraints will prohibit the department from holding open public interview sessions like was done with the athletic director search or the hiring of head men's basketball coach Doug Lewis.
Karr said the university will go through the a process of written and Skype interviews with a trimmed down field before bringing a select group to campus.
"We are a little late, though its different for different sports," Karr said about searching for a new track coach.
"The outdoor track season goes well beyond the academic year so it actually gets into late spring and early summer. It'd be nice to start the process a little bit earlier, but I don't think we're going to miss out on quality candidates."
Matt Wellens can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252.