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Godfrey made strong coaching hires as AD 

January 23, 2012
By MATT WELLENS - Journal Sports Writer ( , The Mining Journal

Former Northern Michigan University athletic director Ken Godfrey will not go down as a marketing genius, however, it would ignorant to discount his skills as a salesman.

Don't believe me? Just ask the University of North Dakota, Michigan Tech University, Truman State in Missouri, Cameron University in Oklahoma and most recently, Central State University in Ohio.

Because of Godfrey, every one of those athletic programs were robbed of head coaches with a knack for winning.

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"The real test of a good AD is managing the transitions and then the coaches will deliver the output for you," NMU President Les Wong said. "If you don't manage the transitions well, you just spin downward. Clearly we're not spinning downward."

Since taking over as athletic director in June of 2003, Godfrey has made 10 coaching hires and was a key member of the search committee that lured hockey coach Walt Kyle - with a 176-153-39 record and one NCAA trip - away from the New York Rangers and back to his alma mater.

Of the eight coaches that head up team sports - soccer, football, men's and women's basketball, volleyball, hockey - Godfrey's coaches have compiled a 544-437-54 record with eight trips to the NCAA tournament through the 2011-12 fall sports season.

Godfrey swiped Matt Granstrand from the school in North Dakota formerly known as the Fighting Sioux in 2004. Since coming to NMU Granstrand has won 85 games, been to the NCAA tournament once, was robbed of a bid another time and has grown the soccer program to heights few would think of on the shores of Lake Superior.

Dominic Yoder, who came from Cameron University, is one of three hires Godfrey had to make for volleyball. In Yoder's five years, he's won 96 games and made three trips to the NCAA tournament.

Prior to Yoder, Godfrey stole Qi Wang from Truman State, which went to the 2002 and 2004 NCAA Division II championship games under Wang.

Wang was unable to duplicate his success at Truman State and only lasted two seasons at NMU, going a mediocre 31-23. He did have to follow an NMU coaching legend, however, in Jim Moore, who led the Wildcats to a national title in 1993.

Godfrey brought Moore back for two seasons in which he led NMU to 50 wins, a GLIAC Championship and two NCAA tournament appearances, including a trip to the Elite Eight.

Outside of the traditional team sports, women's track and field coach Tom Barnes and cross country coach Jenny Ryan have both qualified numerous athletes for the NCAA Championships with Ryan's teams making six NCAA Championship appearances.

Second year swimming and diving coach Heidi Voigt appears to be on the same track.

"What people might not see, even in coaching decisions that didn't work out, they moved the program up and forward," Wong said.

Former NMU football coach Bernie Anderson is the prefect example of moving a program forward, despite the former Michigan Tech coach going 25-37 in his six seasons coaching the 'Cats.

While Anderson didn't get the wins necessary to earn a contract extension, he brought the program out of obscurity to a place of prominence in Marquette.

The jury is still out on two of Godfrey's hires, though signs show both programs are on their way up.

After a 9-17 first year, Doug Lewis already has the men's basketball program at 8-9 this year following a signature win over Grand Valley State on Thursday. Based on his upcoming recruiting class, more wins and success are on the way.

As for Troy Mattson and the women's basketball team - which is 72-91 with one NCAA tournament berth from 2005-11 - it too is on the rise after a rocky first few seasons under the former NMU tennis and men's basketball assistant.

"I think the quality of the program is so much higher now," Wong said. "We're winning more than we're losing now."

Godfrey wasn't the most popular hire in 2003 as I learned this week from some who are still disgruntled over his promotion. As a member of the 2003 search committee, Godfrey interviewed a number of outside candidates before being hired for the job himself.

The truth is, NMU wasn't ready for the marketing types that were brought in back in 2003. What NMU needed was a general manager who could help build success.

Godfrey did just that and now, when NMU brings in its business and marketing guru from the outside, that person will have success on and off the field to market.

"(Godfrey) was such an inspiration to really understand what you can do to not only have a quality program, but to also get athletes to graduate," Wong said. "He used to sit next me as we went through coaching changes and he moved for that in really smart ways, with the right values and a sense of Wildcat Nation, to overuse that term. He understood what it meant to have standards, values and to be competitive."

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



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