MARQUETTE - It's been 579 days since then-Northern Michigan University athletic director Ken Godfrey was forced to go on medical leave for acute myeloid leukemia, leaving associate athletic director of operations Steve Reed as the department's interim director.
NMU began its nationwide search for a new athletic director 113 days ago when Godfrey announced his resignation, and 49 days have passed since three finalists were announced.
The first of those three finalists - University of Alaska Fairbanks Director of Athletics Forrest Karr - visited Marquette 31 days ago and 22 days have come and gone since the last candidate -University of North Dakota Senior Associate Athletics Director for External Affairs Sean Johnson - gave his presentation with David Diles, the director of athletics and chair of the Department of Physical Education, Recreation and Athletics at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, sandwiched in between.
From left to right, University of Alaska Fairbanks Director of Athletics Forrest Karr, University of North Dakota Senior Associate Athletics Director for External Affairs Sean Johnson and David Diles, the director of athletics and chair of the Department of Physical Education, Recreation and Athletics at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, give public presentations during the month of April as finalists for the Northern Michigan University athletic director position. Due to David Haynes replacing Les Wong as university president on Thursday, the decision on who will be hired is delayed. Haynes has not set a time frame for when a final decision will come, only that “It’s got to go quick.” (Journal file photos by Matt Keiser)
Seven days ago, then-NMU President Les Wong informed the Northern board of trustees who he was going to hire. But on Thursday, that recommendation was put on hold with Wong's introduction as the next president of San Francisco State University.
Now the decision on who will be the next athletic director of Wildcat athletics rests in the hands of new NMU Interim President David Haynes, so the clock ticks on.
"I'm focused on getting this done," Haynes said Thursday from his car en route to meetings in Lansing. "Taking this to the board and making a recommendation is my top priority besides the budget and meeting people.
NMU AD search timeline:
Oct. 18, 2010 - Athletic director Ken Godfrey goes on medical leave after being diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. Associate AD of operations Steve Reed named interim athletic director.
Aug., 2011 - Godfrey returns to work on a part time basis - with Reed still serving as interim AD - but must go back on medical leave due to complications from graft versus host disease.
Jan. 19, 2012 - Godfrey resigns after being on medical leave for 15 months. A nationwide search is announced to replace Godfrey. Reed says he will not be applying to be the full-time AD.
March 23 - NMU announces the three AD finalists that will be brought to campus in April. NMU received exactly 100 applications for the position.
April 10-19 - Finalists University of Alaska Fairbanks Director of Athletics Forrest Karr, University of North Dakota Senior Associate Athletics Director for External Affairs Sean Johnson and David Diles, the director of athletics and chair of the Department of Physical Education, Recreation and Athletics at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland visit campus and give public presentations.
May 4 - Wong makes his recommendation for AD to the NMU Board of Trustees.
Tuesday - Wong accepts the president's job at San Francisco State University.
Thursday - It is announced Wong is leaving NMU for San Francisco State. David Haynes is announced as the interim president for the next two years and the AD search is turned over to him.
Friday - Two of the three finalists - Karr and Johnson - reaffirm their interest in the position while Diles declines to comment.
"It's got to go quick. I have to get something to the board real quick, but I can't tell you where they are."
Upon naming Haynes as Wong's replacement for the next two years, the chair of NMU's Board of Trustees, Brian Cloyd, said it's the interim president's job to "immediately review both the provost and athletic director searches and to make a recommendation."
Wong has passed along his recommendation to Haynes, who's also soliciting the input of Reed, NMU coaches and the two co-chairs of the athletic director search committee - Julie Rochester, the NMU athletic department's NCAA faculty representative and Dr. Jon Webb of Downtown Eye Care in Marquette.
Haynes also has video calls scheduled for next week with the three finalists.
Johnson and Karr both confirmed on Friday they are still interested in the position, while Diles was unavailable for comment.
In an email from the Sports Lawyers Association annual conference in San Diego on Friday, Karr said the NMU Board of Trustees handled a challenging situation with "prudence and good judgement" and that similar two-year appointments have worked out well for UAF and Alaska Anchorage.
"The Director of Athletics, Recreational Sports and the United States Olympic Education Center position at NMU is a special opportunity and nothing has changed from my perspective," Karr said.
"The department has a long history of success, solid organizational structure, intense rivalries and passionate support. Each step of the search process has represented NMU in a positive way."
Like Karr, Johnson said he is by no means concerned with the shakeup in Marquette, adding "the only constant is change."
"My feelings are still the same for the university - great facilities, great staff, great people," Johnson said. "I think they say the average length of stay for a president is 3-4 years. Dr. Wong obviously did a tremendous job and it's a chance for him to work at another school close to where he grew up.
"He's a great guy. I really enjoyed meeting him. I know he was a big supporter of the athletic department and did a great job at Northern Michigan."
Matt Wellens can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is email@example.com.