MARQUETTE - University of Alaska Fairbanks athletic director Forrest Karr is returning to the lower 48 states as the next athletic director at Northern Michigan University.
The announcement of Karr's hiring this morning caps a four-and-a-half-month process that was put on hold when former NMU President Les Wong announced May 10 he was leaving to assume the presidency at San Francisco State University.
Karr was the original recommendation made by Wong on May 4 to the NMU Board of Trustees; however, an offer was not extended until Tuesday after NMU Interim President David Haynes completed his own evaluation of the three finalists.
Despite the shakeup and turmoil - which included a heated debate among the trustees over Haynes' appointment - Karr never wavered on his interest in taking over Wildcat athletics.
"The process has been intense, a few months long and I've enjoyed all the people that I've met," Karr said Tuesday evening from California. "Each step - even though it ended up going a little longer than everybody probably thought - I just met that many more good people. I'm really looking forward to it."
Karr beat out 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.
Like the Wildcats, the Nanooks compete in the Central Collegiate Ski Association and Central Collegiate Hockey Association with both schools set to join the Western Collegiate Hockey Association starting with the 2013-14 season.
Those conference relationships gave Karr an inside look that wasn't available to the other two finalists, having personally worked alongside former NMU athletic director Ken Godfrey and Steve Reed, the interim athletic director of the last 19 months.
"Maybe it was because I've worked alongside Northern Michigan for the last eight years and we've been on the same side for a number of issues together, kind of fighting for the same things, but I feel like I really do understand what a special place Marquette is and the opportunities and the potential there," Karr said.
"I think both sides, we're going into it with our eyes wide open where the university administration knows me, and knows what they are getting, and I know what the promise, potential and opportunities are. I think it's a really good fit. I'm excited for it."
Karr is a Wisconsin native and former University of Notre Dame goaltender who went on to receive a law degree from the University of Wisconsin in May 2004.
Karr arrived in Fairbanks in August 2004 as the Nanooks' assistant athletic director of compliance and was promoted to athletic director in July 2005.
Karr's resume prior to UAF includes a stint with a sports marketing agency, time as a law clerk for the NCAA, and a job with a law firm that represented the Harlem Globetrotters.
Under Karr, the Nanooks have captured three individual NCAA championships - two in rifle and one in nordic skiing - as well as three consecutive NCAA titles in rifle from 2006-08.
Haynes said in a release issued this morning prior to the 10 a.m. news conference that Karr received tremendous support from those at NMU.
"Forrest Karr is a great fit to be NMU's next athletic director," Haynes said. "He comes into the position with outstanding leadership and management skills. He understands both NCAA Division I hockey and Division II intercollegiate programs, having been involved with both as a collegian and an administrator. He's been innovative and successful at UAF and has more than enough motivation and creativity to take Wildcat athletics to the next level of success."
Karr, who was also given the same title Godfrey held of special assistant to the president, will begin at NMU on June 11, overseeing varsity athletics, recreational sports and the U.S. Olympic Education Center.