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Eric Peterson, Published May 18 2010

MSUM athletics: Q&A with Doug Peters, athletic director

Minnesota State Moorhead athletic director Doug Peters is nearing the end of his third year on the job – a year that has been filled with change. The Dragons have changed head coaches in two of their highest profile sports – football and men’s basketball.

MSUM also started the year with a new head wrestling coach.

The athletic department faces an uphill climb in funding as MSUM ranks last in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference in athletically related student aid. At the same time the university is trimming its budget.

Meanwhile, Peters said work still continues on trying to launch a Division I ice hockey program at MSUM.

In the last year, you have changed your head football coach and your head men’s basketball coach. What’s the importance in getting the right people in those positions?

The first people you think of when you think of institutions, if I were to say to you Duke? Who do you think of first, it would be Mike Krzyzewski. If I were to say to you Michigan State, they would say Tom Izzo. If I were to say to you Penn State, they would say Joe Paterno. Those are two high-profile positions within our institution and we’ve got to make sure we’ve got the right people with the right values in those spots.

Do you feel you’ve put your stamp on the program based on some of your recent hires?

I’ve hired people, and I’ve hired people who I thought would be the best fit to take Dragon athletics where we want it and the best fit for our institution. Obviously, a lot of those decisions are my opinion and my feelings, including a lot of thoughts and opinions from other people. But at the end of the day I’m the guy who makes the decision. So yeah, it has my stamp on it. Over time we will tell if that’s a good stamp or bad stamp.

How much pressure do you feel to make the right hire in those higher profile jobs like football and men’s basketball?

It doesn’t matter whether it’s an assistant swimming coach or whether it’s the head football coach, I feel the same pressure. Because the No. 1 way that I can influence and change this athletic department … is make sure we hire the right people.

Where are you at with Division I hockey?

Division I hockey is something I still believe is the right idea and the timing is right as well. We continue to work on it and college sports is continuing to evolve, especially at the Division I level and we’ll see where this happens. We’re still in some ways in the same spot when the idea became public. … Now we’re just trying to continue to work to position ourselves to be the institution that brings Division I college hockey to the Fargo-Moorhead area.

How much work has been done behind the scenes toward Division I hockey in recent months?

Quite a bit, it’s something that we’ve worked very hard on. Again, there is a lot of work to be done. It’s just not as public as some of the other things that have been done. … Really it’s trying to keep in the loop on some of the changes that are happening in college sports. … College sports is changing at a very quick pace and it’s just trying to keep ourselves positioned in the loop as we continue to try to put all the variables in place to add hockey.

So even though it’s been quiet the last few months, you’re still committed to starting a Division I hockey program at MSUM?

I’m still committed. I still believe it’s the right idea. … It doesn’t do anybody any good if we aren’t meticulous and aren’t very strategic and very thorough in the process, and don’t do it the right way and it fails.

What would you say to those who argue, that with your existing challenges, you’re wasting your time chasing Division I hockey?

Part of it is that Division I hockey is a game changer. If you’re able to execute that it accomplishes everything that you want to accomplish. It raises the overall profile of the institution. It creates extra revenue that takes care of the rest of the athletic department. It is one of those ideas that it’s not just about adding a sport it’s about changing the dynamic of the athletic department. … At the same time, it doesn’t mean we are not working on the other things as well.

What do you think are the chances that Division I hockey happens at MSUM?

I think there is a good chance of it happening. Of course, there is always a chance of it not happening. … I don’t have that crystal ball to predict what’s going to happen in the future.

When you were hired, two of the goals you set at that time were to increase scholarship funding and create a larger following for the athletic department. How do you think you’ve done in those two areas?

We’ve improved. … Our attendance has increased. We now have a student fan club called Nemzek Noize so I’m excited about that. The goals still remain the same. You can see them taped up on my wall up there as far as increasing resources, building better relationships and clearly defining roles of responsibility. Everything we’ve done in the last three years has been geared into those three strategic planning areas.

What changes and/or accomplishments are you most proud of in your first three years on the job?

I think if you had to pick one thing I’m proud about it would be that more people are involved in working together to make Dragon athletics successful. … What we’ve started to see in the past three years is the community pulling together around Dragon athletics and that is what I’m most proud about. It’s been more inclusive. We’ve got more people involved.

What areas do you think need the most work moving forward?

The areas that need to most work are building the foundation and the infrastructure for a strong athletic department. I’m not just trying to build an athletic department for a year. That’s not our goal. It’s to build an overall strong foundation for a program that will sustain over time. … The obvious one is trying to increase scholarship funding.

Through three years, are you satisfied with where the athletic department is at and the progress that has been made?

I’m never going to be satisfied. That’s just the way I work. I don’t think I have been satisfied with anything I’ve ever done. … but I’m excited today as I was on the very first day I came to work here.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.