Puck Swami’s Rapid Reaction: DU’s Choice of Maine AD Karlton Creech is a “Safe Hire”

The hiring of University of Maine Athletic Director Karlton Creech as DU’s new Vice Chancellor for Athletics and Recreation looks to be a ‘safe’ hire for the University of Denver, likely to build incrementally on the legacy of the retiring Peg Bradley-Doppes, who spent the last 13 years in the position. Creech begins at DU on May 1, 2018.

DU wanted to hire a “sitting” AD and did just that. Creech will inherit a DU athletic program that is flying high as the best non-football athletic department in the country, but still faces many challenges going forward.

In the world of D-I college athletics, a sitting AD moving from Maine to Denver is seen as something of a lateral move. Creech’s stated leadership style is to put athletes and coaches ahead of himself, and that leadership style was likely very attractive to DU, where current athletic leadership also shares that low-key management style. As Creech has been working at state schools for his entire career, he will certainly understand budget restrictions. That said, DU is a richer school (with a $700+ million endowment in 2018, compared to around $300 million for Maine) that does not have some of the location disadvantages that Orono, Maine must cope with as a rural university in a rural state. DU is also a more successful school athletically than Maine, and Creech won’t have to worry about a money-sucking football program here in Denver.

Creech, who joined Maine as AD in 2014 after 10 years in senior athletic positions at the University of North Carolina, checks many of the key sport boxes that Pioneer fans will care about.  Maine has a very proud tradition in men’s ice hockey (that is on the way up again after a period of stagnation), and Creech’s experience at the school that produced current DU hockey coach Jim Montgomery should be a relief for those DU hockey fans who feared DU might select a new Athletic Director who would not understand hockey’s unique primacy and tradition at DU.

Creech also spent 10 years at the University of North Carolina from 2004-2014, which has recent NCAA basketball and lacrosse championships, a fact that will no doubt be attractive to DU fans who wanted an AD who understands basketball and lacrosse at a high level. Peg Bradley-Doppes also spent time at North Carolina, so I am sure that connection will be a helpful bridge in the transition period. Creech also has a major soft spot for the sport of golf, as his wife was a golfer at UNC, and he also avidly plays the sport himself.

Creech earned his bachelor’s degree at North Carolina State University in 1995, and his master’s degree at Liberty University in Virginia in 2014.

While financial terms for Creech’s DU deal were not disclosed, the DU job will likely be a large pay upgrade for Creech, who was on year two of a four-year deal at Maine, where he had a base salary of $183,855 plus a donor-provided yearly supplement of $25,000 for an annual total salary of $208,855.  At DU, Peg Bradley-Doppes earned about $370,000 in salary and other DU income in 2014, according to DU’s most recently available 2014 form 990. We believe Creech signed a five-year deal at DU.

I look at this hire as a good one — perhaps not transformational or game-changing, but certainly one where we can expect competence and progression. The biggest areas of concern I have from a sports perspective are primarily around Maine’s dreadful basketball performance in the 2014-2018 period, when Creech was there.  DU must improve its basketball program and that is where his attention needs to be. I also have some concerns from a marketing perspective, as Creech does not have experience working with schools in large urban markets. If we were expecting the new AD to fill seats here, it will probably not happen with marketing genius or spending, but rather with winning teams and community engagement.

Peg Bradley-Doppes was certainly the best AD DU has ever had, and her shoes are big ones to fill. She has done much of the heavy lifting already in terms of hiring great coaches (her specialty), facilities, team performance, graduation rates and departmental GPA.  DU still has big work to do in terms of future conference affiliation, creating national basketball relevance and gaining more traction in our own city. The athletic department also faces a punishing financial climate in which DU must compete with schools with many more resources.

Finally, Creech will need to deal with a central DU administration under Chancellor Chopp that has been uneven in how it treats athletics. The Chancellor appears to know the benefits of athletics and supports it in her public words.  But in her budgets, in her antipathy toward DU’s mascot (and possibly DU’s nickname as well) and in her treatment of some within DU athletics, it is clear that more work needs to be done. We hope Creech is up for it, and we’re here to support him!

Puck Swami is the Internet moniker of a longtime DU fan and alumnus. He shares his views here periodically at LetsGoDU. Photo Credit: University of Denver

18 thoughts on “Puck Swami’s Rapid Reaction: DU’s Choice of Maine AD Karlton Creech is a “Safe Hire””

  1. I wouldn’t say Maine’s hockey program has rebounded. The current coach is almost certainly going to be replaced at the end of the season.

    Maine is also looking for a new University President so uncertainty hands over the entire school.

    I would think that the DU AD job is a huge upgrade over the Maine position due in large part to the many successes of PBD. DU would be crazy not to keep her on retainer to handle “Special Projects” if she we’re interested. But I’m guessing she can’t wait to put the DU Upper Administration Shitshow in her rear view window. I’m so sick of those idiots myself.

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  2. Gendron is 16-12-4 this year (.562) at Maine, after last year’s 11-18-4 season, and the prior year’s awful 8-24-6. He’s clearly trending upward, so I think they will keep him.

    And you are right about DU being an upgrade over Maine overall. DU is a $35 million athletic dept, while Maine is around $20 million in budget. My comment about lateral move was more about going from a mid-major to another fellow mid-major, which is how other ADs would look at the move, where a mid-major AD moving to a Power Five school would be seen as more of an upgrade.

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  3. Yes, the Vice Chancellor position is above AD, but Creech will be replacing both Peg and Ron, who are both retiring, as far as I know.

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  4. I am confused why the best non football athletic department in the country would hire an AD from a school that has not been known for any athletics since Jim Montgomery played hockey there. What sports does Maine even play, besides hockey, and how did the AD improve those programs? If the hockey and basketball teams were so bad during his tenure, then what stood out on his resume? I’m not trying to criticize the guy. But even after reading Swami’s article, I still don’t know what he brings to the table. Unless a willingness to let coaches coach makes someone an A+ candidate. You’d think that DU would be in a prime position to hire someone who could be summed up with something more exciting than the word “safe.” Someone whose bio would not need to include the fact that his wife is good at golf. The dude has much to prove. Here’s to hoping that he proves it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. In the old days you’d just promote a former coach to AD and they would occasionally get fired if the football or basketball team wasn’t winning.

      Now days its all about the money. Reel in the donors and you’re set for life.

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  5. I share your concerns. I don’t see much of a record of tangible achievement, nor do I believe he was selected for his achievements. He’s only been a sitting athletic director for four years at a mid-major school with a poor location and a smaller budget.

    I believe he was selected primarily because he fits the existing culture of DU athletics in that the current servant leadership (and coaches) have built, which is a mostly high-functioning, low-key sports culture that graduates players of character, lets the coaches coach, stays in the background and puts people in positions to succeed. My guess is that he was also selected because he is perceived to have the qualities to succeed here internally, given the often prickly nature of the current senior DU administration where it concerns sports, leadership and funding.

    If I were in charge of the search committee, I would have been looking for candidates who have the energy, skill set and experience to help improve DU relative to its biggest remaining athletic issues – those around conference affiliation, building a successful men’s basketball program and marketing college sports in an oversaturated marketplace. I also agree with DG that money solves a lot of those issues, and if he can find the money, it will go a long way. I don’t see him getting much more money from DU than is currently allocated to sports, so he better be a good fundraiser…

    Perhaps Karlton Creech has those skills.

    I hope DU picked the right guy…

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  6. I also think of Maine as a baseball school. It’s been playing since 1881, has won over 1,900 games, and joined division 1 in 1990. Since then, it has appeared in 16 NCAA Tournaments and 7 College World Series. Their baseball stadium holds 3,000 fans which might be more then their hockey rink can accommodate. No, we are not adding baseball as a intercollegiate sport.

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  7. Many AD’s like to put their stamp on a program with a so-called “big time coaching hire”. Luckily, non of the coaches of our revenue sports are currently in trouble with job security.

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  8. I know next to nothing about Orono and the U of Maine, but if I’m Creech I have to feel as though I hit the jackpot here, right? While he’s going from one mid-major to another, the upside has to be huge:

    The Colorado lifestyle
    Moving to a vibrant metropolitan area
    Weather
    Several DU sports already at or near the top
    Chance to really leave a mark and improve DU hoops
    Infrastructure and capital projects

    Obviously there will challenges and pressures, but I can’t imagine Creech can feel anything but elated. Now it’s time for him to go to work.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Oh, I’ve been to Orono, “Come for the desolation, stay for the really awful weather” … I’d accept a position as waterboy to come to DU if I lived there!

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  10. No doubt DU has to be one of the best AD jobs in the country for all the reasons already mentioned. Peg, Ron, and staff have built athletic programs at DU that put it on the top of the heap without many of the pressures of the power 5 conferences. This has all been accomplished in spite of administrations that are ambivalent and largely non-supportive.
    If it weren’t for Dan Ritchie and friends understanding of and belief in athletics as it pertains to alumni engagement and fundraising, DU would be an also ran succumbing to the increasing pressure of the academic elites in the administration to deemphasize sports.
    That being said, we all must hope that Creech has the talent, backbone and fortitude to be strong and stand up to Chopp and her cronies.
    Only time will tell…..

    Liked by 1 person

  11. DU is a model program of mid major athletics. We do it the right way with winning teams, facilities and student athletes who excel on and off the field/court/ice.
    I can’t fault any administration skeptical of an outsized athletic department in relation to a school’s mission, just look at the ongoing news stories of corruption at P5 schools. (Exhibits 1A and 1B: Louisville basketball and Notre Dame football, as well as UNC, Miami, Penn State, Ole Miss, et al.) Academics and research must always be top priority. However, there’s no reason to derail the hard work put in by PBD and cohorts. Continue the support, continue to do it all above board, and continue the Pioneer way.

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  12. It will become quickly evident over the next few years how committed the DU administration is to athletics as they go on a number of capital campaigns and create the DU District. DU still has work to do on facilities to maintain their current status and they need to retain some excellent coaches to maintain that momentum. Creech is going to need to patch up some alumni cracks with the current Pioneer/mask ban fiasco and that takes more than money. It is going to take personality to mend fences with alumni. And, he is going to have to find sources of external funding. It can be done – but lots of work ahead. It feels like an odd hire – but I was not sure about Peg at first and I thought Kerry Cremeans was an awesome hire. Shows what I know…

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    1. “safe hire” bothers me. Safe for the admin because he won’t rock the boat. I certainly hope NOT.. Safe for the student athlete because he will maintain the same dedication that PBD has to excellence. I hope so.
      Safe for those of us who want to see DU athletics win, the right way. I hope so.
      From his time at UNC (basketball in particular) he surely should understand the importance of student, alumni, and fan support and this can only be a plus,

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  13. “safe hire” bothers me. Safe for the admin because he won’t rock the boat. I certainly hope NOT.. Safe for the student athlete because he will maintain the same dedication that PBD has to excellence. I hope so.
    Safe for those of us who want to see DU athletics win, the right way. I hope so.

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