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