All posts by Puck Swami

Longtime University of Denver fan and alumnus.

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

DU vs. CC: Puck Swami’s Updated Rivalry Primer

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In 2016, DU beat CC 4-1. before 35,000 fans at Coors Field in Denver. Photo: LetsGoDU

Puck Swami, the Internet moniker of a longtime DU fan and alumnus, has previously offered this basic compendium of DU/CC rivalry thoughts back in 2016 and 2017.  He has updated the story here to reflect the current season, as a prelude to this weekend’s Gold Pan series.

The DU vs. CC rivalry is one of the very best athletic rivalries in the state, and one of the top five in the sport of college hockey. This year, the final two games of the series take on increased meaning, as the Pioneers can retain the Gold Pan trophy for the fifth year in a row with a win in either game or two ties this weekend against an improved CC team, which tied the Pios twice back in December of 2017.   Continue reading DU vs. CC: Puck Swami’s Updated Rivalry Primer

Five Denver Pioneers to compete in 2018 Olympic Winter Games in South Korea

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Troy Terry (DU’19) is one of  only four NCAA players to make the US Olympic Ice Hockey Team (Photo: University of Denver)

Your University of Denver Pioneers will be very well-represented when the Olympic Winter Games begin in Pyongchang, South Korea later this February 9th-25th, with five Crimson and Gold athletes set to compete, representing four different countries and two different sports. Continue reading Five Denver Pioneers to compete in 2018 Olympic Winter Games in South Korea

Puck Swami: A Great Victory for Pioneer Fans, but Big Challenges Still Remain

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We at LetsGoDU were delighted with yesterday’s news that the DU Chairman of the Board of Trustees had sent an email to at least one alumnus announcing that the Pioneer nickname was staying, and inviting the alumnus to share the news. DU also came out with a new internet home page, which reads “We are University of Denver. We are Denver Pioneers”. While these are certainly significant, it is notable that home pages are (obviously) easily changed, and an email to one alumnus is not the same as a public statement. We continue to encourage the Chancellor and Board of Trustees to make a more declarative public statement that can be pointed to in the future. Indeed, with all the communications tools and administrative staff in DU’s arsenal, it is clear they should not have to rely on an alumnus to share their statement.

Still, we are delighted with DU’s preliminary steps.

Our sources tell us that the threat to the Pioneer name was not only quite real, but very imminent. LetsGoDU had to move very quickly to find its voice and to tell this story, be dogged and determined throughout, and had to work very hard to help our readership to respond in an effective way. Thank you to the team of experienced communicators who got this story out, and to all of you readers for responding and letting the administration become aware of the power of Pioneer alumni and fans.

We don’t know how long the name will stay Pioneers, but this will serve as a powerful reminder that any future change to our nickname will be met with overwhelming opposition.

It also will serve as a different kind of reminder to DU – that in the age of social media and nearly instant two-way communications, it is unwise for DU administrators to attempt these kinds of major identity changes without alumni involvement. It’s no secret that many of the DU senior leadership team avoided interacting with us. Either they underestimated the level of passion that we alumni and DU sports fan have about our school identity, or they didn’t want to hear it. Hopefully, this episode has helped them learn that they need to reach out to us the right way, instead of excluding us.

And LetsGoDU and its readers have reminded them that we’re all watching what they do and how they do it, and when they mess up this badly, they will get called out.

But frankly, this is no time to gloat. We still have many issues with the DU administration that need to be addressed going forward. To know that members of the Chancellor’s senior leadership team were actively undermining our Pioneer identity is still deeply concerning to us. We don’t think that should be in anyone’s DU job description.

We hope that there will now be some accountability for the arrogant overreach we have all witnessed. Inclusive Excellence has merit, but it needs to be practiced in an inclusive way that includes all of the DU community, not just for those who claim oppression. We hope DU will redirect those IE people who reductively sought to damage our traditions toward more productive concerns, such as outreach, scholarships, mentorships and opportunities. Senior administrators should never have a carte blanche to simply attack everything they don’t like, or to enlist students to work against the interests of the DU larger community. They should practice unity and not division.

Secondly, the additional allegations of DU senior leadership team malfeasance regarding the anti-Boone “mask” policy has left that policy exposed and without any moral credibility. Accordingly, we hope that the Board of Trustees will revisit the policy during their meetings this week. In light of the disingenuousness LetsGoDU exposed, and the shady back story of how it was created for reasons other than safety, as well as the surge of alumni goodwill that can be anticipated if the policy is revoked, we hope the Board will rescind this debunked policy. The sooner the Board throws it out, or at least makes an exception for a vetted Boone, the more credibility they will gain with their largest audience.

Finally, the appearance of administrative deceit, honor code violations by high level DU administrators and staff, and the ignoring of alumni and fans in this process are hugely concerning to all of us. We hope DU will use what it has learned to clean up its house so that we can trust our university again.

It should be known and remembered that we didn’t choose this fight. We became forced to fight for our 93-year-old Pioneer identity when we were betrayed by our leadership. DU is a much better place today as than it was a few weeks ago, and while we hated revealing some of the things we were forced to reveal, we know that we were right to do it. University employees who lived in fear of the University’s Inclusive Excellence shadow have reached out to us to let us know how thankful they are to us, as they lived in fear of retribution if they spoke out. Indeed, this would be a very good time to look at IE in a much more critical way. For all the good things that it can create, there is a dark side to it that stunts free speech, kills diversity of thought and, apparently, can turn capable administrators into seditious community-dividers.

We look forward to the healing that must take place, but we also remind everyone that we should never have to experience dishonesty, malfeasance and deception from our own leaders.

We hope that DU will work hard to restore our confidence following the betrayals we have experienced as this episode has unfolded.

We also hope that the Board of Trustees will address the contents of this column in their meetings, and will take the actions it needs to take.

DU needs to be better, and we all play a part in that.

Puck Swami is the Internet moniker of a long-time DU fan and alumnus. Her shares his views periodically here at LetsGoDU.

 

 

PUCK SWAMI: Saying goodbye to Pioneer Hockey Champion Jim Wiste

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Over 1,000 people, ranging from famous NHLers to Campus Lounge bar regulars, came to say goodbye to former Pioneer Captain Jim Wiste (1946-2018) at a touching memorial service on the ice of the University of Denver’s Magness Arena on January 11th.

DU and Wiste’s family put together an impressive tribute, complete with on-ice floral displays, an excellent video of Wiste’s life (shown on the scoreboard), and a post-event reception with extensive photos of Wiste’s life well-lived — as hockey player, entrepreneur, tavern-owner and host, husband, father, and grandfather. Continue reading PUCK SWAMI: Saying goodbye to Pioneer Hockey Champion Jim Wiste

Recapping DU’s Top 10 Incredibly Terrible Mascot Screw-Ups Since 1998

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The University of Denver has a long and utterly shameful history of mascot-related mistakes over the last 20 years. Each of DU’s Chancellors since 1998 has stumbled badly in this arena, and the more they try, the worse it seems to get. With this awful 20-year track record, careening between bumbling and failure, many of us can now surely feel secure in the knowledge that DU knows exactly what it is doing when it comes to this subject. The screw-ups read like a comedy and taken together, serve as a veritable, multi-year case study of incompetence —  how NOT to handle University mascots and associated identity issues. Continue reading Recapping DU’s Top 10 Incredibly Terrible Mascot Screw-Ups Since 1998

Jim Wiste, Pioneer Captain, 1946-2018

Most of you know by now that former Denver two-time all-American Hockey Captain Jim Wiste passed away this week from heart issues at the age of 71. Wiste, who co-captained the 1968 NCAA Champion Pioneers had a solid professional hockey career in the NHL and WHA after winning the NCAA title at DU. But he was perhaps best known around Denver as the owner of the venerable Campus Lounge, a Denver neighborhood tavern, for the 40 years between 1976 and 2016.

Wiste was part of the very first wave of college players to go from college hockey to NHL hockey in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and the plucky center managed to save enough money from his hockey career to buy the Campus Lounge when his hockey playing days ended. Continue reading Jim Wiste, Pioneer Captain, 1946-2018

Denver Pioneers Rout Boston College, 6-1 to Complete Boston Weekend Sweep

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DU’s Henrik Borgström had two goals for Denver against BC. Photo: University of Denver

In their most complete game of the season to date, the #1-ranked Denver Pioneers (4-0-2) exploded for three-goal third period to rout #19th-ranked Boston College, 6-1, before nearly 5,000 fans at Conte Forum in Chestnut Hill, Mass. The win over BC, when coupled with DU’s Friday 4-3 win over Boston University, sent a strong national message that the Pioneers are the team to beat this season.

“Looking at our team, that was the best performance of the year especially offensively,” said Denver coach Jim Montgomery after game.  “We really showed skill tonight. We made a lot of plays and were really good at managing the puck…We executed great on everything…From our goaltender out, our communication was the best I’ve seen it all year as far as talking and puck support.”

Denver’s all-America candidates stepped up and led in a big way, as Finnish sensation Henrik Borgström had two goals, including the eventual game-winner. Troy Terry had three assists on the evening and Dylan Gambrell scored a goal and added a pair of assists to pace the Pioneer attack, joining the elite 100-point club for DU career scoring.  DU defenseman Blake Hillman also potted his first two goals of the season to help the Pioneers, and Tyson McLellan scored his first of the season for the other Pioneer marker on a feed from Gambrell.

“Denver has dynamic players,” said Boston College coach Jerry York. “They may be better [this year] than they were last year.”

Denver had jumped out to a 3-0 lead after the first two periods, and looked to cruise to victory, but BC clawed it’s way back into the game with a lone power play goal coming on a tip by Christopher Brown 1:45 into the third period to cut the DU lead to two goals. But the Pioneers responded with three unanswered goals in the third to blow the game open and complete the Boston sweep.

The Pioneers travel to Kalamazoo, Michigan next weekend to open NCHC play against Western Michigan.

Denver and Notre Dame Skate to 2-2 tie in Season-Opener in South Bend

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Notre Dame Freshman Goalie Dylan St. Cyr had 46 saves as the game’s first star. Photo Courtesy: University of Notre Dame

University of Denver sophomore all-American Henrik Borgström scored both goals, but the #1 ranked defending NCAA Champion Pioneers had to settle for a 2-2 tie with the #4 ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish in a re-match of last year’s NCAA hockey semifinal before a near-capacity crowd of 4,478 fans at Notre Dame’s Compton Family Ice Arena in South Bend, Ind.

The Pioneers (0-0-1), playing in their season opener, did get an extra sense of reward with a fourth-round, post-overtime shootout win on a top-corner wrist shot by freshman Kohen Olischefski, but that was all for fun, as the NCAA does not recognize shootout wins in regular season play.

The Irish, (2-0-1), who had the benefit of two prior games last weekend, can be excited that a game in which they were badly outshot by DU, resulted in a tie.

“I was really happy,” said DU coach Jim Montgomery after the game. “I thought that was by far the best first game, in my five years here, that this Denver team has played. I thought we played fast and possessed pucks. In the second period, you know, you’re playing a top-five team. [Notre Dame] came back and they got into the game and then it was a really…for the first game of the year…that was a great hockey game. The exciting part is that hopefully we can grow from this and get better. There’s a couple areas we weren’t great at, but overall I was really happy with our effort and our execution.”

A tension-filled third period was filled with heroics in the final minutes, and as the game wound down, it looked like the Pioneers would win it, as they had three times as many final period shots as the Irish. Borgström’s power-play goal (his second goal of the game) at the 14:38 mark of the third period had sent the Pioneers ahead 2-1 on a gorgeous cross-ice feed from winger Troy Terry, who had split two Notre Dame defenders to set up Borgström on the doorstep, as the Pioneer bench erupted with excitement.

However, the Denver lead didn’t last long, as the Irish were able to equalize the game at 2-2 with Andrew Oglevie’s own power-play goal from between the circles with 4:39 remaining in the third period, the result of an interference penalty call on DU’s Blake Hillman that Montgomery questioned after the game.

The Pioneers, using superior speed, outshot Notre Dame in all three periods of regulation time for a 46-22 total, including 21-7 in the third period, but the heavier Notre Dame squad had the better shot opportunities in the overtime, outshooting the Pios, 7-2 in the extra five minutes, including one shot that clanked off the DU crossbar that almost ended the game as a Notre Dame victory.

The game had started out as a first-period track meet, with up-and-down action with no penalties and no icing calls. While the Pios dominated the shots in the opening frame, it was the Irish who drew first blood with a Jack Evans goal, which came from a juicy rebound of ND’s Cam Morrison’s long wrist shot at the 14:01 mark, a rebound that had bounced off DU goalie Tanner Jaillet’s leg pad straight to Evans in front of the DU goal.

But the Pios took that Irish punch to the nose personally, and roared back just 15  seconds later, as Borgström combined for for a nifty give-and-go with Adam Plant to tie at the game at 1-1. Borgström had carried the puck into the ND zone, dropped a pass to Plant, who ripped a perfect pass back to Borgström, who had faded into the ND left face-off circle. As Plant’s pass arrived, the Finnish sensation rifled a one-timer high into the Notre Dame goal to beat Irish goalie Dylan St. Cyr to silence the ND crowd from the celebration of Evans’ goal that was being announced to the crowd at the same time Borgström tied the game for the Pioneers.

The 1-1 tie scoreline held up until the third period, with the Irish getting increasingly physical in an attempt to slow down the faster Pioneers.

“[Denver] had a lot of shots,” said Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson after the game. “But until maybe the third period at times, I thought that Dylan (St. Cyr) didn’t have to make great saves. He had to make some late in the game, which is really important for a good goaltender. I thought we did a good job without the puck, but we could do a better job with it. That would be my big takeaway from tonight’s game.”

St. Cyr is the son of Manon Rheaume (the first female goalie to play in an NHL exhibition game back in the 1990s), was voted first star in the game with his 46 saves on the night. Borgström was named second star by scoring both Pioneer goals to open what figures to be his final Pioneer season before joining the Florida Panthers, who selected him in the First Round of the 2016 NHL Draft.

The Pioneers also got strong play from wing Liam Finlay, who had seven shots on goal and center Tyson McLellan, who went 13-3 in the face-off circle.

DU and Notre Dame play in the series finale tomorrow at 4 pm MT, with the telecast on NBC Sports Network.

 

 

 

Puck Swami: DU Athletic leadership change offers new Vice Chancellor possibilities

Screen Shot 2017-08-27 at 11.01.04 PM(Photo Credits: University of Denver (Grahame, Peck), Swarthmore College (Akotaobi), Tulane University (Macneill), St. Cloud St. University (Weems), Blacktop Colorado (Willis)

We’ve now had a few days to process the major change in athletic leadership coming our way as DU fans: DU Vice Chancellor for Athletics and Recreation Peg Bradley-Doppes announced her retirement at the end of the 2017/18 school year.  While longtime DU Deputy Athletic Director Ron Grahame is taking over the athletic director’s day-to-day responsibilities immediately, DU also announced that a nationwide search would take place this year to ultimately fill the vice-chancellor’s position that Peg has filled so well for the last nearly 15 years. Continue reading Puck Swami: DU Athletic leadership change offers new Vice Chancellor possibilities