February 23

Karlton Creech, the new UMaine athletic director

A question-and-answer session digs into his past, and the future.

By Mark Emmert memmert@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

ORONO — There are plenty of weighty issues awaiting Karlton Creech, the new University of Maine athletic director.

Creech, who assumed his duties in Orono on Feb. 10, has extensive experience in fundraising from his days at North Carolina and North Carolina State.

Other aspects of his job – upgrading facilities, hiring and supervising coaches – will be new to him.

But first he’s trying to fit in at his new university, and that starts with a quick immersion into hockey. The good news for Maine? The Black Bears men’s team is 3-0 in games Creech has attended, including a sweep last weekend of Merrimack. And Creech showed during an exclusive interview with the Maine Sunday Telegram at his office a week ago Friday, that he’s already familiar with the star players.

Asked for a prediction for that night’s game, he didn’t hesitate to proclaim a big victory for the Black Bears. Naturally. But who will score the winning goal, Creech was asked. Again, no hesitation: “Devin Shore,” he answered, referencing the team’s leading scorer.

Maine did win that night, but only 2-1, and Ryan Lomberg scored both goals. Creech, 41, and his wife, Staci, were all smiles at the postgame interview session, soaking up the atmosphere at their new home.

In a 26-minute conversation, Creech was candid about what he knows – and what he has yet to discover – about his new role. He spoke about Maine’s facilities, its strong hockey tradition, its moribund men’s basketball program, a scandal currently enveloping his former employer, North Carolina, and more.

MST: What were some of your childhood memories of sports? Were you a big sports fan growing up?

KC: Absolutely. When you grow up in a town like Chapel Hill, you’re just infused with college athletics and the pageantry and the excitement of all of it. My parents actually didn’t work in the university at all, but we went to games growing up and had season football tickets. And back then the basketball team played in Carmichael Auditorium, which was a really small arena and so tickets were at a premium back in the Michael Jordan days and all that. And so I didn’t get to many basketball games until they moved into the Smith Center in ’86. But yeah, it was just a big part of growing up in a college town, a lot like it is here. And so a lot of my fond memories growing up are around a football Saturday or a basketball game. And so I think that’s why, I wasn’t quite good enough to play sports in college, but just always was with me. And it was kind of a big reason why I chose a career in it.

MST: You said you wanted to be an engineer originally. So a career in sports, when did that formulate?

KC: So I graduated (from North Carolina State), I didn’t end up with an engineering degree, I ended up with a political science degree. I had one of those ‘aha’ moments kind of in a basement lab one night working on some programming and I said, “No, I’m not going to be an engineer.” So I graduated with a political science degree. And I actually had a friend when I graduated, a guy who was working at the Carolina ticket office. He was a couple of years older than me. So I was just looking for a job and he called me and said, “Hey, we’ve got an internship. Why don’t you apply for this internship?” And so I did. And I had met Staci, Staci was on the golf team at Carolina and so we had been dating a little bit. So that interested me, staying around the athletic department, staying around her. And so I got the job and 18 years later I’m an athletic director. I’m proud of, I just kind of worked my way up. I didn’t have a big pedigree as an athlete or an insider helping me. So I just kind of took opportunities as they came to me and made the most of them, and just tried to work hard and do my best.

(Continued on page 2)

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