The Alaska Nanook Athletic Department will once again be seeing a change in leadership. The University of Alaska Fairbanks announced earlier today that Sterling Steward Jr. was stepping down from the Athletic Director position.
Steward was officially hired as UAF's AD back in August, with his first day being on October 8th. During his eight month stint as Athletic Director, the University underwent many changes, including brand new locker room and team rooms for the Cross Country, Volleyball and Basketball teams. They also announced that the Nanook Hockey Team will be moving from the Carlson Center to campus within the next two years. This news also comes just one day after the university announced that they were hiring Terlynn Olds as the new Associate Athletic Director of Internal Operations and Senior Woman Administrator.
Stepping into the vacant role will be Keith Champagne, the Vice Chancellor for student affairs. Champagne has some experience with the role, having served as Interim Athletic Director at Central Washington University. He will be continuing to serve as the head of the Student Affairs department while also taking on the duties of Athletic Director.
Chancellor Dan White announced the hire in a press release earlier today, saying "In addition to Vice Chancellor Champagne's experience in student affairs, he has a solid background in athletics. I am confident that under his leadership UAF athletics will grow. I look forward to working with Dr. Champagne to establish a solid foundation and vibrant future for UAF athletics."
At a media availability Tuesday, Champagne said that Steward had stepped down in order to pursue other opportunities in the Lower 48, specifically in the south. Champagne, who has been at the helm of many of the coaching hires this past season, said that he would be comfortable in his new role and said that his main focus will be fundraising and adding financial stability to the University.
"As I've said from day one, I've talked about creating a 21st century, modern Athletic Department. And to do that, you have to have a highly functioning fundraising component." Said Champagne, "That's the nature of Intercollegiate athletics at all levels, all divisions. You must be able to raise money and do that in an excellent manner through community engagement and outreach, through a corporate sponsorship, branding, marketing, pouring rights, sponsorship rights... And so that's what we're going to do going forward in Nanook Athletics because that's going to be essential to our survival and our financial stability going forward."
With this most recent shakeup, there have now been seven new hires in the Nanook Athletic Department within the past year.