UAF hires Keiper as interim Athletic Director, Champagne remains Vice Chancellor
FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The University of Alaska Fairbanks appointed Peggy Keiper as the interim Athletic Director in a press release Thursday. Dr. Keiper, a UAF School of Management faculty member, will serve as the interim AD beginning February 1, while Chancellor Dan White and the administration launch a national search for a permanent, full-time Athletic Director.
“I couldn’t be more excited to take the role,” Keiper said at media availability. “I really want to support our current staff, coaches and student-athletes in the process of finding a new Athletic Director.”
Dr. Keith Champagne has been serving dual roles as the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs and Athletic Director since June 2019 when then AD Sterling Steward stepped down from the position after eight months. Champagne will remain the Vice Chancellor of UAF, focusing on enrollment, residence hall, student services, among other duties.
“It is just putting more resources behind the athletics department and it indicates a doubling down on our commitment to the 10 [athletic] programs that we have here at UAF,” Chancellor White said of separating the roles of AD and Vice Chancellor. “I think this is a positive thing for Nanook Athletics and I think it will be a positive thing for the community.”
According to UAF, demands for both the athletic department and the student experience have increased in recent years, which prompted the decision to have full-time dedication to both positions. White hopes to have the permanent Athletic Director position filled by the end of June, opening the application process internally and nationwide.
Keiper is an associate professor and director of the sport and recreation business program at the university and will return to that position full-time when a permanent Athletic Director is hired.
“For me, my heart and passion lives with the sports and recreation business program, and UAF athletics, but I will be going back to faculty after the search is complete,” Keiper reiterated. “I view it as a period to transition to the next full-time Athletic Director.”
Keiper has a doctorate in sports administration from the University of New Mexico and has nearly 10 years of experience within the sports industry. Prior to joining the UAF faculty in 2017, Keiper worked in the sports tourism industry, served as the Director of Business Management for the National Basketball Association Developmental League’s New Mexico Thunderbirds and was as a women’s college basketball assistant coach for Louisiana State University and Lynn University. She was national sales manager for the West Michigan Sports Commission, where she led the commission’s effort to generate economic spending to the Greater Grand Rapids Area and won bids to host six NCAA National Championships with Grand Valley State University and Calvin College, according to the release.
“From an internal perspective, there is a clear investment in athletics from Dan [White], from UAF and state-wide; UAF is committed to athletics and that has been clear to me,” Keiper said of the administration’s continued support of athletics. “You don’t go through financial exigency and keep all of your sports. That is something to me, that there is a clear investment in athletics internally and that has been really great to see. From an external perspective, I think you see the same thing...there are so many groups in the community of Fairbanks that are invested in athletics Those people have been behind athletics since day one and they’re going to continue to be behind athletics and the hope is to get them even more engaged.”
In December, UAF Administration elected to opt-out of the upcoming hockey, men’s and women’s basketball seasons due the logistical challenged imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Nanooks plan to compete in individual, noncontact sports such as rifle, skiing and swimming during the spring semester. The rifle program, who is currently ranked 4th in the nation by the Collegiate Rifle Coaches Association, will continue their season January 15 when they host Texas Christian University at the E.F. Horton Rifle Range on campus. Nordic Ski will see its first action of the year on January 17 when they compete at the Utah Invitational in Salt Lake City. Swimming will compete if there is a season. The Pacific Collegiate Swim Conference has yet to make an announcement on the scheduling or cancellation of their season. After their season was delayed in the fall, the best-case scenario for volleyball is a conference-only schedule in the spring, though many of the same logistical challenges that canceled hockey and basketball are still present.
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