Minnesota Duluth hires Northern Michigan's Forrest Karr as next athletic director
A former goaltender at Notre Dame and volunteer goaltending coach for the Wisconsin women's hockey team, Karr brings almost two decades of experience leading NCAA Division II athletic departments that also feature NCAA Division I hockey programs.
DULUTH — The University of Minnesota Duluth announced Wednesday the hiring of Forrest Karr as its next athletic director, capping a speedy search process that began immediately after Josh Berlo was announced on June 2 as the new vice chancellor of athletics at University of Denver.
Karr, 46, brings almost two decades of experience as an athletic director at NCAA Division II institutions that play NCAA Division I hockey. He’s been the athletic director at Northern Michigan University since 2012, and before that, was the AD at University of Alaska Fairbanks. He'll be introduced to Duluth during a news conference at 2 p.m. Thursday at Malosky Stadium.
“UMD is a highly respected university with national championship level success," Karr said in UMD's announcement Wednesday . "I look forward to creating value to help UMD coaches and staff pursue their goals, and finding creative ways to provide a high-quality academic and athletic experience for student-athletes.”
Berlo was UMD's athletic director from April 2013 until he left for NCHC-rival Denver this summer. Senior associate athletic director and senior woman administrator Karen Stromme has been serving as the interim athletic director since Berlo's departure, delaying her own retirement as well as that of her husband, Gary Holquist. They have each been with the Bulldogs for more than 30 years.
"I am so excited to welcome Forrest to the Duluth community and UMD," Stromme said in a statement. "He will build upon our local, regional and national success, all while developing our student-athletes on and off the field of play."
As AD at NMU, Karr has seen the expansion of the Wildcats athletic department from 12 NCAA sports to 17, adding both women’s (golf, lacrosse, wrestling) and men’s (soccer, swimming and diving) sports during an era when other schools are cutting programs. The department has also begun a varsity alpine skiing and an Esports program under Karr.
Karr and the Wildcats researched bringing NCAA Division I women’s hockey to Northern Michigan by participated in a feasibility study in 2018 that was sponsored by the NHL, NHL Players Association and College Hockey Inc. Finances and facilities, however, have so far stood in the way of bringing NCAA Division I women’s hockey back to the state of Michigan for the first time since 2002.
Karr saw both the Wildcats and Nanooks men’s hockey programs through tumultuous times, transitioning both to new leagues. After getting the Nannoks an invite to the Western Collegiate Hockey Association in 2011, he guided the Wildcats through the final stages of their transition from the Central Collegiate Hockey Association to the WCHA in 2012 and 2013.
When the Wildcats and seven other WCHA members announced in 2019 they were breaking away to form what is now the reborn CCHA, Karr led the writing of the CCHA’s new articles of incorporation, and its bylaws.
"Forrest has been a thoughtful and steady leader at Northern Michigan, and has helped pave the way for the new CCHA," said University of St. Thomas athletic director Phil Esten in UMD's announcement. "I have come to appreciate his broad perspective, always keeping the student-athlete experience at the forefront, focusing on the comprehensive impact we can have on their lives and our communities. His high integrity and strong character have served him and others well, and I’m certain that all those associated with Bulldog athletics will flourish with Forrest guiding the ship.”
A goaltender at Notre Dame from 1995-99, Karr worked as an assistant coach with the U.S. National Team Development Program after playing a season in the minor leagues. He was also worked as a volunteer goaltending coach for the Badgers women’s hockey team while he earned his Juris Doctor degree (Doctor of Law) at the University of Wisconsin.
Karr brings both a business and law background to the UMD athletic department, having earned a Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance and Business Economics from Notre Dame. He also graduated from the Sports Management Institute’s executive education program. He’s a member of the State Bar of Wisconsin, American Bar Association Section of Labor and Employment Law, and the Sports Lawyers Association.
As AD of both the Wildcats and Nanooks, Karr oversaw rebranding campaigns at both schools that introduced new logos. According to his official NMU biography , he increased revenues in the NMU athletic department by 67% from 2013-2020. At Alaska, he added a women’s swimming program and helped the Nanooks achieve Title IX compliance.
In 2014, the Alaska Fairbanks athletic department was sanctioned for NCAA violations that occurred during Karr’s tenure as AD of the Nanooks, resulting in postseason bans for the men’s hockey team, men’s and women’s basketball teams and the women’s swimming and diving team. The violations, which were clerical in nature and occurred between 2007-2012 , were self reported by the Nanooks. Alaska Fairbanks was charged with NCAA violations again in March 2022 for violations unrelated to Karr’s tenure.
Karr and his wife, Cara, have two daughters — Callia and Colette.
In 2009, Karr completed the Alaska Wilderness Classic — a 160-mile race through the Alaska wilderness that took he and his teammate seven-plus days to complete.