Peggy Keiper

Peggy Keiper 

University of Alaska Fairbanks Chancellor Dan White has appointed UAF School of Management faculty member Peggy Keiper to serve as interim athletic director for the Alaska Nanooks, the university announced in a statement on Thursday. 

“Starting on Feb. 1, Keiper will succeed Keith Champagne, who has been serving in dual roles as vice chancellor for student affairs and athletic director for the past 18 months. Champagne will continue to serve as vice chancellor. Keiper will report to the chancellor, a structure common at many universities and one that previously existed at UAF,” according to the statement. 

“This is a critical time for athletics at UAF and a time in which full-time dedication to strengthening our programs is needed,” White said, adding that the separation of the two units represents a renewed commitment to providing high-quality and competitive intercollegiate athletics teams in all of UAF’s 10 sports.

“Until recently UAF had a full time Athletic Director ... but for last 18 months we went in a little different direction and worked with a new model,” White said during a virtual news conference Thursday, adding, “I think this is a positive thing for Nanooks athletics.”

White said the university “needs a lot of extra focused attention” on the athletic director position right now, citing upcoming changes to the Western Collegiate Hockey Association and considerations about how the school will manage the Carlson Center moving forward.

Keiper said she is excited to be serving as the interim athletic director but is not interested in being in the position permanently. “I really want to support current staff, coaches and student athletes,” Keiper said.

“My expectation is that the search will commence in the next month and we will shoot to have a full time athletic director in place by June,” White said.

“Where we want to go is up and as an athlete you want to play with a great program,” White said when asked how he’ll market the position to candidates, adding, “Whether UAA has hockey or not, we’re committed to our program and committed to having a nationally competitive program.”

“If UAA doesn’t come back, and we hope they do, but if they don’t that could be positive for UAF,” Keiper added about the uncertainty surrounding the future of the hockey program in Anchorage. Keiper said that could help establish Fairbanks as the place for college hockey in Alaska. 

Keiper is an associate professor and director of the sport and recreation business program in the UAF School of Management. She has a doctorate in sport administration from the University of New Mexico. Prior to joining the UAF faculty in 2017, she had worked for nearly a decade in the sports industry, including sports tourism and the NBA’s minor league system, and as a college women’s basketball coach. 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, the statement said.

“I am fully committed to helping advance the UAF athletics department,” Keiper said. “I am excited to work with the dedicated staff and coaches to enhance community outreach and increase efficiency in the athletics department and ensure a smooth transition between myself and a new athletic director.”

Contact staff writer Sam Ferrara at 459-7575.