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The Antelope

The Antelope

Kristensen helped shake-up Loper athletic landscape

UNK moved to the MIAA during Doug Kristensen’s tenure. Photo by Jenna Heinz / Antelope Staff

Doug Kristensen has seen drastic change during his time as UNK’s chancellor. The school transformed into a health sciences destination, multiple new buildings have been erected and increased student research and involvement.

Athletically, he’s also seen plenty of change too, as he is set to retire at the end of next month.

When Kristensen started as UNK’s Chancellor, The Lopers were competing in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference. As the conference shifted westward, UNK Athletics decided that it was time to move to a different conference, joining the Mid America Athletic Association.

“I have great respect for Chancellor Kristensen,” Bob Boerigter, former MIAA commissioner, said in an Antelope interview in 2022. “In my last years as commissioner, he was the chair of our CEO group, and he was in essence, my boss.”

The Lopers joined the conference in 2012, under the direction of Kristensen and then-athletic director Jon McBride, who was one of three athletic directors that worked with him. McBride was hired as UNK Athletic director in the summer of 2002, within the first month of Kristensen being on the job. 

During McBride’s tenure, the Loper athletic program added womens soccer in 2009. UNK hosted the NCAA Volleyball Elite Eight in 2005, the NCAA Women’s Basketball Elite Eight in 2008, and the NCAA Wrestling Championships in 2008 and 2012.

After McBride resigned in 2013 in order to focus on his battle with Parkinson’s disease, Paul Plinske was hired from Wisconsin-Whitewater. 

Plinske was involved in high-profile hires across campus, hiring women’s basketball coach Carrie Eighmey and football coach Josh Lynn. Additionally, he was also able to secure multiple high-profile gifts.

However, his tenure is most notable for the elimination of men’s golf, men’s tennis, and baseball. Those sports were cut in February of 2018, in response to a $3.4 million budget shortfall. 

“We have tightened our belts for years, but the current situation has required a more strategic approach to protect academic quality and core campus functions and services,” Kristensen said in the 2018 press release announcing the cuts.

The next month, Plinske was gone, announcing his departure to become the next athletic director at Colorado State University-Pueblo.

“It has been an honor and privilege to serve as director of athletics at UNK for the past five years,” Plinske said in his resignation statement. “I am very thankful to Chancellor Kristensen for entrusting me with this significant leadership opportunity at this great institution. My decision to leave UNK is not taken lightly and is not a result of recent budget cuts. I move on to this new and exciting opportunity knowing I did my absolute best for UNK while serving with passion, professionalism and care.”

The next week, former Loper wrestling coach Marc Bauer was named the interim athletic director. After a yearlong search, the interim tag was removed.

Under Bauer’s time as athletic director, he’s also made high profile hires in Ryan Held (football), Marty Levinson (mens basketball) and Drew Johnson (womens basketball). 

Most notable during Bauer’s tenure was the return of mens tennis in 2022, thanks to a private donor.

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