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New interim athletic director looks to make a difference

It was announced on Feb. 19 that the University of Maine’s athletic director Karlton Creech would be leaving the state of Maine to pursue a new adventure as the Vice Chancellor for Athletics, Recreation and Ritchie Center Operations at the University of Denver. After four years as the athletic director at UMaine, Creech will now oversee the University of Denver’s Division I teams, along with the school’s recreation program, the fitness center and other areas, effective May 1. With the departure of Creech, however, there comes an opportunity for someone new to step in.

After the announcement of Creech’s departure, the university announced that Jim Settele, the current chief of staff to the retiring President Susan J. Hunter, will serve as the interim athletic director, which took effect March 12.

Now, with a few weeks under his belt, Settele is ready for the task, no matter how long he will serve as the interim athletic director.

“I’m jazzed to be the interim athletic director, I’m excited. For me, this is the best job on campus, for anybody. Seventeen sports, 450-plus athletes, who are some of the coolest people on campus, helping coaches develop those people, working on the image of Division I sports for the University of Maine and the state of Maine. Last week was my first week and I got to go to Texas with the women’s basketball team and hang out with 13 wicked cool student-athletes and a couple of really neat coaches. Are you kidding me?” Settele said with a chuckle.

With Creech’s announcement made in February, the university had to name a replacement who was qualified and knew what they were doing.

“I was the Director for the School of International Affairs, which is the graduate program for Global Policy, so that was the first opportunity I got coming out of the Navy, so that went well,” Settele said. “Then, President Hunter was looking for a chief of staff and I had done it for the Secretary of Defense so she figured if I did it for them, then I could do it for her. I did that for a little over two years and so I’ve worked closely with President Hunter and I worked closely with the former AD [Karlton Creech]. I’ve spent time with all of the coaches, I know all of the donors, so when President Hunter needed to find an interim or a full-time AD, she thought it would be best for the new president to pick the new AD. So, long story short, she thought I would be a good fit for the interim position.”

Prior to arriving at UMaine, Settele was a member of the U.S. Navy, where he served for 27 years and achieved the rank of Captain in 2009. He was also the head of Operations and Policy and Strategy for all Naval Forces, Marines and Navies in Europe, Africa and Russia, while living in Italy.

“I stayed in the Navy for one job and one job only, and it was going to be a job that was going to take me to New England and it was the head of Navy ROTC here at UMaine, Maine Maritime Academy and Husson. So, they gave me that job and we moved here,” Settele said.

With a long career in the U.S. Navy under his belt, Settele believes that those years serving will be more than helpful in his time working with Maine athletics.

“First of all, there is no question in my mind that my serving will help me with this job. I liken what I did in the Navy commanding a squad on board an aircraft carrier taking care of operations, to what coaches do here with their athletes. When you have to motivate young people in the Navy, there is a lot of coaching there. There is a lot of correlation between what I did in the  Navy, motivating young people to complete a mission, and coaches who also have to motivate young people on the fields, on the pitches and on the courts,” Settele said.

As a former rugby player and wrestler and the current liaison for the UMaine football team for the past 10 years, Settele has an understanding for the world of sports.

“I’m a longtime rugby player, which is not an NCAA sport here. It is at some institutions. My NCAA experience is limited, I went to the Naval Academy, which is where I graduated from. I wrestled the first year, I was a state champ coming from New Hampshire, finished well in New Englands and when I got to school, I pretty much learned that New Hampshire kids aren’t going to make varsity there. So, I did that for a year and then I started playing rugby for 25 years after that in places like England. I was on the All-Navy Team. I also coached the rugby team at the Naval Academy. I went back for a tour there,” Settele said.

With the departure of Creech comes Settele’s time to shine, as he takes on a new role and embarks on a new journey in the athletic community.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for him to go to Denver. It’s a step in a different direction. Denver is a program that has won a couple national championships with the men’s hockey team and lacrosse, so they have some great programs. It’s also an opportunity here to bring the program that he has kind of laid the foundation for, to the next level. So, I think the departure is good, good for Karlton and I think it will be good for Black Bear athletics,” Settele said.

After his term, Settele will return to his position as executive director of UMaine’s School of Policy and International Affairs (SPIA).

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