MOORHEAD — Minnesota State Moorhead Athletic Director Doug Peters is leaving his position at the university, school president Anne Blackhurst announced Wednesday, March 3.
Chad Markuson, the school's deputy athletic director, will take over for Peters in an interim role. Peters will be the executive director at Prairie Heights Community Church in West Fargo. Peters is in his 14th year as MSUM's athletic director and his final day is set for March 19.
"It wasn't an easy decision," Peters said. "I have two things in front of me that I really love and had to pick one."
Peters, 48, said he's going to miss the adrenaline of watching Dragons athletes compete and succeed.
“The championships and the wins are awesome, but they don’t even compare to the experiences I’ve seen our coaches and student-athletes have," Peters said. “I’ve been on a college campus for the last 30 years of my life, I’m definitely going to miss some things.”
Markuson has been with the school since 2011. He served as co-athletic director at MSUM from 2015-2017, while Peters filled a gap in helping with enrollment management at the school.
"I think we’ve got the best head coaches we’ve ever had and I feel great that Markuson will be in the role for the next year and a half because of the continuity and that experience that he brings," Peters said. "I think the engagement of our student-athletes is at an all-time high, not just in competing, but the athletic department."
Markuson’s interim tag is through June 30, 2022. Blackhurst said the university would conduct a national search next spring to find a permanent replacement for Peters.
“Rather than rush to do a search for a director of athletics this spring, we’ll take our time," Blackhurst said. "We’ll be clear about what we need in our next athletic director, the qualities we’re looking for, we’ll do a comprehensive national search. ... In the meantime, we’ll have fantastic leadership from Chad Markuson. It will be a great opportunity for him as well.”
Markuson said he would be interested in retaining the position in a full-time role.
“I think we would be crazy not to consider (Markuson), but we will do a national search and I would think the position would be attractive to a large number of candidates," Blackhurst said.
Markuson said he's focused on continuing the momentum the department built with Peters in charge.
“My primary goal is that in everything that we do we continuously get better," Markuson said. “During this interim time, it’s continuing to build on what we have in place. ... The role of athletics and the impact it can make on the student-athlete is so significant.”
Markuson started his career in athletic administration in 2006 at Upper Iowa before he joined the Dragons athletic department. He said Peters has been a valued mentor.
"The list of his accomplishments will take us forever to compile," Markuson said of Peters. "He has elevated the profile of the athletic department and university at the same time. He’s worked tirelessly to build a model Division II athletic department. He’s done amazing things.”
Peters said he wasn't applying or looking for jobs, but he was recently approached by Prairie Heights about the role he eventually accepted. Peters said the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and challenges associated with COVID-19 didn't play a role in his decision.
Peters added recent budget challenges at MSUM also didn't play a role in his decision to leave the university for a new job.
“Absolutely not," Peters said. "At the end of the day, this is what I’m supposed to do and what I need to do. I know there’s challenges and there’s always been challenges in higher education, but I think there are also opportunities moving forward."
Peters helped increase revenue and scholarships during his time at MSUM. Athletic-generated revenue grew to more than $1 million and scholarship funding went from $434,000 in 2007-08, to $1.26 million in 2020-21, according to MSUM's athletic department. The scholarship equivalencies doubled while Peters was the athletic director.
“I know enough about the entirety of his career to know that he really rebuilt Dragons athletics," Blackhurst said of Peters. "It’s not an exaggeration to say he transformed our athletics program into a consistently successful and consistently competitive force in one of the largest, most competitive conferences in the country. ... It’s hard to overestimate his impact.”