Forrest Karr has served as Director of Athletics at Northern Michigan University since June 2012. He leads a department with 17 intercollegiate teams and a campus recreation program that engages over 80 percent of the student body. Karr is in his 15th year overall serving as director of athletics at an NCAA member institution.
In addition, Karr has been teaching undergraduate and/or graduate level courses since 2008. He currently rotates between teaching MGT 221–Business Law and MGT 343–Human Resource Management for the NMU College of Business, and BUS 595–Labor and Employment Law as part of NMU’s Master of Business Administration program. He has also taught as a visiting faculty member for the prestigious Sports Management Institute executive education program.
Karr's current volunteer activities include serving as a shift leader for the Marquette Mountain Ski Patrol, a youth coach for Marquette Junior Hockey, and vice chair of the board of directors for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Marquette and Alger Counties.
Karr is a frequent speaker on sports-related legal topics. He has been a panelist/presenter at the NCAA Convention, State Bar of Michigan Bench Bar Conference, National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) Senior Administrators Mentoring Institute, NCAA Regional Rules Seminar, National Sports Law Institute of Marquette University Law School, Faculty Athletics Representatives Association (FARA) Annual Meeting, American Hockey Coaches Association (AHCA) Convention, University of Wisconsin Law School, and many others.
Karr is a member of the NCAA Drug-Test Appeal Committee and has chaired and/or served on over 120 NCAA drug-test appeals. Since 2015, he has also been a member of the NCAA Division I Concussion Safety Protocol Committee for non-autonomy institutions.
From 2013-17, Karr served on the NCAA Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports. As committee chair from 2015-17, Karr led important national initiatives, including the committee's successful efforts to develop, propose and advocate for the adoption of Independent Medical Care legislation, which established the Athletics Health Care Administrator designation and was passed by Division I in 2016 and Divisions II and III in 2017. As chair, Karr worked with NCAA Sports Science Institute staff to develop and advance nine strategic health and safety priorities, initiate the Institutional Performance Program Health & Safety component, and closely align the NCAA banned drug classes with the World Anti-Doping Agency list of prohibited substances and methods.
In addition, Karr chaired the NCAA Ice Hockey Rules Committee from 2008-10 after serving on the committee from 2006-08.
Karr has also served in a variety of conference leadership positions. From 2016-18, he co-chaired a Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) men's league and women's league joint committee that developed a new governance structure for the association, and rewrote the articles of incorporation and bylaws. Karr also chaired the WCHA Management Council from 2015-16, chaired the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) Management Council and Executive Committee from 2013-14 and led a complete revision of the GLIAC constitution and bylaws, and chaired the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) Management Council and Executive Committee from 2008-09.
Under Karr's guidance, NMU has started four intercollegiate programs: 1) women’s golf; 2) men’s swimming and diving; 3) women’s lacrosse; and 4) men’s soccer. During Karr's time at NMU, student-athletes have earned 103 All-America honors and 72 Honorable Mention All-America honors, six CoSIDA Academic All-America honors, and four individual NCAA championships, including Fredrik Schwencke (men's skiing in 2016), Rachel Helm (women's swimming in 2017 and 2018) and Ian Torchia (men's skiing in 2018). In addition, cross country runner Jaylee Brown was selected as the female Division II winner of the 2014 NCAA Sportsmanship Award and skier Adam Martin earned an NCAA Elite 90 award in 2017.
Karr has hired many successful coaches at NMU, including Jenny Ryan who was named head women's track and field coach in 2014 and earned GLIAC coach of the year in 2018, Grant Potulny who was named head men's hockey coach in 2017 and earned WCHA coach of the year in 2018, and Heidi Voigt who was named head men's swimming and diving coach in 2015 and earned GLIAC coach of the year in 2016 and again in 2018.
Karr has overseen a variety of facilities projects, including construction of the Rick and Nancy Hacht Football Center, the Wildcat Fit Zone to better serve the wellness needs of NMU students, revitalization of the Wright Street tennis courts, a strength and conditioning facility for NMU's weightlifting team, renovation of the Izzo-Mariucci student-athlete study area and state-of-the-art video analysis room, the addition of a four-sided videoboard in the Berry Events Center, an athletic training room, a videoboard in the Superior Dome, a golf simulator, and a media relations building, locker room, scoreboard, and team shelters for soccer.
Karr also led the NMU department of athletics through the process of developing strategic plans in 2013 and 2019, initiated NMU's association with Learfield Licensing Partners, oversaw a rebranding process including the creation of a new logo, helped establish six new endowed scholarships, effectuated a student-athlete drug education and testing policy, and secured partnerships with USA Wrestling, USA Weightlifting and the United States Olympic Committee.
Previously, Karr served as director of athletics and campus recreation for the University of Alaska Fairbanks. During his tenure, Nanook student-athletes won three team NCAA championships and also three individual NCAA championships. In addition, the university set an NCAA attendance record while hosting the 2007 NCAA Rifle Championships and a student-athlete was selected as the male Division II winner of the 2008 NCAA Sportsmanship Award.
While leading the Nanooks, Karr hired three different head coaches who earned conference and/or national coach of the year honors. He also oversaw the addition of a women's swimming program and helped the university achieve Title IX compliance (recognized by The Chronicle of Higher Education in a June 29, 2007 article titled "Turnaround Stories"), established a hall of fame, led several facilities renovation and construction projects, secured an NCAA strategic alliance matching grant, initiated a partnership with the Collegiate Licensing Company, and oversaw a rebranding process, including the development of a new logo. He also worked with the UAF School of Management to start a sports management minor and taught courses in Business Law, Sports Management, Sports Marketing, and Legal Issues in Sports and Recreation Management.
Before beginning his tenure as AD, Karr worked as the department's assistant athletic director for compliance. While in this role, Karr initiated the department's use of the NCAA Compliance Assistant Internet program, completed an Institutional Self-Study Guide, revised the student-athlete handbook, and created the department's first compliance policies and procedures manual for all staff members as well as the first compliance section on the Nanook Athletics web site.
Karr's volunteer service in Alaska included chairing the Board of Directors for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska from 2009-10 and hiring a CEO for the statewide agency, and also co-chairing the 2010 United Way of the Tanana Valley fundraising campaign, which brought in $1,488,763 for Fairbanks area nonprofit organizations.
Karr also previously clerked for the NCAA Office of Legal Affairs under current general counsel Scott Bearby and clerked at Garvey & Stoddard, S.C. under former National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) executive director Ed Garvey.
In 2006, Karr received the Chancellor's Supervisory Award for excellence and contributions to UAF. In 2008, he was named Big Brother of the Year in Fairbanks, and in 2010, he was named one of Alaska's Top 40 Under 40 by the Alaska Journal of Commerce.
Karr played hockey at the University of Notre Dame and graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor's of Business Administration in Finance and Business Economics from the Mendoza College of Business along with a Concentration in Peace Studies from the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies. He earned the team's most valuable player honor as a senior and was an Academic All-America selection. Karr also completed a Juris Doctor degree at the University of Wisconsin and is a graduate of the Sports Management Institute's executive education program.
After his collegiate career, Karr played one year of minor league (ECHL) professional hockey and then coached with the USA Hockey National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Karr is a member of the State Bar of Wisconsin, the American Bar Association (ABA) Section of Labor and Employment Law, and the Sports Lawyers Association (SLA). He has run several marathons and also bicycled with a friend from Juarez, Mexico to Carway, Alberta during May 2000.
Karr and his wife Cara live in Marquette, Michigan, with their daughters, Callia and Colette.