New man on campus
Roger Ternes said there wasn't any single hook that lured him to become the new athletic director at UW-River Falls. It was more like a treble hook.
"One--Chancellor (Dean) Van Galen," he said. "He has a pretty clear vision for the university. He seems to be a high-energy guy and he and I seem to be on the same page about athletics and health and human services.
"Two--the construction project with Ramer Field and the new Health and Human Performance facility," he continued. "Those are two exciting things for the future of athletics and the future of the University of Wisconsin- River Falls.
"Three--I've never been at an NCAA institution," he added. "The WIAC and the NCHA may be the best Division III conferences in the country. To have an opportunity to come to a school and make a difference in those leagues is special."
Ternes, who officially took over from Rick Bowen last Monday, spent the first few days at his new job meeting the Falcon coaches and staff and settling into his new office in Hagestad Hall. He's also been acclimating himself with the River Falls community and looking for a new house to settle in.
"I'm excited to be here," he said. "This is a great campus and a great community. I can't wait for my wife to join me here and make this our home."
Ternes, 55, comes to UW-RF from Dickinson State (N.D.) University, a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletic (NAIA) institution where he served as athletic director since 1999. He said he sees a lot of similarities between Dickinson and River Falls.
"Both are on the western edge of the state, and sometimes the politicians forget them," he noted. "Farming and agriculture are a big part of both regions, and the friendliness of the people in the communities and on campus is similar."
Ternes said another similarity he sees at UW-RF is the need for improved athletic facilities. While at Dickinson State, he spearheaded a project that raised $16 million for the construction of the Badlands Activities Center. The center, which opened in May, features the latest in artificial turf technology; a state-of-the-art Olympic standard, eight-lane track, an on-site locker room facility located under the stadium and a training/medical room, restrooms and additional locker rooms.
"I think it's the nicest on-campus facility between Minneapolis, to Bozeman, Montana, to Laramie, Wyoming," he said.
He said he's looking forward to helping UW-RF with its fundraising effort to renovate Ramer Field.
"We need to move that project forward as quickly as possible," he said. "I'm convinced that if we could do it in Dickinson, North Dakota, we can do it in River Falls, Wisconsin."
Ternes said the key to the success of the Badlands Activities Center was collaboration between the city of Dickinson, the two high schools in town and the campus.
"It takes both the campus community and the larger community and region to get behind a project like that," he said.
He said he's also looking forward to working with the state Legislature for a new Health and Human Performance facility to replace the outdated Karges Center.
"About 10 percent of students enrolled here are involved in HHP programs, plus 400 athletes with some duplication," he said. "So about 800 students are heavily involved in this facility and we are outdated. It's time; it's the University of Wisconsin-River Falls' time for a new facility.
"We have two agricultural research farms here," he added. "There are some great things that have happened here. I understand politics happen in the Madison area, but at the same time that's their job, to look out for higher education across the state of Wisconsin. We have to do a good job communicating with our local legislators what our needs are in River Falls."
Ternes said improving the athletic facilities is a key to maintaining strong programs and attracting high-quality students to campus.
"There are three things high school kids look at, in no particular order," he said. "One is staff, the other is academic programs, and the third is facilities. I think two of those three things we already have here."
Ternes said the coaches and staff have done a great job bringing him up to speed about their respective programs.
"Rick was here a long time and I'm sure it was somewhat old hat to him," he said. "I'm the new guy. But the coaches have been very helpful making my transition as easy as possible."
"I have been very impressed with the staff," he added. "They all seem to be hard-working."
Ternes said he already feels right at home.
"They say first impressions mean everything, and the city of River Falls has done that," he said. "I've lived in two communities in my life other than River Falls. This feels like home."