The Student News Site of Northern Michigan University

The North Wind

The North Wind

The North Wind

Meet the Staff
Lily Gouin
Lily Gouin
Assistant Sports Editor

Hi! My name is Lily Gouin I am in my third year here at NMU. I am from Appleton, WI majoring in communications and double minoring in multimedia journalism and public relations. In my free time, I like...

The North Wind Editorial Sessions
About us

The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

TIMES ARE CHANGING — FAFSA announced changes to its filing system in February.
Editorial — The "better" FAFSA
North Wind Editorial Board February 27, 2024

Les Wong, the sports fan

North Wind sports edior RJ Walters recently sat down with NMU president Les Wong to discuss his role with NMU athletics, his true colors as a fan and his feelings on a number of NMU athletics issues.

NW: Did you play any sports as an adolescent and would you consider yourself a sports fan?

LW: I played baseball all of the time growing up. I was a second baseman and outfielder and when I was older I played in the equivalent of American Legion ball, which was kind of like a semi-pro league. Then I realized I was kind of small and I would be best served to pursue an education so I could do something with my life.
As far as being a sports fan, both my mom and dad loved baseball just as much as I did. I will never forget giving my mother what she considered to be the best gift in her entire lifetime I imagine; we all pitched in and got her the entire 162 broadcast game-package of Oakland A’s baseball on the radio, as well as the whole season on television. She thought it was amazing and all season long we would tune in and follow the A’s and my mom was always talking about it.

NW: What is your role with NMU athletics?

Story continues below advertisement

LW: I enjoy athletics and want to make sure the experience of the student-athlete is optimized, but I don’t want to be like (Oakland Raider’s GM) Al Davis, always meddling in everyone’s business and such. Athletic Director Ken (Godfrey) and I meet regularly and the Faculty Athletic Representative (FAR) reports directly to me. Usually through the FAR and the AD I keep my hands on things.

NW: Were you a hockey fan prior to coming to Northern and how has your view of the game changed?

LW: Northern is the first place I’ve been where hockey has been taken so seriously and has meant so much to the community. I knew a little bit about hockey, but my experience was contained mainly to watching the Colorado Avalanche for seven games on television the year they won the Stanley Cup. Now I’ve really come to appreciate the agility, determination and patterning of the game. Watching Division-I athletes is just a great treat in itself and I’ve really come to enjoy hockey.

NW: Have there been any surprises or disappointments regarding NMU athletics since you got here?

LW: I was surprised at the extremely high level of competition that Division II offers. Division II athletics has really taken off in the Midwest and because of that Northern athletics are known very well regionally, not just in the state of Michigan. I’m proud of all of the work-during the season and outside of the season-that our athletes and coaches continue to do while they still achieve good results in the classroom.
As far as something that gets to be a little overwhelming, I’m surprised at how many boosters, parents and alum are always calling me concerning the program. They all have their own opinions of what NMU should do and it is good because they support Northern athletics, but it can be bad because sometimes it seems relentless. I didn’t realize that so much of that took place, as well as all of the advertising and commercial enterprises that are at works.

One thing I’d also like to see is better attendance at games. Hockey didn’t do as well as we would’ve liked last season and I was disappointed by some of our attendance numbers at the end of the year there. And hardly any students go to football games and it’s just kind of a shame, but it’s the culture we live in. Teams like cross country, which won six medals at D-I nationals, have done an amazing job of representing our athletic department. If (senior skiers) Lindsay Williams and Lindsey Weir aren’t celebrities on our campus, then I don’t know how we’re supposed to generate interest.

Then there’s our women’s soccer team who went 16-2 with a young team and got screwed and shafted by the NCAA (who didn’t make the NCAA tournament.) If we don’t draw at least 500 fans to games next season, then I just don’t know.

NW: There’s a lot of pressure from parents and boosters and alumni as you said. When it comes to the situation with Qi Wang not working out so well with the volleyball program, there are a lot of people with opinions and frustrations. How did you handle that?

LW: I think it’s like any other position on campus at this level. I’ll just use the President’s Office as a good example. There isn’t a person in the country, at the 4,000 colleges and universities, at this position that isn’t skilled in their work. It’s all about fit, it’s all about responsiveness and it’s a lot about rhythm, if you may. Coaches come in with stellar records and they just don’t fit. Sadly, it’s not unlike a student coming in for a job interview with a 3.8 GPA and not getting the job. It might have nothing to do with the skill level of the person and I think that can sometimes be the same for coaching.

NW: How realistic is it to expect NMU to compete with teams like Ferris State and Grand Valley based on our location and budget?

LW: The beauty of sports is that everybody starts the season 0-0 and a coach that’s well prepared sets the stage for us to be competitive. We’re in motion, to where I think the Blue Line Club and the Wildcat Club, like other constituencies here, have to see Northern in a much bigger picture. We’re not a U.P. school anymore, we’re really a regional comprehensive school, so our contributions from our two main booster clubs has to be redefined, with maybe some bigger targets. We always have to be striving for continual improvement. I always tell the coaches that if they win three national titles in a row, I’m going to be asking them about years five, six and seven.

NW: What is the greatest sports moment you’ve been a spectator for here in your short time at NMU so far?

LW: I’ll have to say it’s the first time Michigan State came here in hockey while I’ve been here, three years ago. It was when I first met Rick Comley and we beat them on both Friday and Saturday and I will never forget that.

NW: What is something on the athletic department’s agenda in the near future?

LW: One thing we’re looking at is an improved venue for basketball. Coming from the West Coast, where the basketball pavilions are built like the Berry, I’m really happy with it. If you’re from the East Coast where the stadiums are much more vertical, with the crowd up on it, people are unhappy. While I’m happy with it, I do know there’s some concern about whether or not the Berry is an appropriate basketball piece. I was going to tease Mr. Volcy earlier this year, that if he went onto the NBA I’d be happy to name the new basketball pavilion after him with a good gift to the university.

NW: The biggest question yet, Packers or Lions?

LW: Sports fans never give up their life-long affiliation, so I’ll have to say I’m a Raiders and Seahawks fan. I grew up two miles from the Raiders Stadium, so we could hear the cheering from my mother’s house. But if you take those two out of the pool, I’d have to say the Packers.

More to Discover