ORONO — Ken Ralph doesn’t officially begin his new job as University of Maine athletic director until Sept. 1, but in the three days since it was announced that he was taking over the position, the question he’s been asked the most is: “What’s the first big change you’re going to make?”

His answer? Stay tuned.

Ralph, who has been the Colorado College athletic director for the last 11 years and was in the same position at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute for five years before that, believes change takes time.

“The reality is I need to take some time to look at the entire enterprise,” he said at an introductory media conference Thursday at Alfond Arena. “Let’s take a look at how we’re operating. Let’s take a look at where our efficiencies may be. Let’s take a look at what opportunities might present themselves. Let’s get to know each other a little bit. For me to just come in and start hacking off things for sake of making changes, it’s not productive.”

Ralph, 49, wants people to understand that before any changes, plans need to be made.

“For me, I look at change as such a disruptive force,” said Ralph, a native of Salem, New Hampshire. “Excellence doesn’t happen by spontaneous combustion. You don’t have a flash and puff of smoke, and excellence happens. This is a process. This is about pursuing constant progress, a relentless march for constant progress. That’s where organization excellence comes from, not a flash in the pan. And that’s what we want at the University of Maine. We want sustained success.”

And to achieve that, he said the athletic department needs support “from the university in all its forms, from the community, from our fans, from our sponsors, from our donors.

“We have to do this as a community, we cannot stand alone and expect excellence. We have to go out and pursue it. We have to provide a strategic direction. We have to implement a plan.”

Asked about the facilities at Maine, with an aging artificial surface and track at Alfond Stadium, and possible work needed for the hockey arena, Ralph again said a clear plan is needed.

He and the school president, Joan Ferrini-Mundy, plan to tour and examine all the facilities.

“It’s easy to walk around and say, ‘This needs to be better,’ or ‘That needs to be better,’ and you end up trying to piecemeal things,” said Ralph. “I think what I would rather do is try to put together a long-term facilities plan. One of the things we have to remember is when you’re in a place that’s a little bit resource-constrained and you have a pretty defined set of donors, you have to be pretty exact in how you put your strategic play together.”

Ralph said that he had similar constraints at RPI and Colorado College, but was still able to oversee the construction of the $92 million East Campus Athletic Village at RPI and the $27 million expansion of the El Pomar Sports Center at Colorado College.

“People have said to me, ‘You’re a bit of a dreamer,’ and I’m with that,” said Ralph. “When you take a dream and turn it into reality, when you do the work to make that dream come true, that’s when extraordinary things happen and true excellence can be found.”

MAINE FOOTBALL NOTES

With Maine’s opener against New Hampshire less than a week away, the Black Bears have moved from training camp to game-preparation mode. “To be honest, the last two days have been some of our best preparation,” said offensive coordinator Nick Charlton. “I feel the tempo has been smooth.”

One interesting sight at Thursday’s practice was running back Ramon Jefferson, projected to be Maine’s starter for the Aug. 30 game against the Wildcats at Alfond Stadium (7 p.m.), wearing a red, noncontact jersey. Coach Joe Harasymiak said Jefferson, a redshirt freshman, wasn’t injured. But, he added, “no one on defense touches him.” Running back Joe Fitzpatrick of North Yarmouth and Cheverus High also was limited. He sprained an ankle during the team’s second scrimmage but said, “I’ll be ready for the game.”

Gunnar Ducos, a 6-foot-6, 302-pound sophomore from Harrison and Oxford Hills High, won the all-important starting offensive left tackle position. He appeared in one game last year. “Honestly, a year ago I don’t know if we’d be saying he’d be in this position to start right now but he’s killed it,” said Charlton. “He won this job clearly.” Junior Miguel Garcia, a 6-4, 290-pound Texas native who transferred from College of the Canyons, a community college in Santa Clarita, California, will start at left guard. Sophomore Chris Mulvey (6-2, 300) will start at center, sophomore Liam Dobson (6-2, 310) at right guard and senior Cody Levy (6-6, 300) at left tackle. Mulvey started nine games last year as a true freshman and Levy six. Dobson appeared in six games, starting one.

Sophomore Andre Miller of Old Town is listed as a backup wide receiver, as is sophomore Hunter Smith of Dover-Foxcroft and Foxcroft Academy. Redshirt freshman Raffaele Salamone of Deering High in Portland is listed as a backup at defensive tackle to Alejandro Oregon. “He’s doing a good job for us,” said Harasymiak. “We still need to get a little weight on him (Salamone is listed at 6-3, 260 pounds) but he’s a guy who could be a five- to 10-rep guy.”

Maine is redshirting senior cornerback Joshua Huffman this season. Harasymiak said Huffman is academically ineligible. “He has to get back on track,” said Harasymiak. “He knows what he has to do.”

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: MikeLowePPH

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