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PINE BLUFF -- The band played.

The cheerleaders cheered.

The dancers danced.

The University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff knows how to throw a news conference.

Almost 200 people crammed into the room for the introduction of Chris Peterson as the new athletic director for the Golden Lions.

It may have been gray skies and cold rain sprinkles outside, but inside the STEM building it was all sunshine and warmth as Chancellor Laurence B. Alexander introduced Peterson, along with several dignitaries.

Peterson spent 14 years as the athletic director at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, where he was part of a team that got the school's largest donation ever, $22.4 million, to build the Jack Stephens Center.

It was a who's who crowd that celebrates the rich history of AM&N, which is now known as UAPB.

Stephen Broughton, a member of the UA board of trustees, was there. So were Tommy May, the former president and CEO of Simmons Bank; Donald McDonald; Jesse Mason; and U.S. Reed, to name a few.

Peterson and his wife, Tracy, were appropriately dressed in black and gold.

It was a four-month nationwide search, but the leader always seemed to be Peterson.

Alexander, who is in his seventh year as chancellor, vetted Peterson personally, as did the search committee. And Peterson moved cautiously and with many questions.

Everyone wants it to work.

Peterson and Alexander met and talked more times than they probably want to remember.

Everyone proceeded with caution, and it all came together Tuesday when Peterson signed the contract. It was then celebrated at a news conference Wednesday.

Part of the concern for everyone involved is the last athletic director, Melvin Hines, was fired after only a year on the job.

Alexander has not gone into detail, but in a statement at the time said:

"As with all faculty and staff, Mr. Hines participated in an annual evaluation, which revealed that it was time to move in a new direction. It is critical that UAPB's leadership is in lockstep with the vision for this great university. I want you to know that the changes made today in no way affect our ultimate goal of achieving student success in both athletics and scholarship.'

Obviously, Alexander is serious about the future of the school.

Peterson has many strengths, but probably No. 1 is his eye for young talent who can be molded into great leaders.

That was his passion at UALR and will be at UAPB, along with the welfare of the athletes.

He got loud applause when he said he wants to recruit players who will graduate and get jobs.

UAPB was founded in 1873 and has historically been a college for African-Americans, but not exclusively.

The school has a wide and diverse group of successful graduates, and many were athletes who went on to play in the NFL, so there is a football foundation.

The school was looking for someone with vision. Where some people saw a vacant lot, Peterson saw the Jack Stephens Center.

Peterson announced that Chris Robinson, who is the director of recruitment for UAPB, would become executive assistant athletic director.

That got a great reception from the crowd, too.

The announcement was about 20 minutes, and the crowd learned that Peterson also has worked in athletic administrations at Creighton, Kansas State and Nebraska.

Everyone seemed genuinely impressed with the process and result.

Alexander looked like he is ready to move on to other projects.

Peterson looked like he's ready to go to work, which he will do Monday.

Sports on 01/23/2020

Print Headline: Four-month process unites Peterson, UAPB


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