By Tim Eberly
Members of the newly-formed search committee to hire a women's basketball coach at Montana State University-Northern plan to do their homework.
Last Friday, MSU-N Chancellor Alex Capdeville finalized the formation of the six-person search committee in order to find a new Skylights coach. Several of those committee members say they will conduct a more thorough background check on job applicants than the committee that made Kevin Emerick, the suspended Skylights coach, one of three final candidates for the vacant position in August 2000.
"I'm sure there's going to be much more scrutiny applied to this search than previously," said David Greenwood, a local businessman on the committee who was an MSU-N athletic director in the 1970s.
Said MSU-N wrestling coach and committee member David Ray: "I think it'll be a lot more thorough and in-depth and a lot of different people" will be interviewed.
Headed by chairman Kevin Carlson, a business professor at MSU-N's Great Falls campus, the committee also includes athletic director Ted Spatkowski and Carol Reifschneider, a science professor with ties to the athletic department.
The final committee member will be most affected by the end result: Nichole Neill, a freshman on the Skylights squad. Neill is returning to Northern next year, and will play for the coach she is helping to find.
"We tried to get a cross-representation of people on the committee," Capdeville said.
A March 15 deadline has been set for finding potential applicants, Spatkowski said, though no date has been marked to make a final decision. About eight coaches who applied for the position after Emerick's first suspension have "been invited to turn their name back in" for consideration, Spatkowski said.
The media blitz surrounding Emerick and the Skylights has made the search committee a high-profile albeit temporary and volunteer position.
"There is one thing I do understand, that the community is very interested in (who fills) the position," Carlson said. "We think that's a good thing that they have that kind of interest."
On previous search committees, Ray said, he has felt pressure to fill the job as quickly as possible.
Carlson, however, said this committee will not rush a decision.
"When you have won as many conference championships as (the Skylights), there are going to be very high expectations that this team will be successful," Carlson said. "But I don't see us being in a big hurry."
Of course, no search committee is full-proof. "Somebody can have a bad side to them that doesn't come out until later," Ray said. "Those are things we can't control."
The Skylights just hope the search committee finds a coach who is more compatible with them.
"It holds a big responsibility," Neill said. "We don't want to get in a position we were in before."
The main objective of the search committee is to whittle down a list of candidates for the position and pass them along to Capdeville, who will hire the new coach.
"I'm going to make it clear to these people what I expect a search committee to do, and I'm not comparing it to any (search committees) in the past," Capdeville said Wednesday.
Capdeville suspended Emerick with pay from his job Dec. 12, citing Emerick's personal relationship with a student.
Emerick sued the university, and a district judge ordered MSU-N to return Emerick to his post while he pursued an administrative appeal. MSU-N asked the Supreme Court to assume jurisdiction, a request that was denied once but later approved.
A Supreme Court ruling permitted Capdeville to suspend Emerick again 15 days ago. The move came more than a week after Emerick's players had signed a petition asking for his removal, citing verbal and psychological abuse.
Emerick's administrative appeal to MSU president Geoff Gamble could be decided as early as Friday.
Guided by interim head coach Mike Erickson, the Skylights (19-10 overall, 6-8 Frontier Conference) start the conference tournament today in Butte.