Brian Harrell is leaving after only one year as the Lights head coach
By Kim Staudinger
While controversy plagued the women's basketball team at Montana State University-Northern this past season, the men's basketball team stayed out of the spotlight.
Until now, that is.
Late Friday afternoon Lights head coach Brian Harrell resigned from his coaching and teaching duties at Northern, school officials said.
The resignation came two days after auditors from Montana State University-Bozeman arrived on campus to examine the financial records of the men's basketball program at Northern. Chancellor Alex Capdeville said today that Harrell's departure "is related to (the audit) but it's not the main reason."
"He was not asked to resign. He voluntarily resigned," Capdeville said. "He offered his resignation. We accepted it. He was given an option to resign and he did."
Harrell told the administration "he's going to pursue some other things," Capdeville said.
Reached late this morning, Harrell said, "I'm pursuing some other professional opportunities." Harrell said he has not ruled out continuing to coach.
Harrell would not comment on whether he was asked to resign.
"I did not say I was not asked. I just resigned," he said.
"He tendered his resignation," said Cathy Conover, director of university relations for MSU-Bozeman. "We did not ask him to resign, but he brought forth his resignation and we accepted it. We did not ask him to resign."
MSU-N athletic director Ted Spatkowski said last week the auditors were called in because of concerns about financial irregularities.
"There's been some questions raised from outside about the way money's been allocated from that department. It may be nothing but bookkeeping errors but that's what the audit's for," Spatkowski said.
Chuck Jensen, vice chancellor for student and fiscal affairs, said the internal audit department from MSU-Bozeman is doing the review.
"There are routine audits here, but this one we requested because of some of the issues that were floating around campus," Capdeville said. "Because of that, we decided to bring in an internal auditor to investigate."
Virginia Key, director of internal audits for all MSU campuses and agencies, said today the audit is not complete, but the time spent on the audit is "a reasonable period of time."
"It kind of depends on the nature of what's being reviewed," Conover said. "Audits can easily take this much time."
Having lost both of its basketball coaches recently, MSU-Northern is scampering to fill the positions.
The number of candidates for the coach of the women's team is being narrowed down. More than 100 people applied for that job, Capdeville said, and some of those applicants may be looked at for the men's job.
Women's coach Kevin Emerick was suspended in December because of his personal relationship with a student and lost a legal battle to keep his job.
Capdeville said the school may decide to hire an interim coach for the men's team or begin a full-blown search for a replacement.
Capdeville said his first priority is to continue recruiting players.
"We will be contacting all of his recruits and reassuring them we will have a strong program for them," Jensen said. "We will be honoring all his recruits."
Harrell said he spoke with Leo Bullchild, a recent signee from Browning, Saturday and believes Bullchild still plans to attend Northern in the fall.
The departure of freshman guard Jeff Graham last week and the earlier decision by brothers K.C. and Jared Moultrie to quit the team had no affect on Harrell leaving, Capdeville said.
"An athlete's decision to stay or leave does not determine a coach's employment," Capdeville said. "This coaching decision was not based on some players staying or leaving."
But now the athletic department has to ask itself what can be done to make sure it doesn't go through so much turmoil in the future, Capdeville said.
"Could we do a better job of managing affairs in the athletic department? I believe we could and that concerns me," Capdeville said.
Capdeville said that with the importance of athletics to the community and the campus, he hopes the issue can be resolved quickly and properly.
"I think the big thing is we're trying to move on," he said.