Montana State University-Northern head football coach Mark Samson has been placed on administrative leave with pay for undisclosed reasons.
Northern spokesman Jim Potter said this morning that the university hopes to conduct an investigation and make a decision on Samson’s future “as soon as possible.”
Potter said it was an employee issue, and he couldn’t say much about the situation.
“This is a personnel matter, which is under review at this time,” Potter said. “Until this is resolved, we can provide you with no additional information. … We hope to resolve this situation as quickly as possible.”
He confirmed that members of the football team visited Chancellor Jim Limbaugh this morning to express support for the coach and seek information on what was going on.
“We told them we just couldn’t talk about it,” Potter said.
He said the university hopes to settle the matter quickly because it is aware that there is widespread community support for the Lights.
Suspicions arose Monday when Samson, in his 11th year as Lights coach, failed to show up for practice. Assistant coaches took charge in his absence.
The Havre Daily News contacted the director of University Relations, Potter, Monday afternoon. He said nothing unusual was going on with the team.
But this morning, Potter called the Havre Daily News announcing the administrative leave.
Samson will be paid while he is on leave, Potter said.
Samson was the Frontier Conference Coach of the Year and National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Region 9 Coach of the Year in 2006.
History of quietness
Despite being a publicly funded institution, Northern has been recalcitrant over several departures from the university staff over the last few years, perhaps the most prominent being its provost.
Northern Provost Rosalyn Templeton resigned last August effective in January, then left office in mid-October. Limbaugh and Potter declined to give any information about her reason for leaving or her early departure. Havre Daily News filed an Open Records Act request and was told that her work at the university was done so she left.
Later, the Havre Daily News filed a legal request to open proceedings regarding Templeton being heard by the state Human Rights Bureau, which Northern and the Montana University System opposed.
The Human Rights Bureau decided in the Havre Daily’s favor, releasing documents sexual harassment claims being investigated by the bureau. The decision on that claim still is pending.
Northern also has been tight-lipped about other departures, including director of the college’s Nursing Department Lisa O’Neil leaving the department following a review by two separate entities.
The head of the state board of nursing found problems in Northern’s program but cited no complaints about O'Neil's work. Results of a separate review by another group never was made public.
O'Neil resigned in January after spending three weeks on administrative leave, and said she could not comment. Northern also did not comment on the reason for her leaving.
(Havre Daily News staffers John Paul Schmidt, John Kelleher, George Ferguson and Tim Leeds contributed to this story.)