Samson resigns, admits violation
August 14, 2014
Montana State University-Northern's head football coach resigned Wednesday.
Mark Samson was placed on administrative leave with pay Tuesday as the university conducted an investigation into financial issues related to the running of the summer football camp.
He put in his resignation Wednesday in everybody's interest, he said in his statement.
"The decision to resign was not easy, but I felt it was in the best interest of myself, my family and MSU-Northern," Samson wrote in a statement sent to newspapers.
Samson told the Great Falls Tribune Wednesday he made a mistake in depositing funds for the football camp into his personal account instead of a university account.
Samson told the Tribune he did not steal the money and that he understands he failed to comply with the university policies on how to handle the money.
Samson was not available for comment this morning.
"It was just a bad decision on my part," Samson told the Tribune. "Honestly, I am not fighting the punishment. The amount of money we're talking about is not very much at all. But people have decided that I need to go, and I've accepted that on the advice of my lawyers."
Samson will be temporarily replaced by Jake Eldridge, the team's defensive coordinator, as interim head coach for the upcoming season while a national search for a new head coach is conducted.
"We are pleased that Jake Eldridge has agreed to step into the role as interim head football coach," Christian Oberquell, the athletics director of the university, said in a Northern press release. "He has the skills necessary to carry the Lights' football team to a successful season."
The current coaching staff will remain throughout the season, Oberquell said.
Samson, who has coached for Northern since 2004, led the Lights football team to an overall 45 victories and 60 defeats. He was to begin his 11th season with the Lights when fall football camp opened Saturday.
"I would like to thank the players, current and past, staff, the loyal Northern fans and the parents for all of the support they have provided me throughout my years as coach," Samson said. "I wish the team and coach Eldridge the best of luck in the upcoming season."
As the situation unfolds, some Northern football players are not content with not knowing the full story.
Travis Dean, a senior quarterback for the Lights spoke on behalf of his team.
"We as the football team are not happy about this," Dean said. "Being that we are the football team, we want answers - we feel we deserve answers."
Dean said he and others on the team fully support Samson.
"We stand behind our current coaches one hundred percent, and we believe in all of them," he said. "And out of our respect for coach Samson, we are going to move forward as a team. Coach Samson is not a criminal and we support him one hundred percent."
A university official who asked to remain anonymous said the bureaucracy and red tape involved in conducting business through university accounts can be frustrating. The official said they can see why Samson would try to get past some of the obstacles university accounts set up by using a personal account.
Samson said he did not steal the money and had accounted for all of it.
"A national search for a new head coach will begin as soon as possible and the university will be seeking significant community input and involvement," the press release says.
The season continues and the Lights are set to open with their first game Aug. 30.
"He wants us to stay on the field and play," Dean said. "So, that's what we've decided to do. We're going to stay, work hard and play this season for coach Samson."
Samson had led the Lights into four straight winning seasons with a first-ever National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics playoff appearance in 2006. That year, the Lights went 9-3 in the best season the team has ever seen.
Samson was awarded the Frontier Conference Coach of the Year and MAIA Region 9 Coach of the Year titles in 2006.
(Havre Daily News sports editor George Ferguson contributed to this report.)