North Dakota Search Could Widen

University of North Dakota athletic director Roger Thomas says that he’s talked to potential head coach candidates outside of UND and has not ruled out the possibility of hiring one of them.

“There are certainly great coaches out there and there are [Sioux] alumni coaches who have an interest,” Thomas said. “There’s also great passion from Sioux fans and UND alumni. We have to evaluate all the candidates and make the very best decision for the future of the program.”

Fighting Sioux interim head coach Dave Hakstol is considered the top internal candidate for the job. According to the Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald, Hakstol was the only internal candidate to submit an application by Wednesday’s 5 p.m. CT deadline.

Outgoing head coach Dean Blais, who resigned in late June to take an associate head coaching position with the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets, recommended Hakstol, his assistant the last four years, for the position.

The Herald on July 1 published an article quoting an anonymous source who said that Thomas had already offered the job to Hakstol. But Thomas vehemently denies that, saying that he hasn’t offered the position to anyone because he can’t until the process is completed.

“You go through a search inside or outside or both and then you make a decision,” he said.

Asked whether the hiring of an external candidate has been ruled out, Thomas replied, “The possibility is still there. It depends on the internal candidates.”

The most obvious external candidate would figure to be current Minnesota-Duluth coach Scott Sandelin, who was a Hobey Baker Award finalist for the Sioux as a senior in 1986. Sandelin later was an assistant coach under Blais, and last year won the Penrose Award as national coach of the year. In published reports, Sandelin has simply said “North Dakota has an interim coach. That may change, that may not, but there is nothing to talk about at this point.”

Although UND had the option of advertising the coaching position both internally and externally, Thomas said, “We elected to look inside first. If you start out with an internal search, it means that you think you have some good internal candidates.”

A policy posted on UND’s human resources Web site states: “UND provides all eligible regular staff employees the opportunity to apply for vacant staff positions prior to external recruitment. All regular position vacancies will be listed internally for a period of five working days.”

Therefore, under the university’s hiring policy, current UND employees must be given first consideration for open positions. But Thomas stressed that just because the search began internally doesn’t mean that it’s limited to university employees.

The closing date for UND employees to apply was Wednesday, July 7. Thomas said he should receive the applications on Thursday and will begin reviewing them. If a decision is made to hire an internal applicant, he said the announcement could be made before the end of this week or early next week.

However, should UND decide to open its search to external candidates, the position must be advertised for 30 days.