What in the heck is going on at Montana Tech?
That was the question that I kept fielding in the form of text messages — all from the 406 area code, by the way — Saturday morning when news broke that Montana Tech athletic director David Lau resigned and left town without notice.
That means the school will be going through the hiring process for a new AD for the third time in less than a year and a half.
So, naturally, some people on the outside assume something is wrong at Montana Tech or with the Oredigger athletic department.
Of course, my first response to that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the Montana Tech athletic department.
The school has an up-and-coming head coach leading each program. The school is littered with positive role models for the children in our community. The school has top-notch facilities, and it also gives its student-athletes a world-class education.
That last sentence isn’t an opinion. It is a document fact that goes beyond the fully-loaded, brand-new trucks you see former football players driving when they return to the school for career day a few months after graduation.
No parents in their right mind would balk at the idea of their student-athlete going to Montana Tech.
So it is kind of painful to think that some might assume that something is wrong with the athletic department because it has apparently whiffed at its last two hires for athletic director.
In January, Montana Tech fired Charles Bradley after just eight months on the job.
Was it the right move? That’s hard to say. What isn’t hard to say is that the timing of firing the former Boston Celtic on the Saturday before Martin Luther King Jr. Day was really, really bad.
In hindsight, everyone involved would admit that. The move, however, probably just goes to show that the school focuses more on educating engineers and nurses than it does dealing with perception. That is not necessarily a bad thing.
The latest AD to leave town, however, shouldn’t be the black eye that some are apparently making it out to be. It should not be seen as scandalous.
Lau’s wife was living and working in Missouri while he was living and working in Butte. While many men might see it as very good thing to live 1,200 miles away from their better half, it’s easy to see why the former AD might see that as a less-than-ideal situation.
You could say that is something that should have been vetted out before the hiring decision was finalized, but you shouldn’t see it as Watergate.
Still, the Orediggers have two strikes against them when it comes to hiring the athletic director charged with filling the very large shoes of Joe McClafferty, who is now the vice chancellor for development and university relations.
The best move is to move quickly and dial a few numbers that are already in the rolodex. Instead of somebody who had to Google Montana Tech before crafting a cover letter and résumé, perhaps the school should bring in some people who have great familiarity with the great institution.
For starters, Tech should get on the horn with Brad Huse, Mark Durham and Bobby Beers. All three of these men are very familiar with Montana Tech and the Mining City, and at least two of them put in for the job at least once.
Bring all three men into town, look them in the eye and see what they have to say. No phone interviews this time around.
Huse, a former head men’s basketball coach at Montana State, is a former Oredigger. If we’re going to tell engineering firms and hospitals they should hire Tech graduates, then Tech should also seriously consider hiring Tech graduates. It only makes sense.
Durham is the former athletic director at Montana Western. There, he worked wonders with a program with a very small budget. How small? Well, not long ago the “restrooms” at the Western football games were porta-potties.
Like Durham, Beers isn’t a Tech graduate. He did, however, attended the McKinley Elementary School just down the street. That should count for something.
Oh, and the former AD at Rocky Mountain College also has a résumé that includes a national championship.
Of course, I’m not a sexist person. So how about bringing in former Montana Tech athletes and coaches Marilyn Tobin and Meg Murphy? They would also be great candidates.
They both have a highly-competitive drive and they know what it is like to live and die by the Orediggers.
Like Huse, Durham and Beers, Tobin and Murphy know the community, and they know where the money comes from. That is a very good thing when raising funds for the athletic department and the student-athletes is job No. 1.
Advertisers are going to be much more willing to hand over a check if they don’t have to ask the person they are giving it to the proper pronunciation of his or her name.
Without question, Montana Tech got it right when it hired locally and brought in McClafferty. It certainly wouldn’t hurt to try that rout again this time.
Whether its Huse, Durham, Beers, Tobin, Murphy or somebody else, there is certainly no shortages of candidates who know everything that is right about the school and the athletic program without the help of Google.
If the search for the next athletic director begins by dialing 406, you can take it to the bank that the next athletic director will stick around for more than a few months.
—Bill Foley, who lives in the 406 but is not AD material, writes a column that appears on ButteSports.com on Tuesdays. Email him at email@example.com. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74.