Elite UND job deserves an elite search

The University of North Dakota must be certain it is hiring the right man. Dave Hakstol is the only horse in a race for the top college hockey job in America.

The University of North Dakota must be certain it is hiring the right man. Dave Hakstol is the only horse in a race for the top college hockey job in America.

It appears the Sioux assistant will be named the head coach, thus ending a search that extended from the administrative offices in Hyslop Sports Center all the way to the hockey offices at Engelstad Arena.

We will be left to ponder one question: Why not wait for the mandatory internal search period of five days to expire, and then see who's out there?

The UND hockey job is one of the most prestigious in the country in any sport. The man in charge gets to live in a shrine of an arena that has the best of everything. The pay - around $200,000 plus whatever else shows up in the office - is top notch. The town has hockey history and is knowledgeable about their team and their sport.

Why not see what other candidates have to offer? Interview them. Hear them out; their ideas and their philosophy and then stack it up among a list of finalists.


If Hakstol is good, and all reports point that way, then he will surface as the best coach available. But, in the meantime, bring on the competition.

Hakstol and assistant Brad Berry can man the store while the search is in place. Brian Lee and Chris VandeVelde, the two Moorhead High 2005 Sioux commitments, say a coaching change won't alter their plans. Recruits in general put more stock in the program in general than a coach in specific.

The assistants can recruit for the one month or so it would take to go through a national search process. UND's tradition, facilities and academic reputation would certainly keep kids interested until the school was certain it found the best candidate.

The NHL will probably not play this year. Maybe some proven, hot-name coach would say the heck with the pro game - I'm going back to college.

When NDSU was looking for a successor to Bob Babich as the head football coach, there was pressure on athletic director Gene Taylor to hire assistant coach Casey Bradley.

Former players backed Bradley. Influential boosters, no doubt, backed him. Casual fans backed him. And there was a lot to back; Bradley - like Hakstol - is a popular former player who went on to become a very good coach.

When it was discovered that Bradley and Craig Bohl were the two finalists, the gambling money was on Bradley.

Taylor didn't buckle. He hired Bohl, a coach who in retrospect had a better resume and better connections to hire Division I-quality assistant coaches.


We'll never know, it appears, who would have won out between Hakstol, Minnesota-Duluth head coach Scott Sandelin, Lincoln Stars head coach Steve Johnson or Warroad High (Minn.) head coach Carry Eades, or whoever showed up at the doorstep. This game was over before it started.

If Sandelin goes on to win a national championship or two and Hakstol doesn't, then school will be open at UND for second guessing.

By opening it up nationally, it would have eliminated that.

Readers can reach Jeff Kolpack at (701) 241-5546 or

Jeff would like to dispel the notion he was around when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, but he is on his third decade of reporting with Forum Communications. The son of a reporter and an English teacher, and the brother of a reporter, Jeff has worked at the Jamestown Sun, Bismarck Tribune and since 1990 The Forum, where he's covered North Dakota State athletics since 1995.
Jeff has covered all nine of NDSU's Division I FCS national football titles and has written three books: "Horns Up," "North Dakota Tough" and "Covid Kids." He is the radio host of "The Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack" April through August.
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