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Tom Miller: Not buying it

Athletic director Brian Faison listens to an introduction given by UND President Mark Kennedy (not pictured) during Tuesday's press conference at the High Performance Center. Faison announced his retirement from the athletic director position effective December 31, 2017, after which he will remain as a special advisor to the Athletics department until June 30, 2018. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald1 / 2
UND athletic director Brian Faison shakes hands with President Mark Kennedy prior to Tuesday's press conference at the High Performance Center announcing Faison's retirement. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald2 / 2

UND officials drummed up all the dressings of a real retirement announcement at the High Performance Center on Tuesday morning.

UND first carted out the shiny trophies the school won during athletic director Brian Faison's tenure.

UND President Mark Kennedy then gifted a personalized hockey jersey to Faison and they posed for a photo.

"Brian Faison has convinced me that this is the right time for him to retire," Kennedy said.

UND can hit us with all the proper retirement bells and whistles it wants, but I'm not buying this as a natural retirement for a second.

On Sept. 19, during a routine conference call between Kennedy and the Herald, Kennedy was asked about the intention of a consulting firm that was meeting with UND head coaches.

Now, the easy answer to that question for UND and Kennedy would be that the university uses these firms regularly for professional development and the athletic department is taking its turn.

Instead, the response to the question was dead air for 25 seconds. The pause was only interrupted when we thought the call might have been lost.

It wasn't. After 30 seconds, Kennedy declined to comment.

That was the start of some grand tip-toeing around Herald questions the past month.

The Herald reported Sept. 27 that the university had hired a consulting firm to review athletic department leadership.

Before the story was printed, we reached out to Kennedy to give him an opportunity to support his athletic director because the obvious speculation about a consulting firm would be that it is the first step to Faison's exit.

Again, the easy answer for UND would have been to say, "Yes. Of course, I have full confidence in Brian Faison moving forward."

Kennedy didn't answer the question head on. He decided to turn it around on his interviewer.

"Who has accomplished as much in the last year that would have the standing to ask that question?" Kennedy said.

What does that mean? Just say if Faison is your guy moving forward or not. It would have been really simple to nip this in the bud.

Without Kennedy coming to the defense of Faison, the Herald asked UND in an open records request for the consulting firm's documentation of the review.

UND said there wasn't any. All feedback was done verbally.

So, at Tuesday's press conference, Kennedy was asked where the consulting firm and Faison's retirement announcement fit in the timeline. Did Faison tell Kennedy he wanted to retire before or after the consulting firm's work?

"Those were largely in tandem," Kennedy said.

That answer is perfect. It completely fits the trend of ambiguous, indirect answers that encourage all of us to read between the lines.

Tom Miller

Miller has been with the Grand Forks Herald sports department since 2004. He's also a Grand Forks native and UND graduate. 

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