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OUR OPINION: UND coach's resignation raises host of questions

It's understandable if UND wants to get beyond volleyball coach Ashley Hardee's resignation and move on. But that mustn't happen -- at least not before an investigation has been completed, the university has reconsidered key policies, and the fin...

Our Opinion

It's understandable if UND wants to get beyond volleyball coach Ashley Hardee's resignation and move on.

But that mustn't happen -- at least not before an investigation has been completed, the university has reconsidered key policies, and the findings and any policy changes have been announced.

Then and only then can the school and its sports program get back to business as usual.

Last week, Hardee resigned after news broke that he "is being investigated for a reported hit-and-run accident early Sunday morning (Dec. 1) in Portland, Ore., at the Big Sky tournament," Herald staff writer Brad Schlossman reported.

"The accident happened in the hotel parking lot while the team was on its way to the airport to catch a flight home, said the father of one of the players, who added that five players were in the car at the time of the accident.

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"There were no injuries, and the damaged car was unoccupied, a Portland State spokesperson said."

If that chronology turns out to be accurate, then the fact that UND students were in the vehicle at the time of the accident is what elevates this case above that of an ordinary personnel issue.

What's the procedure for coaches (or professors or any other employees) driving students to or from official events? Are there any safeguards in place -- for example, does UND check such employees' driving records each year? And would a certain number of citations result in loss of driving privileges?

These questions are crucial, because when families send students to UND, they're trusting the university to take reasonable precautions. All UND buildings must meet fire codes; all food that's served in dining halls must be prepared in a safe and sanitary way.

And all drivers who'll be transporting students on official business must have valid licenses and good records. Given that motor-vehicle accidents kill far more young people than do either fires or food poisoning, that's not too much for concerned parents to ask.

In this case, the other key questions center on alcohol. In June 2012, Hardee was arrested for driving under the influence, Schlossman reported.

Hardee told UND of the incident and was disciplined internally; but apparently, there remained "an issue with his driver's license," UND athletic director Brian Faison said in the story.

That's another red flag, again because Hardee was transporting students. Exactly what was the "issue with his driver's license"? And more important, why didn't UND's safeguards catch the issue before any students got into the vehicle?

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Last but not least, there's the question of whether Hardee had been drinking at the time of the incident in Portland. If he had been -- a big "if," and one that ought to be settled by Portland police and/or UND -- then UND has more policies to rethink and reform.

Should passengers be empowered to insist that someone not get behind the wheel? Is there a hotline or emergency number that students can call?

Are there "best practices" by which other universities handle these issues?

The latter might be the most important question of all. Every college in America transports students from place to place. The risks of that transport will never be zero. But they should be as low as is reasonably possible; and UND now has more reason than ever to make sure that this is the case.

Related Topics: UND SPORTSUND VOLLEYBALL
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