Director’s removal surprises Beaver Pride board members; report criticizes Goeb’s management, leadership style
BEMIDJI – Beaver Pride members said Tuesday they were surprised by this week’s announcement that Bemidji State University would replace longtime athletic director Rick Goeb at the end of the school year.
“I’m sure Rick will do a great job wherever he goes,” said Phil Verchota, a Beaver Pride board member. “Nice guy, nice family. (I) enjoy Rick’s relationship and friendship.”
In an email sent Monday to key supporters, BSU President Richard Hanson said the move follows a comprehensive review of the athletics department, a process that outlined key priorities, including the need for increased private funding of athletics.
Herb Doran, a Beaver Pride member who previously served on its board, said he first read the news Tuesday morning.
“I was really surprised,” he said. “Not so much about Rick, just the tone of the whole thing. As far as I could find out (Tuesday) – I was on the board, I know a lot of people – they didn’t have a clue either.”
An examination of Beaver athletics by Collegiate Consulting resulted in a 74-page report with recommendations and in-depth analysis of BSU athletics.
That report, obtained Tuesday by the Pioneer, criticized Goeb’s performance as athletic director.
“The Director of Athletics’ management does not appear conducive to a progressive, creative leadership effort … like Bemidji needs,” it states. “From multiple statements and feedback received, the Director of Athletics is accustomed to working behind the scenes, where the need for strategic, proactive behavior is minimized. There is a lack of collaboration, critical analysis or presentation of new ideas, with most meetings focused on ‘housekeeping items.’”
“This is the first negative report I’ve seen in my 12 years,” Goeb said Tuesday afternoon.
He declined further comment, stating that he continues to stand behind athletic accomplishments achieved during his 12-year tenure. His 2001 hiring represented a commitment by BSU to employ a full-time athletic director.
Ryan Baer, chairman of the Beaver Pride board, said he did not want to comment on Hanson’s email publicly, stating that he did not take the role to “spark controversy.”
“All I can say is Rick Goeb has been a great person to work with over the years,” Baer said.
Verchota also vouched for Goeb.
“I’ve known Rick for quite some time, since I moved to the community,” Verchota said. “Through interaction with Beaver Pride, he’s always accessible to the group, keeps us up to speed with what’s going on in the Beaver athletics world, some of the challenges that the athletes and the athletic programs face. It’s been an enjoyable time.”
The report states that department management, supervision and support of athletics staff needs improvement, noting that requests within the department have been going to other university officials instead of the athletic director.
“Communication is a significant problem,” the report states. “Staff is inconsistently apprised of pending developments and multiple statements of condescending behavior toward staff members.
“Where resources and funds are limited, it is imperative for the leader and staff to have a shared vision and system of consultation and accountability. A spirit of cooperation and mutual respect should always prevail, which is not currently present within the intercollegiate athletic department.”
Beaver Pride supports BSU athletics by raising scholarship funds through memberships, donations and events. The Pioneer attempted to contact numerous members Tuesday. Two declined comment on Hanson’s email while others did not return phone messages.
Jacob Bluhm, Beaver Pride coordinator, on Monday responded to a reporter’s voicemail request for comment with an email, stating all inquiries should be directed to Scott Faust, the university’s director of communications and marketing.
Doran said he believes Goeb has done a good job, but noted that he himself doesn’t have any background in athletics management.
“I thought Rick was very interested in what was going on, very dedicated,” Doran said. “I was just surprised.”
BSU plans a national search to hire a new athletics director.
“It’s a hard position to fill; it’s a challenging position,” Verchota said. “You look at the moving parts that Rick negotiated as the athletic director, getting the hockey program into the WCHA and then having that fall apart.”
Starting next hockey season, the WCHA will be reconfigured as many of its longtime members join the Big Ten or the newly formed National Collegiate Hockey Conference.
“It’s an ever-changing position, just like a lot of things are these days,” Verchota said. “I’m hopeful (BSU) can find the person they’re looking for.”