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UPDATED: Union: BSU fires head football coach Tesch

BEMIDJI -- The deposed head football coach at Bemidji State University has been fired, according to his union. Jeff Tesch, who university administrators placed on paid leave in late August, reportedly received a letter via email Monday afternoon ...

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BSU head football coach Jeff Tesch talks to Pioneer reporters on Friday about an incident in which he used a racial slur in practice and he was then placed on leave. On Monday, he was fired by the university. (Maggi Stivers | Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI -- The deposed head football coach at Bemidji State University has been fired, according to his union.

Jeff Tesch, who university administrators placed on paid leave in late August, reportedly received a letter via email Monday afternoon notifying him that he had been terminated, effective at 5 p.m. Tuesday. Tesch’ union -- the Inter Faculty Organization -- has already announced their intentions to file a grievance challenging the university’s decision, and staff there said it could be filed as soon as Tuesday morning.

“I want to thank the Bemidji community for the opportunity to coach this great program for two decades,” Tesch said in a statement. “I want to thank all the players who have touched my life in countless ways. I want to thank the assistant coaches, training staff, field crews, and all the people who put so much effort into making Bemidji State football the top quality program it is.”

The coach was unceremoniously relieved of his duties Aug. 30, two days before BSU’s first game, and staff at the university and his union provided little details about his departure. University staff would only disclose that Tesch was still an employee there, and that a complaint against him was “open.”

Tesch and two union lawyers broke the months-long silence last week, when the coach spoke to a series of Bemidji-area news outlets, including the Pioneer.

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Tesch told reporters he was placed on leave after using a racial slur during a preseason practice. The football team banded together and said they wouldn’t play for him as long as he was the coach there, he said.

Jonathan Bohn, a lobbyist for the union and its director of public affairs, said he could only confirm that the termination letter exists, and had been instructed not to comment on its specifics.

BSU spokesperson Scott Faust did not immediately return a request for comment. Faust had confirmed that Tesch was still a university employee around 5 p.m. Monday, about 30 minutes after Tesch’s lawyers said the coach received notice he had been terminated.

If the union does indeed file a grievance, its contract with the university indicates that Tesch could be in professional limbo for weeks or even months beyond his announced termination. If both sides don’t reach an informal agreement via the grievance process, the case could move to arbitration, another potentially lengthy process.

Kathryn Engdahl, a union lawyer, said she couldn’t predict how long the grievance could take because of the number of variables involved. She said the union hopes to start at “Step II” (of four) and move through the process “with dispatch.”

“If it isn’t resolved informally, it will be taken to arbitration,” Engdahl said.

Tesch compiled a 126-91 record during his tenure on the Beavers’ sidelines, and was named the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference’s coach of the year in 2006. His contract with the university indicates that he is paid $119,000, annually.

A Robbinsdale, Minn., native, Tesch played tight end at Moorhead State (now MSU Moorhead), and was named an All-American and receiving champion there. He has coached at Montana State, Central Missouri State and the University of North Dakota.

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After he was placed on paid leave, defensive coordinator Brent Bolte assumed Tesch’s coaching duties, and the Beavers have had one of their best seasons in recent memory. Their record is 7-3 after a nail biting 42-41 loss to Tesch’s alma mater this past Saturday.

The football team will host Minnesota Crookston at 1 p.m. Saturday at Chet Anderson Stadium in Bemidji.

“Moving forward, I ask the community to please respect my family and the young men of the Bemidji State University football program during this difficult time,” Tesch’s statement reads.

 

Joe Bowen is an award-winning reporter at the Duluth News Tribune. He covers schools and education across the Northland.

You can reach him at:
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