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Eric Peterson, Published January 15 2011

MSUM pares down its list of football coaching candidates to four finalists

The four finalists for the Minnesota State Moorhead head football coaching job are mostly familiar faces.

Two of them – Aaron Vlcko and Tyler Fenwick – were finalists for the job in 2006, while another – Steve Laqua – has coached at a local high school the past four seasons. The fourth, Russ Martin, has ties to the region as he was the head coach at Black Hills State (S.D.) in the late 1990s.

“They’re not walking in and being blind to what this region is like from a high school or college standpoint,” said MSUM athletic director Doug Peters.

Vlcko is the offensive coordinator at Wisconsin-Stevens Points, Fenwick is the offensive coordinator at Missouri Western State, Laqua is the head coach at Fargo Shanley and Martin is the offensive coordinator at Nebraska-Kearney.

“I think they’re all coaches that are on the rise,” Peters said. “They’ve all had success.”

Fenwick has been at Missouri Western State the past four seasons and was the Dragons offensive coordinator in 2006. Missouri Western State plays in the NCAA Division II Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. The Griffons finished third in the MIAA last season.

“It’s one of those places where I’m familiar with people up there. There are good people that are up there,” Fenwick said of MSUM. “I think the direction that it’s going, and it’s not going to turn overnight, … but it’s something you can build and improve and be a part of improving it.”

Laqua has been the head coach at Fargo Shanley for four seasons. He guided the Deacons to the past two North Dakota Class 2A state championships. Laqua also has experience as a college assistant.

“I am so pumped because I think it’s a chance to be successful. I really do. I think there is a great chance for success,” Laqua said. “I think it’s very critical and very important that, that school has a successful football program for the all the local area kids that right now aren’t finding a place to play.”

Martin has been the offensive coordinator for Nebraska-Kearney the past six seasons.

Kearney is in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, a Division II league. The Lopers were RMAC champions last season and led the RMAC in total offense.

"(MSUM" has had a great tradition in the past," Martin said. "I think it can be a very good job."

Vlcko was the offensive coordinator at Division III Wisconsin-Stevens Point last season. Prior to that, he was the interim head coach at Truman State (which is in the MIAA) for one season. Vlcko isn’t new to the NSIC, having been an assistant at Bemidji State from 1996-2003.

Attempts to reach Vlcko on Friday were unsuccessful.

“What I’m excited to hear is what their vision is for getting Dragon football to where I want it to be and where the university wants it to be,” Peters said.

Each finalist will have a public forum on campus next week, starting with Laqua on Tuesday. Martin (Wednesday), Fenwick (Thursday) and Vlcko (Friday) are set to follow.

“I’m excited,” Peters said. “I would say the search committee did a good job and brought forward four quality candidates.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blog can be found at peterson.areavoices.com