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Brad Elliott Schlossman, Forum News Service, Published December 04 2013

UND volleyball head coach Hardee resigns

GRAND FORKS – The most successful volleyball coach in University of North Dakota history has resigned.

Coach Ashley Hardee submitted his resignation on Wednesday, ending a five-year tenure at the school that included three conference championships.

The resignation comes as Hardee is being investigated for a reported hit-and-run accident early Sunday morning while the team was in Portland, Ore., at the Big Sky tournament.

The accident happened in the team hotel parking lot while the team was on its way to the airport to catch its flight home, according to a father of one of the players. There were no injuries and the damaged car was unoccupied, a Portland State spokesperson said.

“I would like to extend a sincere apology to the program, the university and the community for a serious lapse in judgment,” Hardee said in a written statement. “I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work at the University of North Dakota, and I thank the entire community for its tremendous support over the past five years.”

UND athletic director Brian Faison said he was made aware of the incident Sunday afternoon while driving back from a wedding in Minot, N.D. The school put Hardee on paid administrative leave Monday.

This is the second incident UND has had with Hardee.

In June 2012, Hardee was arrested for driving under the influence. He pleaded guilty to the offense and was ordered to pay a fine of $501, according to the Grand Forks Municipal Court.

Faison said the school was made aware of that incident by Hardee, and he was disciplined internally at the time. Faison said that Hardee was verbally reprimanded and put on notice that his contract would be terminated if there was another incident like that.

“He had protocols that he had to go through with the state with the DUI issue,” Faison said. “He confirmed to me as he went through the process.”

Earlier this week, Portland State spokesperson Scott Gallagher told the Herald, “At 5:05 Sunday morning, we had a report from our University Center Hotel of a hit-and-run accident. Our Campus Public Safety office is investigating. Witnesses alleged the UND volleyball coach was driving the car that struck the other unoccupied vehicle. Nobody was injured.”

When asked whether alcohol was a factor in the Portland incident, Faison said, “At this juncture, I’ve heard all kinds of different things. Our ability to verify … I can’t do that. All I know is that we’ve had an alleged hit-and-run and Portland police are investigating it as a hit-and-run.”

No charges have yet been filed in the Portland incident, but Faison was informed that there may be an issue with Hardee’s driver’s license, too.

“My understanding is that he was supposed to have that addressed, and he did not get it addressed,” Faison said. “My understanding is that there is an issue with his driver’s license. We didn’t know about that until this morning.”

Asked how Hardee was allowed to drive the team around if there’s an issue with his driver’s license, Faison said the athletic department is trying to figure that out, too.

“I don’t know where the breakdown was,” Faison said. “Honestly, I think that he thought he had it, too. When we had this conversation this morning, he was surprised. But that’s not something that is, in any way, shape or form, OK.”

Faison said that UND has been contacted about a damaged rental car, but he doesn’t know the extent of the damage.

Faison said that it was Hardee’s decision to resign.

Because it’s a resignation, UND will not pay a buyout or severance. Hardee, whose base salary was $83,078, will be entitled to performance bonuses he earned this season, though.

Deputy Director of Athletics Daniella Irle will serve as the point person for the volleyball program in the interim.

Assistant coaches Dan Brown and Erin Joki will remain on staff for now. When asked whether they had any part in the Portland incident, Faison said, “We’re having more conversations about that. We want to make sure we have all the facts.”

Prior to coming to UND, Hardee was an assistant volleyball coach at New Mexico State. That’s where he met Faison, who was the former athletic director there.

Faison brought Hardee to UND in 2009, and the UND volleyball program took off.

The team won two Great West regular-season titles and three Great West postseason titles before moving to the Big Sky. This year was UND’s second in the Big Sky and it shared the league’s regular-season title with Portland State.

UND lost in the semifinals of the postseason tournament against Idaho State.

The program set attendance records during Hardee’s tenure and became a regional power in the sport.

“It’s a very difficult situation for me,” Faison said. “I’ve known Ashley for a long time as a coach and as an individual. These things are never easy. This is even more difficult. But we absolutely expect our coaches to adhere to high standards both in their personal life and in the coaching profession. We don’t shy away from that. At the end of the day, we want to do what’s best for student-athletes.”


Schlossman writes for the Grand Forks Herald