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What is Going on at SD School of Mines?

Accusations by a former coach that the administration was out to get the coach are nothing new. Accusations that minor NCAA violations were blown up from molehills to mountains to justify firing the coach are also not uncommon. But these accusations from a current coach are rare:

“He’s tried to push me out from the very beginning and it continues today,” Felderman said. “He wasn’t successful, so now he’s targeted Gabe and has non-renewed (Gabe’s) contract for reasons he hasn’t explained.”

Felderman is Barb Felderman, South Dakota School of Mines’ longtime women’s basketball coach. Gabe is her top assistant, Gabe Zeigler, who was let go after the 2012-13 season. And “he” is Dick Kaiser, Mines’ AD since 2009.

Zeigler was put on notice after two minor recruiting violations, and claimed Kaiser told him his third strike would be his last. Felderman was also suspended in 2011 for another minor violation, driving team members to Denver to visit a teammate in the hospital. Not only is that no longer a violation, at the time it would likely be allowed if the school had sought a waiver.

But if we assume Kaiser is after Felderman and is using minor NCAA violations as a weapon against her, the reason seems pretty clear from the article:

“This all comes during a somewhat tumultuous time for Hardrocker athletics,” she said. “Football and soccer have secured spots in a conference due to work from the individual coaches in those sports, while other sports are left still searching. The travel is tremendous, causing strains on the athletic budgets. The move to D-II should have an AD supporting and building relationships with coaches and supporting all programs.

Mines was accepted by the NCAA in 2010 to move from NAIA. Transition from NAIA to Division II of the NCAA involves a probationary period. That probationary period includes the NCAA taking a very close look at a school’s compliance with NCAA rules before being accepted for full membership. And Mines is still searching for a conference for some sports.

Combine an AD’s desire to make the athletic department as attractive as possible to potential conferences and one of the few times that secondary violations can be a big deal with the NCAA. That combination could easily lead an AD to want new coaches and to be paranoid about any violation, not matter how minor.

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