Regents policy holds up signing of new USD football coach

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) The University of South Dakota can't officially sign its new head football coach until the state Board of Regents temporarily suspends a longstanding policy prohibiting multiyear contracts.

School officials announced the hiring of Western Illinois coach Bob Nielson in December, and Nielson has been busy assembling his staff after agreeing to a $255,000 annual salary, Athletic Director David Herbster said.

But Nielson is seeking a long-term commitment, and current policy only allows one-year contracts for employees. On Friday, the board will consider approving a one-time suspension of its policy, the board's executive director Michael Rush said. Only after that, - and the regents' approval of Nielson's contract - will the length of it be known.

''Ultimately, we don't have this contract approved yet,'' Herbster said. ''He knows it, and that's what we're working on.''

Rush said he expects the board will approve the one-time suspension during its morning teleconference, and a separate vote would direct staff to develop a policy to deal with the matter in a more permanent basis.

''I'm pretty confident that there will be a change in permanent policy to reflect kind of the realities of Division I athletics,'' he said.

When Coyotes' coach Joe Glenn announced he was retiring in November, school officials decided they would go after someone coaching in the same conference - the Missouri Valley Football Conference. Glenn earned $147,000 last year, but the conference's average annual salary for head coaches has grown to $250,000, and Herbster knew any qualified candidate would want the security of a multiyear deal.

Nielson, 56, led the Leathernecks for three years, including this past season's 7-6 record and an FCS playoffs appearance, earning him the conference's honor of Coach of the Year. It was the first playoff appearance for the Leathernecks since 2010.

Herbster said the multiyear contract prohibition affected South Dakota's two major schools even when they played in the Division II North Central Conference alongside St. Cloud State, Minnesota State-Mankato and Minnesota-Duluth because those two were the only schools for the most part that didn't offer multiyear contracts.

Herbster, who previously as athletic director for former NCC rival Nebraska-Omaha, said some schools used the policy issue in recruiting, telling prospective athletes that if they go to a South Dakota school there's no guarantee that coach would be around longer than a year.

Rush said he's not sure if the issue has come up before the board before, as he's only served as executive director since July 1.

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Follow Dirk Lammers on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ddlammers

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