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Brekee wants new coach in place next week

GRAND FORKS -- The University of North Dakota didn't waste any time looking for a new football coach. UND co-acting athletic director Steve Brekke announced Friday that Dale Lennon resigned as the Sioux coach. Later in the day, Lennon was introdu...

GRAND FORKS -- The University of North Dakota didn't waste any time looking for a new football coach.

UND co-acting athletic director Steve Brekke announced Friday that Dale Lennon resigned as the Sioux coach. Later in the day, Lennon was introduced as the new head coach at Southern Illinois, an NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision program.

After announcing the resignation, Brekke said UND has launched an internal search for Lennon's replacement, adding the Sioux could have a new coach in place by next Friday.

UND is not allowed to hire an internal candidate before the end of next week.

There are six assistant coaches at UND. Chris Mussman is the assistant with the most experience. He has been at the school for nine seasons and is the assistant head coach in addition to serving as the program's offensive coordinator.

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The other assistants are John Kelling, Mike Mannausau, Tim Belmore, Greg Breitbach and Eric Schmidt.

Brekke indicated that the decision to keep the search internal was made to give UND assistants the first opportunity to land the head coaching position at a program that has been a model for success the past decade.

"We have some tremendous coaches on our staff," Brekke said. "We'll begin there. We feel these individuals deserve the opportunity to lead our program. This is a good opportunity for someone to step in and take this program to the next level. The foundation is there."

Lennon's departure comes at a critical time for the program, which will become a Division I Football Championship Subdivision team next season.

First, UND is in the middle of its recruiting season. On top of that, there is no athletic director in place and a new UND president is expected to take office until next summer.

Despite Lennon's departure, Brekke said the Sioux assistant coaches remain on the job and are preparing for next year.

Brekke said Sioux assistants have been in contact with returning players and recruits who have given UND verbal commitments during the past few weeks.

Lennon, who has been involved in UND football for more than two decades, was the Sioux head coach for the last nine seasons. He leaves with a record of 90-24 and also guided UND to a Division II national championship in 2001.

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Brekke said no Sioux assistant had applied for the position as of late Friday. But he expects internal candidates to be interviewed early next week.

Brekke said UND will not name an interim coach.

Lennon's decision came as a surprise to UND officials. However, it isn't the first time that Lennon - one of the school's most popular coaches in history - has drawn interest from other schools.

In June, Lennon interviewed for the Montana State position and reportedly was offered the job.

A few years ago, Sacramento State offered Lennon its head coaching position. He's had other schools contact him as well.

Despite the tumultuous times at UND, Brekke said the football program remains in good shape.

"Good people will come and good people will go," Brekke said. "We're thankful to have had Dale here for as long as we did. This program is well known nationally. I'm very confident we'll have a very good coach in the very near future."

The Grand Forks Herald and The Dickinson Press are both owned by Forum Communications Co.

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