More than seven weeks after Lisa Howe’s controversial departure, Belmont still doesn’t have a head women’s soccer coach.
Director of Athletics Mike Strickland, however, isn’t concerned.
Strickland, who is in his 15th year at Belmont, said he expected the search to take “a while.”
“I don’t think it is going to be too much longer,” he said. “This one I did not want to go fast. I wanted to take my time, make sure we got as much as we could, look at them thoroughly, investigate them and try to match them up for us. We figured it would be a two- to three-month process all along. That was my intention from the beginning. I think we are in great shape.”
The Bruins are looking for a new soccer coach after Howe left on Dec. 2, just two weeks after she disclosed to her team that she and her same-sex partner were having a baby.
Initially, through a release, the school said Howe, who had been the head coach for six years, had resigned. The next day, however, the university sent out another release which said Howe did not resign, but that she and the university had reached a mutual agreement for the parties to part ways.
This led to an unpredictable reaction that spread beyond Belmont and into the national spotlight. Several of Howe’s players said their coach was fired. Protests and marches in defense of Howe took place on Belmont’s campus. Donors, alums and politicians spoke up and demanded the rehiring of Howe.
Howe sat quiet for a week, and then began to do local and national media interviews — with a segment airing on ESPN’s Outside the Lines.
“Any time you have change, people react in different ways,” Strickland said. “I just believe everybody has a right to their own expression and I accept that. I am just interested in moving our program forward and finding a new coach and giving our program some stability and moving forward.”
Howe, her attorney Abby Rubenfeld and Howe’s partner Wendy Holleman, who was an assistant for Howe at Belmont during the 2005-07 seasons and now coaches at the University School of Nashville, have not disclosed why Howe left, citing a confidentiality clause in the settlement the two parties reached.
Strickland would not say if Howe had reapplied for the job, stating that he did not want to talk about any of the 85 applicants for the job.
“We had a good pool of applicants,” Strickland said. “We are satisfied with what we have. I think we’ll get a good coach. I don’t want to say anything about the pool.”
With national signing day approaching on Feb. 2, Strickland says all six members of the 2011 recruiting class have been contacted and still plan to sign a national letter of intent to play at Belmont. He also added that none of the current members of the soccer team have asked for a release to transfer to another school.
As for assistant coaches Kyle Roelke and Andy Stoots, Strickland didn’t say if they would be retained.
“We are open to everything,” he said. “If we have a new coach, coaches always get to choose their staff and the coach will have that option when they get here.”
The interview process is right around the corner, and though Strickland wouldn’t put a timetable on hiring a new coach he doesn’t expect to still be searching by March.
“No matter what the reason that a coach is gone, you have lost your coach and athletes look to the coach. That is their focal point and they need their coach. They want their coach,” Strickland said. “So you try to get that done as quickly as possible and get the new coach in.
"But you have to do your homework and make sure you are going through the steps and processes you need to go through. ... Everybody wants to know who the coach is and I do, too, and we’ll get that done quickly. But I don’t think the program is suffering at all, at this point.”