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Idaho State Board of Education meets, makes no decision on future of Idaho athletics director Rob Spear

Idaho athletic director Rob Spear, right, watches a basketball game against Washington State at Beasley Coliseum in Pullman on Nov. 16, 2010. (Dean Hare / AP)

MOSCOW, Idaho – For the second time in a month, the Idaho State Board of Education met in a lengthy executive session on Friday in Boise to discuss the fate of Idaho athletics director Rob Spear.

As it did July 13, the board emerged from closed session without taking action.

State law requires the board to take any vote or decide any action in open session. According to board chief communications and legislative affairs officer Mike Keckler, when the board came out of executive session and before adjourning, board president Linda Clark announced “any action to be taken at a future date, will be properly noticed. We will go from there.”

The board met for 2 hours and 35 minutes. This followed a 2-hour session July 13.

Once it decides, the board will give clarity to a leadership situation at Idaho that has been muddied since early April.

Idaho president Chuck Staben placed Spear on administrative leave in April following a controversy that roiled campus. Two former women’s athletes said early this year that Spear did not treat with appropriate concern their complaints five years prior that they had been harassed and in one instance assaulted by a former Vandals football player.

What was originally intended to be a 60-day leave while the university did a comprehensive review of its policies for dealing with harassment complaints was extended without limit by Staben when the 60 days passed without the review being completed.

While the review and Spear’s suspension were ongoing, the board in May announced it was not renewing Staben’s contract as president, and his time at Idaho would conclude with the 2018-19 school year. Having decided to end Staben’s tenure, the board apparently concluded it should determine Spear’s fate instead of Staben.

Spear has been Idaho’s athletics director since 2003.

In Spear’s absence, associate athletic director for revenue generation Pete Isakson has served as interim athletics director. In that capacity, he has already hired a women’s soccer coach.

Jeremy Clevenger, an assistant coach at Northern Iowa, replaced Derek Pittman, who left the Vandals in May after four seasons and regular-season league championships in 2015 and 2016 to become coach at the University of Texas-San Antonio. Pittman cited uncertainty over the future of the program as contributing to his decision to leave.

Staben announced in April that Idaho may be forced to cut soccer, swimming and men’s golf to manage an ongoing operating shortfall of approximately $1 million if the university is not allowed to add several new sports, without scholarships, and count the tuition and fees paid by participants of those new sports as athletics revenue. In May, the SBOE gave Idaho officials a year to present a proposal to demonstrate such a move would eliminate the ongoing deficit.

So the soccer, swimming and golf programs have been spared for now. But solving the budget problem remains a significant challenge for Idaho leaders, whoever they are.