Herbster takes over in interim

By Jeremy Hoeck

jeremy.hoeck@yankton.net

Shortly after the announcement was released, department officials and coaches were quick to point out that, yes, everything will be fine at the University of South Dakota in the wake of athletic director David Sayler leaving.

It's not new territory for USD, which had a similar situation two years ago when Joel Nielsen left for the same job at Kent State University.

The key now, staff members said Thursday, is to keep moving.

"It's not like we're young kids asking the dad for the keys to the car," head men's track coach Dave Gottsleben said Thursday afternoon.

True, USD does have three coaches with at least 19 years experience and five others with at least five years on the job, so it's not exactly like everything will change.

"For us, it's another obstacle we have to deal with, but I don't see it affecting what we do in our individual sports," Gottsleben said.

USD staff was informed of the impending announcement during a meeting Thursday at the DakotaDome. It was at that time that senior associate A.D. David Herbster made clear that life will go on, according to associate A.D. James Bandy.

"It took most of us by surprise, but we all know this is part of the job, people can come and go at the drop of a hat," said Bandy, whose primary responsibilities include internal operations.

"There will be some leadership challenges for us, certainly, but I don't think anybody will shy away from them."

For the second time in as many athletic director searches, Herbster is the interim A.D. He was the man in charge during the short three-month period between Joel Nielsen and David Sayler in 2010.

The position will likely be opened to a national search, as was the case in 2010 when Nielsen left.

"Over the next couple of weeks, president (Jim) Abbott and David will obviously have some meetings to see what they want to do in the interim, as far as advertising for the position," Bandy said.

"I expect one question that will be asked will be, how will this affect the fundraising and all the work we've made so far."

With USD nearing $10 million remaining on a $58 million project for a new basketball and volleyball arena, along with an outdoor track and soccer complex, the need to keep moving is key, Bandy said.

"David intends to go out and continue raising money and talk with potential donors," he said. "It might be two weeks or it might be a month where there might be some reassignments or some of our staff taking on more responsibilities."

As to who replaces Sayler is the next big question at USD.

"I would hope the next person would consider more stability; a longer stay, but that's not for me to say," Gottsleben said.

Herbster, who has been with USD since 2007, is seen by many as the next logical choice, given his experience with Coyote athletics and his familiarity and involvement in ongoing projects.

Prior to coming to USD, Herbster served as athletic director at Nebraska Omaha (2005-07) and Concordia University-St. Paul (2001-04).

Among Herbster's other stops in his career were Pittsburg State, a Division II school in Kansas, and North Dakota State. It was at those spots where he got to know Joe Glenn, who would later be talked out of retirement by Sayler and Herbster to coach football at USD – his alma mater.

"I got to know him when we would play his schools in the playoffs," Glenn said. "When they came down to talk to me (last year), it helped that he (Herbster) was at my school."

Having experienced staff members already in house is naturally a relief for coaches, Gottsleben said.

"Obviously this is something that our president has to sleep on," he said. "We've got some great people in our building already. I think everyone's concern is the building project and moving our department forward, so hopefully they can get someone who is knowledgeable about what's going on."

Who that will be is up to Abbott and a search committee, but Bandy made sure to point out that life must continue in the interim phase.

"I certainly hope our staff has confidence in us, that we can move forward without missing a beat," he said.

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