Forum travels to places interviews dare not tread

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Edgar's religious beliefs were approached during the public session.

The second question of Scott Edgar's public forum last week was asked by Fred Burgard, a local pastor who identified himself as the chaplain for the Southeast Missouri State men's basketball team for eight years under previous coach Gary Garner.

The question was simple and straightforward: "What's your religious background?"

Welcome to the job interview process for Southeast's major sports, where coaching candidates are brought in for a day of interviews with various parties and then an open forum where the community and students can fire away.

"This was similar to the process over at Murray State, and I really like the process," said Edgar, who on Thursday was introduced as the new coach of the Redhawks. "I was able to introduce myself and let them see my passion and let them know more about me."

Edgar, by his design, was the first of three candidates to come to campus. His visit on April 6 was followed by Jay Spoonhour's on April 7 and Rod Barnes' on Monday. Edgar said he had been first to interview at Murray State back in 1991 and was able to make an impression that wasn't topped. When given a choice of interview dates at Southeast, he chose to be first.

He said he wasn't startled by the question -- "I'm proud of my relationship with my Lord and Savior," Edgar said Thursday. "I don't have to worry about that because of my pride for that" -- but it would be considered discriminatory if asked by an employer.

Southeast athletic director Don Kaverman said, "The university as an employer certainly can't engage in that kind of questioning, but members of the public can ask whatever they want to. I don't really have control over that."

Kaverman, who went through a similar process when he interviewed to become athletic director, thought at one time he might have to issue guidelines for the public forums.

"People have controlled themselves pretty well," he said.

His larger issue is that the forums may slow down the hiring process.

"I questioned it a little bit. I get frustrated with the time it takes," Kaverman said. "But there's value in it. It allows so many more people to get involved in the process, and their feedback is important. This was a difficult decision for me, and the feedback I got from people throughout this process was really very helpful."

Kaverman said the public forums give people a chance to take ownership in the hiring process.

And it puts the coaching candidates in a different environment.

"There's more to being a coach than coaching," Kaverman said. "You are in all kinds of different settings, and you have to be able to think on your feet in front of so many different people. This gives you insight into a coach."

The question on Edgar's religion -- he was the only one of the three asked -- gave that kind of insight, although Kaverman said the question would have to be ignored in the employment process.

"Obviously, it's interesting to see how they react," Kaverman said. "I thought he did a great job with it."

In fact, Edgar began his answer last week by saying, "I'm glad you asked, and I'm glad there's a believer in the crowd with me."

He said he was raised Presbyterian and found many great churches in the process of moving around the country.

"We usually attend nondenominational churches right now," he said, then added: "I think if a person or a player is going to reach their potential, they have to have physical strength, they have to have mental strength, but most importantly, they have to have spiritual strength. Physical and mental can or will go sideways, but spiritual strength always is constant."

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