State Board fires U of I athletic director

POCATELLO — The State Board of Education fired University of Idaho athletic director Rob Spear Thursday, following an investigation that found he failed to properly report past sexual assault allegations involving student athletes.

The unanimous vote came during an otherwise routine board meeting at Idaho State University. Board members did not discuss the issue before voting, and made no comments afterward. Through a spokesman, board members declined to elaborate on their vote.

But before the vote, State Board member Emma Atchley cited an independent report that “identified a number of ways the university failed to respond appropriately to allegations of sexual misconduct” in 2012 and 2013. The report made clear that Spear was partially to blame.

“We’ve considered the report, comments received from the public and the university community, information received from the university’s counsel and information received from Dr. Spear and his legal counsel,” Atchley said before the vote.

The board terminated Spear’s contract “for convenience,” which means he will be paid for time left on his contract ending Feb. 17, 2020. His latest contract paid $196,958, the Idaho Statesman reports.

In a prepared statement, the U of I said the State Board made a “difficult decision.”

“University leadership respects this decision and will work closely with the board and, with the support of our university community, will continue to move our great institute forward in a positive and productive way,” the statement said.

The State Board took up consideration of Spear’s employment status because outgoing U of I president Chuck Staben disclosed a conflict of interest in the matter and requested to recuse himself, Atchley said.

U of I hired Spear as its full-time athletic director in January 2004. Pete Isakson, who has been serving as interim athletic director, will continue in that role for the foreseeable future, the U of I said.

Thursday’s vote ends months of uncertainty surrounding Spear’s future — and continues a shakeup on the Moscow campus.

Spear had been on administrative leave since April, and the U of I’s student Senate had demanded his resignation. Meanwhile, Staben in May agreed to step down after the 2018-19 school year. Staben said his agreement with the State Board was unrelated to the sexual misconduct investigation.

Devin Bodkin

Devin Bodkin

EdNews assistant editor and reporter Devin Bodkin is a former high school English teacher who specializes in stories about charter schools and educating students who live in poverty. He lives and works in East Idaho. Follow Devin on Twitter @dsbodkin. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

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