Skylights forfeit as lawyers argue to remove coach

HELENA -- The Montana State University-Northern women's basketball team, embroiled in a dispute involving its coach, will forfeit its game at the University of Great Falls on Saturday night, a Northern official said Friday.

Athletics director Ted Spatkowski said NAIA rules require a team to have a coach in order to take the floor, but the Skylight players have refused to play for embattled coach Kevin Emerick.

Northern told Emerick he cannot field a team of replacement
players as he had planned, Spatkowski said.

The players announced Monday they would no longer play for
Emerick, saying he had become increasingly verbally abusive since
the state Supreme Court decided last week not to get involved in
Northern's attempt to have him removed as coach.

Meanwhile Friday, Northern returned to the high court with a
more standard appeal that asked for a speedy order allowing the
Havre school to again bar Emerick from coaching for the remainder
of the season.

The school argued the justices should set aside a district
judge's Jan. 3 order forcing the college to reinstate Emerick. He
had been relieved of his duties in mid-December because he had
started a personal relationship with one of his former players who
was still a student at Northern.

The lower-court ruling, which said Emerick must be allowed to
continue working while he challenges the disciplinary action,
expands employee rights beyond legal bounds, said LeRoy Schramm and
Leslie Taylor, attorneys for Northern.

The order strips Northern, as well as the state Board of
Regents, of their constitutional authority to manage and control
the university system, they argued.

While Emerick can claim a legal right to be paid for the
remainder of his contract that ends in June, he has no legal or
constitutional right to continue performing the duties of coach,
the lawyers said.

If the Supreme Court does not overturn the district judge's
order quickly, the basketball season will be over and Northern will
have lost its legal right to determine whether to accept the
unwanted services of an employee, the court was told.

Emerick's rights will not be violated if removed from the
coaching bench, because he will continue to be paid and still has
the ability to sue for any legal damages, Schramm and Taylor said.

The Supreme Court gave Emerick until 5 p.m. Monday to respond.