University of Maine President Paul Ferguson has announced that the University will buy out the last year of Coach Tim Whitehead’s contract, ending his appointment as head coach after 11 seasons. This announcement follows several weeks of intense discussions with constituents of the University of Maine Men’s Ice Hockey Program that included current and former players, coaches, fans, donors, faculty, university administrators and Coach Whitehead. This action is effective April 9, 2013.
“Tim’s positive character and demonstrated commitment to developing our hockey players as student-athletes have been outstanding,” said President Ferguson. “We as a university are grateful for that commitment to student success.”
In supporting this decision, Director of Athletics Steve Abbott added, “This is about the future of our marquee program. Since 2008, UMaine has experienced declining Hockey East success, season ticket sales and overall ticket revenues, and waning student engagement in men’s ice hockey. The President and I are committed to ensuring that our Men’s Hockey Program is financially sustainable, continues to focus on developing the student-athlete and is known nationally for excellence.”
In a statement, Coach Whitehead said: “It has been an honor to serve as the Head Coach of the Men’s Hockey Team at the University of Maine for the past 12 years. My family and I feel blessed to have been part of the Maine Hockey family, and we will always cherish the relationships we have built, both at the University and in the Bangor Community.
“The Maine hockey fans are the best in the country, and they have a lot to look forward to for next season and beyond,” Whitehead said. “I love our returning core of players and our incoming recruits. I’m confident this team will build on our strong second half this season, and that they will compete among the top programs in the nation next year.”
Whitehead had one year remaining on a four-year extension of his employment contract negotiated in 2010. In choosing not to pursue an additional extension from discussions with Coach Whitehead, the University will provide up to $195,000 related to one year’s salary, plus one month’s salary in lieu of notice. President Ferguson will use only privately raised funds from the President’s Discretionary Account to meet that obligation and no funds will be reallocated from the current university budget committed to academic programs, faculty, student or operational needs. Abbott has indicated that the Athletics Department is committed to reimbursing the President’s investment through anticipated revenues generated by renewing fan interest and increased ticket sales.
A formal national search for a new men’s ice hockey coach will begin immediately with the formation of a search committee.