COLUMN: A call for transparent statements, not rumors

The Gophers men’s hockey program should be more transparent when it comes to coaching shake-ups.

Derek Wetmore

On Friday the Minnesota Daily received a report that assistant menâÄôs hockey coach John Hill would not be back on the bench for the Gophers this season.

When reached by phone, the team had no announcement to make regarding the rumored switch. On Sunday, the team issued a release confirming the rumor, but the announcement raised more questions than it answered.

Though Hill may not be as high-profile as some other Gophers coaches, he made $101,505 in 2009-10. In a position of that caliber, more transparency is needed when anyone is ushered in or, in this case, shown the door.

Did Hill step down or he was he fired?

If he stepped down, is he pursuing some other career venture that tempted him to jilt the Gophers hockey coaching ranks âÄî once a coveted position?

The release was titled: âÄú[Don] Lucia announces change to staff.âÄù Does Minnesota have someone lined up to replace him? Early July is not exactly the best time of year to pluck hockey coaches. Is the switch spurred by an earnest attempt to improve the hockey team, or is it merely a scapegoat falling on the sword created by a third-straight missed NCAA tournament?

ItâÄôs not an entirely surprising situation âÄî HillâÄôs departure has been rumored for a while now. What is somewhat surprising is the lack of transparency coming from the program.

If youâÄôre going to send Hill to the altar as a sacrificial lamb to the disgruntled fan base, donâÄôt spare the gory details.

In an ironic twist of fate, the candidate rumored to be replacing Hill is Mike Guentzel, a man who suffered a fate seemingly similar to HillâÄôs back in 2008.

Guentzel resigned in April 2008, but many who followed the team closely believed Minnesota forced his hand in signing off on his resignation. His departure cleared the way for Mike Hastings as an assistant, who only stayed one year with the team.

The Star Tribune reported Monday that University officials are talking with Guentzel about returning to the bench.

If in fact Guentzel is returning, many believe heâÄôll be a boon to the GophersâÄô defense that will lose smooth-skating Aaron Ness to the pro ranks and three seniors to graduation.

From the looks of things though, the motivation for the move is two-fold.

It should also buy Lucia some time as he negotiates a contract with Athletics Director Joel Maturi.

New University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler takes over Friday, which leaves Maturi âÄî whose contract runs through spring 2012 âÄî with an uncertain future.

Lucia, who deserves credit for winning back-to-back national titles for Minnesota at the beginning of last decade, may face equal uncertainty.

If a new athletics director is brought in, will he have the same allegiance to Lucia that Maturi has had?

Or even if Maturi is retained, can he continue to employ Lucia âÄî who made $456,825 in the 2009-10 fiscal year âÄî with a growing portion of the fan base screaming for a change in the face of the programâÄôs stagnancy?

High-revenue college athletics are a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business, and with a void of recent NCAA tournament success coupled with four straight years of finishing no higher than fifth in the WCHA, the only notable moves in recent memory are coaching changes.

The GophersâÄô hockey program is a pressure-cooker, but for a program that remains the flagship hockey school in the State of Hockey, fans arenâÄôt unwarranted in requesting a couple championship banners hanging from the Mariucci Arena rafters.

Those astute enough to clamor for transparency should have that awarded as well.