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IT’S OVER: Micheletto Era Ends At Massachusetts

Minutes after I wrote in my weekend recap that there should be a coaching change in the coming days news broke that UMass coach John Micheletto has been fired by the university.  Matt Vautour was the first to break the news:

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View From Section U ▲ Time For A Coaching Change

Let me start by saying that I think John Micheletto is a sharp, innovative hockey mind in the college game as well as a talented recruiter.  I have no doubt that he has spent the last three and a half years working hard to make UMass hockey successful in the competitive Hockey East.  I think he’s a well-intentioned individual who is trying his best.  I also believe that despite all those qualities he is not the right person to be head coach and after this current season, Athletic Director Ryan Bamford should look to someone new to lead the Massachusetts hockey program.

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Defenseman Callum Fryer To Join UMass This Fall; Leonard To Play For US U18 Team

It may be July but Coach Micheletto and his staff are still on the road trying to improve the fortunes of the Massachusetts hockey team.  They’re doing so not just for future years, but this coming year as well.  UMass picked up a commitment from 6’2”, 185lb defenseman Callum Fryer for this fall.  The news was first reported by Over The Boards:

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Recruit Update

A little late on this with the odd Tuesday game this week.  So here’s this week’s recruit update sans Kenny Gillespie who recently decommitted.

Ben Gallacher – D – Green Bay Gamblers (USHL) – 2013 (transfer)
5 GP / 1 G / 0 A / 1 Pts / 30 PIM / –2
Gallacher is still serving his second 8 game suspension of the season.

Mark Hamilton – D – Salisbury School Crimson Knights (NE Prep) – 2013
0 GP / 0 G / 0 A / 0 Pts
Sorry, the prep league just doesn’t seem to make it easy to find their players’ stats.

Mike Iovanna – RW/C – Malden Catholic Lancers (MA High School) – 2013
0 GP / 0 G / 0 A / 0 Pts
Malden Catholic’s first game is this weekend.  Iovanna is mentioned in a couple of HS hockey previews from the Herald’s Jim Clark.  The first is this overall DI preview in addition to this piece with Clark’s HS hockey rankings (MC is #2) and top players.  The Globe may have written about Iovanna as well but you’ll never see a link to them on FTT again.  Ever.

Dennis Kravchenko – LW – Sioux Falls Stampede (USHL) – 2013 or 2014
21 GP / 10 G / 11 A / 21 Pts / 45 PIM / +3
Kravchenko did not play this past weekend due to injury.

Patrick Lee – LW – Brooks Bandits (AJHL) – 2014
30GP / 13 G / 16 A / 30 Pts / 12 PIM / 0
Lee had a couple of assists in recent games.  The Calgary Herald recently ran this story on the Bandits and their amazing 28-1 record, with Lee quoted.

Casey Miller – C – Kimball Union (NE Prep) – 2014
0 GP / 0 G / 0 A / 0 Pts
Like Hamilton, I simply cannot get aggregated prep stats.  Miller is mentioned in this preview of KUA’s hockey season.

Willy Smith – LW – Springfield Pics (EJHL) – 2014
14 GP / 0 G / 2 A / 2 Pts / 6 PIM
Smith had an assist in one of his recent games.

Frank Vatrano– LW/C – Junior Bruins (EJHL) – 2013
17 GP / 11 G / 9 A / 20 Pts / 18 PIM
Vatrano had a game with three goals and two assists this past week against Rochester.  The three goals were scored on three shots.  Wow.

While my Mid-Season Recap yesterday was definitely a glass half empty viewpoint, here’s a well thought out and more optimistic viewpoint from the Collegian’s Nick Canelas.

Lastly, since I haven’t had a chance to earlier, I just want to take a moment to talk about the meet and greet with Coach Micheletto and the rest of the coaching staff following Saturday’s game.  First off, it was better attended than I expected considering the team had just been on the wrong end of an uninspired sweep at the hands of Colgate.  It goes to show that win or lose there’s a segment of hardcore fans out there will support the program no matter what.  While there were many familiar faces there, I also enjoyed meeting and talking to a few fans I hadn’t met before whose loyalty to UMass hockey goes back to the beginning of the triangle era.

I did get to speak with Coach Mick for a little while and he certainly did not appear shaken by what had transpired in the two games last weekend.  I give him credit for going to speak with fans following the losses, which was probably the last thing in the world he wanted to do at that point and time.  It’s clear that he’s a methodical person and has a certain way he wants to approach the team and the game and I don’t think a bad stretch of a few weeks is going to change that.  He seems to have an long range plan and I’m interested to see how it plays out.

Also in attendance were the assistant coaches as well as de facto Athletic Director Rocko DeLuca.  I say de facto because I honestly don’t even know if John McCutcheon realizes we still have a hockey program.  He did not make it out to Amherst Brewing Company that night, invisible that night just as he is during games at the Mullins Center.  Yes, he was absent to support his first year hockey coach coming off two tough losses and surrounded by the program’s most diehard fans.  You’ll be happy to know that reports are that McCutcheon did make his way to University Drive tonight to “work the room” with the fans of the men’s and women’s basketball programs for another event at ABC.  Yep, now you know where you rank in the eyes of our Athletic Director, UMass hockey fans.

After coach Mick was hired I wrote this post, suggesting ways that, in the wake of allegations McCutcheon doesn’t support the hockey program to the extent he should, he could win back the confidence of the hockey faithful.  In it I suggested seven actions he and the department could take to publicly show their commitment to hockey.  To their credit, two of the suggestions, finding a radio home for the sport and hiring a full time Director of Hockey Operations, have happened.  But sadly some of the easiest, most basic suggestions, such as “be seen at games and/or events” and “get on the radio” haven’t happened.  The reports were that Toot Cahoon left/was fired because he was fed up with the lack of support the hockey team got at the university and he had the gall to be vocal about it.  Based on everything I’ve read and heard, I totally believe that.  And in fact, it doesn’t take much more than basic observations skills to see that’s the case.  In the time since Toot left I’ve done my best to detail evidence corroborating the fact that McCutcheon in fact does not support hockey to the extent he should.  Hell, just in terms of his presence, McCutcheon’s public support of hockey in the last six months has consisted of the press conference announcing the hiring of Micheletto and an event at the UMass Club featuring Mick and basketball coach Derek Kellogg.  He’s yet to be seen on the concourse during a hockey game or in the Massachusetts Room in between periods with the programs boosters.  Based on that and everything else we’ve heard in recent months, how much would you say John McCutcheon is personally dedicated to the success of UMass hockey?

View From Section U: Show Me The Money

In the last six months we’ve heard a lot about UMass’ commitment, or lack thereof , to making the Minuteman hockey program one of the best in Hockey East.  We saw the radio contract for the team become an afterthought early in the Spring.  There were rumors and later media reports that it was frustration with a lack of focus on the program that resulted in former coach Toot Cahoon stepping down with a year left on his contract.  There was also talk that UMass was unable to lure high profile coaching candidates to Amherst because of the perception that hockey was not supported to the extent needed to win in an elite DI league.  From Rand Pecknold, to Paul Pearl, to Mark Carlson we saw candidates choose to stay at locales that, on paper, seem like a step down from a Hockey East school.  Yet we were never presented with any real evidence.  Nothing concrete suggesting that the athletic department and athletic director John McCutcheon were shortchanging the hockey program has surfaced.  No direct quotes from Cahoon or anyone else with the program were made public.

Well, today I stumbled across the following while searching on the UMass website.  This lists the total 2011 spending and 2012 budget for each of the 19 sports offered by the school.  As far as I understand it, the 2012 budget would go through this past June so the 2012 budget does not reflect Cahoon’s departure.

2011 Act 2012 Bud Var. Inc/Dec
Baseball $392,867 $385,894 ($6,973) -2%
Basketball (M) $2,273,331 $2,485,259 $211,928 9%
Basketball (W) $1,489,098 $1,642,363 $153,265 10%
Crew (W) $608,334 $634,391 $26,057 4%
Cross Country (M) $32,432 $28,061 ($4,371) -13%
Cross Country (W) $25,178 $29,167 $3,989 16%
Field Hockey $635,340 $673,444 $38,104 6%
Football $3,660,193 $4,472,700 $812,507 22%
Ice Hockey $1,455,384 $1,427,929 ($27,455) -2%
Lacrosse (M) $566,750 $617,764 $51,014 9%
Lacrosse (W) $650,108 $670,466 $20,358 3%
Soccer (M) $288,050 $295,034 $6,984 2%
Soccer (W) $661,025 $765,552 $104,527 16%
Softball $701,318 $769,041 $67,723 10%
Swimming (M) $257,483 $278,236 $20,753 8%
Swimming (W) $396,632 $476,599 $79,967 20%
Tennis (W) $400,383 $430,917 $30,534 8%
Track M $291,054 $311,431 $20,377 7%
Track W $465,812 $512,349 $46,537 10%
Total Sport Spending $15,250,772 $16,906,597 $1,655,825 11%

 

So, as you can see above, the total spending on the hockey program from the 2011 actuals to what was budgeted for 2012 was –2% less.  Given a cash strapped university in the current macro-economic environment this isn’t completely out of the ordinary.  Until you look at what went on with the rest of the sports.  Hockey was just one of three sports that had its spending reduced during this time with baseball and men’s cross country being the others.  I won’t pretend to know a lot about the cross country team, but I do know that there are people who have followed the baseball team for years that are very unhappy with the commitment to coach Mike Stone’s team under McCutcheon.  You can see that of the teams, hockey’s budgeted spend was decreased the most in terms of total dollars.

Not only was hockey’s budgeted spend decreased year over year, but you can see this flies in the face of most other programs at the school.  The total Athletic Department spending on the individual sports increased +11%.  On average each sport enjoyed a +8% boost to their budget from the prior year.  What I consider the high profile sports at UMass (football, men’s basketball, women’s basketball, men’s lacrosse, and softball) saw their budgets increase at least 9% or more.  But hockey’s contracted.

If you look in detail behind the above totals the decreases in the hockey budget came in Operating Expenses (-9.5%) and scholarships (-3.2%).  Compensation for the hockey program went up during this time +5.5%.  Now the decrease in scholarship expense could be a result of the team having more Massachusetts residents on the roster and thus more players who would pay in-state tuition.  But the drop in operating expenses amounted to almost $50,000 less year over year.

Now there are a few caveats to note regarding the above information.  First, we’re looking at just a small slice in time.  The above represents just one year of actual spend and then the next year’s budget.  Maybe hockey actually overspent their budget in 2012 so it didn’t matter anyway.  Maybe they overspent in 2011 so 2012 was adjusted accordingly.  It’s tough to draw conclusions with just two years of data.  Ideally you want to look at at least three years worth of data to be able to establish a true trend.  Unfortunately I couldn’t find this information for any other years though.  Also, we don’t know why the operating expenses dropped 10% in the 2012 budget.  The team could’ve had much higher travel expenses in 2011 versus what was planned in 2012.  There could be a number of reasons.

However, this is the only real data we’ve seen regarding financial commitment to hockey year over year, compared to the other sports.  And the data suggests that there could be some truth to the lack of support rumors.  Hockey was not only the only high profile sports not to have their budget increased by at least 9%, but they actually had it reduced.  You cannot deny that hockey is a complete outlier in the above data when it comes to year over year support.  I also hate to pit one UMass sport against another because I root for all Minutemen and Minutewomen, but the comparison of hockey to women’s basketball is puzzling.  Women’s hoops, which has 15 student-athletes and averages crowds under 600, but receives more than $200,000 more in funding and received a 10% boost?

For me, the above reinforces a lot of what I’ve already heard from those around the program, people previously associated with the program, and media members who have covered the program.  I’ve spoken to many people who have flat out said that the university’s support of hockey relative to other major sports at the school and other schools in Hockey East is lacking. I would hope other Massachusetts hockey fans would find this information discouraging and, frankly, infuriating.  Can Coach Micheletto win despite the department not supporting the team adequately?  Sure.  Win consistently?  Perhaps.  But it certainly makes his job that much harder.

In the wake of Cahoon’s departure McCutcheon was asked if the football upgrade meant hockey was being pushed to the back burner.  He responded by saying, “We have not reduced our support to hockey by one cent because of football. We’re committed to hockey as much now as we’ve always been. Does it mean we have a blank check? No. But we will continue to support it the same way.”  Well, the above data suggests support to hockey was reduced by more than one cent and is not being funded the same way.  If McCutcheon wants to be trusted on this subject and affirm his support of the only UMass team playing in an elite conference, I say “Show me the money.”

UMass remains at #7 in CHN’s Hockey East Power Rankings.

Don’t look now but Yale, which UMass will face in a couple weeks, was named CHN’s Team of the Week.

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