MINNEAPOLIS — Following weeks of speculation about his job security after two consecutive sub-.500 seasons, Doug Woog stepped down Tuesday as head coach at Minnesota.
“This is an end, and yet a beginning,” said an emotional Woog at an afternoon press conference at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis. “It’s important for people to know it was a volunteer decision. I could have come back and coached.”
Woog, who had been working under a series of one-year contracts, will remain at Minnesota as assistant athletic director. His duties in that position will include fundraising and some on-air work for Midwest Sports Channel, which broadcasts a variety of Gopher sports, including hockey. Reportedly, he will retain his $98,000 salary in his new job.
“I really enjoyed … the aspect of talking about hockey with an audience,” said Woog of his tenure as coach.
“Twenty guys [on a team] turn you off after about a month — well, now, four million viewers are going to have to turn me off,” he joked.
Woog, who had a 389-187-40 record in 14 seasons as the Gopher coach, had said at the close of his team’s season that he expected to be back for 1999-2000.
But critics pointed to the Gophers’ lack of success in the last two seasons — in which Minnesota did not qualify for the NCAA tournament after 13 consecutive appearances — as reasons for Woog’s departure. Woog had also been under greater scrutiny since a well-publicized incident in which he gave former Gopher player Chris McAlpine, who had exhausted his hockey eligibility, $500 for tuition in 1994.
“Quite honestly, everything about the hockey job was great,” he said. “But eventually, the answer [to another one-year contract] is no. And that’s fine.”
Woog, a Minnesota alumnus and a former hockey All-America, saw his teams claim at least a share of four WCHA regular-season championships and three playoff titles. In his tenure, the Gophers reached the NCAA title game once, losing to Harvard, 4-3, at the St. Paul Civic Center in 1989.
Rumors have cited Colorado College coach Don Lucia and North Dakota coach Dean Blais as the top candidates for the Minnesota coaching position. Both men have Minnesota ties, and Blais is an alumnus.
Colorado College sports information director Dave Moross confirmed to the Associated Press that that school has given Minnesota officials permission to talk to Lucia, who has not signed an extension to his current contract. Other reports have also indicated that North Dakota has given similar permission, but those were unconfirmed.