ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Two weeks ago, St. Cloud State dismissed assistant coach Brad Willner. But according to school athletic director Morris Kurtz, the job of head coach Craig Dahl is safe, at least for now.
“I just want to let everyone know that Craig will be back in the fall, that I appreciate his tireless efforts and, after 18 years, he’s earned the faith I have in him,” Kurtz told the St. Cloud Times. “Sometimes the rumor mill gets going and you need to set the record straight.”
Dahl (338-309-52) has two years remaining on a four-year deal. Just completing his 18th season behind the bench, he is the only coach the Huskies have had at the Division I level.
St. Cloud finished in ninth place in the WCHA this season, the lowest finish since joining the WCHA in 1990. But, according to the Times, Kurtz met with Dahl to discuss “academic and competitive standards” for the team next season, and came away satisfied.
“They’re goals we’re excited about achieving and I strongly believe he will,” Kurtz told the paper. “It’s the nature of college sports that you have a very loyal and intense fan base. When those people see this in the paper, some will be happy and some will be unhappy. I’m sure I’ll get plenty of e-mails about it. But Craig is our coach and I hope our fans will get behind the 28 young people on the team.”
Despite that, Dahl, 52, realizes that there is a lot of pressure to start winning again, something that is much tougher in the WCHA these days with the re-emergence over the last five years of Minnesota and Wisconsin as powerhouses.
“The reality is I’m not going to beat my head against a wall,” said Dahl to the Times. “I’m going to do everything I can do to make this program successful. If it’s not going to work, I’ll look for something else. Not many coaches have spent 18 years in one place. But I’m not thinking about that right now. I’m thinking about how I can get this thing back on track.”
St. Cloud State was one of four programs to receive a failing grade in the new NCAA Academic Progress Rate. But that is affected by player movement, not necessarily the grades of those who remain on the team. Still, with an APR of 898, the Huskies are in danger of being disciplined if that happens again.
According to the Times, Dahl is hoping that incoming goaltender Bobby Goepfert gives a boost to the program. Goepfert, a Pittsburgh Penguins draft pick and member of the 2003 U.S. World Junior team, transferred from Providence, where he had academic issues.
“Ours is a tough business, but nobody put a gun to our head to get involved,” Kurtz told the Times. “And, be it good or bad, you don’t have to wait years to see the results of your actions. Everyone will know how they turned out.”