OMAHA, Neb. — One of the burning issues with the Nebraska-Omaha program this offseason has become a little clearer.
Mike Kemp has stepped down as the Mavericks’ coach to join new athletic director Trev Alberts’ inner circle of administrators.
Kemp, the only coach in the program’s 12-year history, will be an associate athletic director at the school, and one of his first responsibilities will be to help find his successor.
The move was Kemp’s decision, Alberts said.
“Mike has made a choice of great humility and selflessness in order to benefit our hockey program,” Alberts said in a statement released by the school. “We need him here long term and in a role larger than coaching. He will figure prominently in the strengthening of our marquee program.
“Mike and his wife Julie have made amazing contributions to UNO and the greater Omaha community during his tenure here. It was important to us that he continue to play a prominent role in Maverick hockey.”
Kemp, who had a 191-226-54 record at UNO, will finish his current contract, which has one year remaining, then get a two-year extension in the pay range of an associate AD, the school said.
A Gustavus Adolphus alum, Kemp originally started in Omaha when the school was considering a move to varsity over 30 years ago. When those plans were shelved, he became an assistant coach with the Gusties, then moved to a similar position at Wisconsin.
Hired to coach the Mavericks in the summer of 1996, he led the program to its first winning record in its fourth season, 2000-01. That year, the Mavericks finished 24-15-3 and lost in the CCHA semifinals.
UNO made its first and, to date, only NCAA tournament appearance in 2006, losing to Boston University in the first round.
After three straight winning seasons, the Mavericks have posted two straight losing records. A 14-game winless streak doomed them to a 15-17-8 record last season, leading to questions about Kemp’s future with the program.
The move to athletics management keeps him with the program while also allowing for a change at the top.
“The UNO hockey program has been a huge part of my life and to continue to make decisions and plot the course of Maverick hockey is something I cherish,” Kemp said in a statement.
Kemp, who also will oversee UNO’s golf, cross country, track and field and soccer programs, will be part of a seven-person search committee charged with finding a new head coach.
Besides that, the Mavericks have the lingering issue of courtship by the WCHA to be that league’s 12th member.
UNO and the WCHA had mutual interest when the program was starting, but UNO got a chance to join the CCHA earlier and jumped at that offer.
Now, the WCHA is looking for another team to add alongside Bemidji State for the 2011-12 season, and UNO has been central in speculation.