Western Michigan head coach Bill Wilkinson, whose last-place team had been the focus of an internal investigation earlier this season, has been relieved of his duties effective immediately, the university announced today.
Wilkinson will be replaced on an interim basis by assistant coach Jim Culhane while the search for his successor gets underway. Culhane is expected to be among the candidates for the vacancy.
Wilkinson himself will be reassigned as a special assistant to athletic director Kathy Beauregard. His contract with the university runs through June 30, 2000.
“We appreciate Bill’s many years of loyal service to this institution,” Beauregard said. “The University felt it was time for a change in the leadership of the hockey program. The University remains committed to fulfilling the terms of Coach Wilkinson’s contract.”
In 16-plus years as Bronco head coach, Wilkinson compiled a 313-301-53 record, including three NCAA tournament appearances and one CCHA playoff title. But WMU has been less succuessful in recent years, finishing 10-25-3 with a CCHA-record 18-game losing streak last season. The team is currently in last place in the league with a 3-16-6 overall record.
The Broncos’ season has also been marred by the arrests of two players at a team party which took place at a house owned by Wilkinson, and by the subsequent suspensions of the entire team for secondary NCAA violations uncovered during the university’s investigation of the matter.