The Ohio State athletics department confirmed Tuesday that 15-year head coach John Markell will not return to the Buckeyes’ men’s hockey program in 2010-11.
Markell’s contract was allowed to expire following the Buckeyes’ 2-1 loss to the Miami RedHawks on Sunday evening in the quarterfinals of the CCHA tournament. Markell said following the game he had coached the team for a long time and hopes to continue coaching for a long time. That hope will not come true.
“It is an obvious disappointment; I have been here a long time,” Markell said in a phone interview Tuesday. “I wanted to continue to be a part of it. But, obviously, they wanted to take a new direction and this would be a good time to not renew my contract.”
Said Ohio State associate athletics director Chris Schneider, “This was John’s last year of his current contract, and what we’re looking for out of our men’s hockey program is one that is consistently successful, consistently competing for collegiate championships, and ultimately performing in the NCAA tournament.”
Markell’s career at Ohio State ends with a 280-267-56 record in 15 full seasons behind the Buckeyes’ bench. He has led the squad to six NCAA tournaments and a Mason Cup championship as CCHA playoff winners.
It was Ohio State’s recent performance that led to his dismissal. The squad has had only one NCAA appearance in the last five seasons and has not been one of the final four teams in the CCHA tournament in Detroit. During that time, the attendance has dropped dramatically in Value City Arena. In 2004-05, the team averaged 6,556 fans per game. In 2009-10, Ohio State averaged 3,096 fans per game.
“You can point the finger at lots of different people for lots of different reasons why it didn’t work out the way it did but, like I said, we have to adjust and move on and move forward from this and try to take the positives out of it,” said Ohio State alternate captain Sergio Somma, a junior.
In the 2009-10 season, Ohio State was picked to finish in fourth place in the CCHA by the coaches and media. The Buckeyes came well short of its expectations, finishing in eighth place.
“I love the character of the team,” Markell said. “I liked the way we bounced back. We were resilient. I really liked our second half. I thought we really matured as a team and were finally reaping the benefits of having a mature goaltender, solid goaltending, scoring goals. We were good on specialty teams. We were competing very, very hard. We always reacted the right way.”
Markell has had a good history of recruiting, bringing in current NHL talent R.J. Umberger, Ryan Kesler, Rod Pelley and Dave Steckel. Ohio State has six NHL draft picks on its roster; all six have eligibility remaining next season.
Ohio State joins Bowling Green and Western Michigan on the list of CCHA teams looking for new head coaches. Markell, a Bowling Green alum, said he would be interested but added that he needed something that would be a good fit for him and his wife Kim, who is a teacher in the Columbus area.
“Obviously, if there is another university that has ties to me emotionally, that would be it,” Markell said. “I would think maybe I might be a good fit, but it might not. Hopefully, if I did decide to go in that direction and apply, I’d be under consideration. It is kind of a program that needs some rebuilding. They’re well on their way financially.”
Ohio State is beginning a national search for its next head coach. Schneider indicated that the department will begin accepting applications this week through the Frozen Four. Following the Frozen Four, Ohio State will narrow the list to three to five candidates for interviews and will announce Markell’s replacement in early May.
“There is no reason why a team here at Ohio State shouldn’t have a chance to win [a CCHA title] every year,” Somma said. “The facilities, the opportunities you have at this school — it is bar none.”