Michigan State’s Comley says he’ll retire at season’s end

Rick Comley, Justin Abdelkader (Michigan State - Muskegon, MI) - The Michigan State Spartans defeated the Boston College Eagles 3-1 (EN) to win the national championship in the final game of the 2007 Frozen Four at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Missouri on Saturday, April 7, 2007. (Melissa Wade)
Rick Comley led Michigan State to the 2007 NCAA championship, his second as a head coach (photo: Melissa Wade).

Michigan State coach Rick Comley will retire at the end of this season, he announced at his weekly news conference Tuesday.

Comley, who led Northern Michigan to the 1991 NCAA championship and Michigan State to the 2007 title, is in his ninth season with the Spartans and his 38th season overall.

He ranks fourth in the all-time coaching wins list with 774, trailing only Ron Mason, Jerry York and Jack Parker. Comley, York and Ned Harkness are the only coaches ever to win NCAA titles at two schools.

Mason hired Comley to follow him when he left the Spartans’ bench for the school’s athletic director position.

“I have been very proud to be a part of Michigan State hockey, and I would like to thank Ron Mason for giving me this opportunity nine years ago,” Comley said in a statement. “This program is very special, with a long tradition of success. I am very proud that we could bring a national championship here in 2007, and not only have we had good hockey players in our locker room, we have had quality young men who represented this program well in the classroom and in the community. I want to thank them, as well as my staff, for an experience at Michigan State that leaves me with many great memories.

“As I continue on as the head coach for the remainder of this season, our focus for our players and staff will not change. We have improved throughout this season, and it is important for all of us to continue to try to improve every day. While the end of my Michigan State career is on the horizon, we owe it to these players to continue with business as usual. We have two important games this weekend, and four more series after that — and each game is important. That is, and will remain, our focus in these coming weeks.”

The school will conduct a national search for Comley’s replacement, athletic director Mark Hollis said in a statement.

“I have a great respect for Rick Comley and his accomplishments not only at Michigan State, but throughout his 38-year coaching career,” Hollis said. “Coach Comley is among a distinguished group of coaches in his sport — one of the top five in victories all-time, and among a handful to win national championships at two institutions. We thank him for his contributions to Michigan State hockey and our athletics department during his tenure.”

Comley spent 26 seasons at Northern Michigan, amassing a 538-429-68 record and winning the 1991 title in a memorable, three-overtime victory over Boston University.

He began his career at his alma mater, Lake Superior State, again taking over for Mason. There, he was 59-46-3 from 1973 to 1976, winning the 1974 NAIA championship.

Since taking over at Michigan State in 2002, Comley has posted a 181-133-39 record, with six straight seasons of at least 20 wins to start his tenure. After a 10-23-5 season in 2008-09, Michigan State was 19-13-6 and missed the national tournament last season. The Spartans are 10-12-4 this season.

Comley was the winner of the Spencer Penrose Award as the national coach of the year with Northern Michigan in 1980 and 1991.