UMass AD Ryan Bamford discusses Sunday’s coaching firings, replacement searching process in conference call

By Anthony Chiusano

(Shannon Broderick/Daily Collegian)
(Shannon Broderick/Daily Collegian)

In the wake of the firings of hockey coach John Micheletto and women’s basketball coach Sharon Dawley, University of Massachusetts athletic director Ryan Bamford held a conference call Monday afternoon to discuss the reasoning behind the moves as well as expectations for both active replacement searches.

Two brief press releases were sent out Sunday morning announcing the two coaches, both with one more year remaining on their contracts, were relieved of their duties and had their remaining salaries bought out.

“This is an opportunity for us in both sports, in women’s basketball and hockey, to make a change and take our program in each respective sport to the next level. These are decisions that I don’t take lightly. I put a lot of thought into each of these and I think in my first 11 months, one of the things that I’ve really tried to articulate to people in our organization and externally is that we can build championship caliber programs at the University of Massachusetts,” Bamford said in Monday’s conference call.

“I thought that new leadership was something that we needed in these two sports relative to that competitive success and building that championship culture,” he added. “We made the decision to make the change.”

According to Bamford, the payouts for Micheletto and Dawley’s contracts, including vacation accruals, were $259,715 and $226,415 respectively. Bamford stressed that no taxpayer money or additional University funding would be used in the buyouts.

“Not one dollar comes from the University or taxpayer dollars,” Bamford said. “These buyouts are coming from realized unbudgeted revenues from NCAA, A-10 and MAC conference distributions that have allowed us to cover these expenses. Basically we’ve seen that our budgeted revenues from those three conferences have come in at a higher amount than we anticipated and that’s allowed us to buy out these coaches.”

Bamford said he will take charge on the search for UMass’ next hockey coach while Darrice Griffin, who was named senior associate athletic director for internal operations/senior woman administrator last June by Bamford, will handle the women’s basketball search.

Griffin is a former basketball player for Texas Tech and also serves the role as women’s basketball administrator at UMass. Bamford added that there will be no search firm brought in to help with either process.

“These things are obviously national searches, we hope to move quickly but most importantly we want to hire the best candidates, and that will influence timing more than anything,” Bamford said. “While we’re not going to hire a search firm, we do have an idea of who we want the candidates to speak with on our campus.”

The UMass women’s basketball team finished 12-18 (6-12 A-10) this season and was eliminated in the second round of the conference tournament. This year marked the Minutewomen’s second-straight 12-win season after winning seven combined games the previous two seasons.

“Coach Dawley did a nice job and worked very hard for six years to try to build this program. She had, in the last two years, a greater level of success, than she had had in the first four,” Bamford said. “That’s a sport where I think we’ve got some young women in our program that’ll allow us to be successful and allow the next coach to come in and evaluate.”

The hockey program, which finished 8-24-4 in 2015-16, was bounced out of the Hockey East tournament in a two-game sweep at Boston University this past weekend.

Bamford said he doesn’t believe UMass is too far away from being competitive in the tough Hockey East conference. The Minutemen are only graduating two seniors and are expected to return a strong core group of contributors.

Bamford sees hockey as a “revenue-generating sport” that has fallen below expectations on the ice and in terms of financial benefits for the University.

“We’ve gone the last four or five years, I think we’ve lost about $150,000 in ticket revenue from 2011-12 to this past season. For a budget of $34 million, it doesn’t seem like a lot, but that’s $150,000 that we can put back into our program and build the resources to a level where we’re going to have some sustained success,” Bamford said.

He added: “Hockey is important to us. Hockey in this state is an important sport and there’s no reason why the flagship university of this state can’t be successful in hockey. I believe in that, I love college hockey and we’re going to do everything we can in this hire and thereafter to give our new head coach the opportunity to have success.”

Bamford said he has not set up a target date to fill either vacancy, as he stressed patience in order to find the “right fit” for each program. He added that he already has a list of preliminary coaching targets in mind for hockey, which he would not disclose.

Anthony Chiusano can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @a_chiusano24.