MINNEAPOLIS - The University of Minnesota (U of M) has given longtime hockey coach Don Lucia a vote of confidence, inking him to a two-year extension that will keep Lucia under contract through the 2018-19 season.
Gopher officials made the announcement Thursday, the day before Lucia's club opens the 2016-17 season against Alaska-Anchorage. If he stays on through the length of the contract, the final season will mark Lucia's 20th year with the Gophers.
“It’s truly an honor to coach this program, and I am incredibly proud of what we have accomplished here at the University of Minnesota,” Lucia said. “We have high expectations for ourselves just like we know people have high expectations for us, and our program is proud of the bar we have set."
Lucia guided the Gophers to NCAA championships in 2002 and 2003 and has the Gophers program record for coaching victories at 415. Minnesota has won five straight regular-season conference titles, matching an NCAA record. That includes the last two years the Gophers played in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association and the first three years of the Big Ten hockey league.
“I promise our recruits and student-athletes that we’ll help them get their degree from Minnesota and compete for championships," said athletics director Mark Coyle. “Our men’s hockey program continues to raise banners at Mariucci Arena while also performing at a high level academically and graduating student-athletes.”
But Lucia also has has his detractors, who point to recent failures in the NCAA tournament, and losing out on top-ranked recruits who are leaving Minnesota for other programs. He has also taken heat for the number of U of M players who leave the program early to turn pro, keeping the Gophers in continuous rebuilding mode.