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Kyle could make $50K more with performance bonuses

MARQUETTE – While Northern Michigan University head hockey coach Walt Kyle will receive little if any raise in his new base contract, bonuses in it could add nearly $50,000 to his annual pay.

Kyle will make $170,084 per year for the next two years, according to NMU athletic director Forrest Karr, nearly the same as a salary of about $170,000 he made this past season.

But the bonuses could add up to $49,500 to that figure.

For instance, if the Wildcats finish in the top four in the WCHA standings, Kyle would get an additional $2,000, while being named WCHA Coach of the Year would net him $2,500.

Other amounts are bigger. If NMU were to win the WCHA regular-season title – the MacNaughton Cup – or the WCHA tournament title – the Broadmoor Trophy – Kyle would get an additional $5,000 for each.

An NCAA tournament bid or a NCAA regional final appearance each would also earn Kyle $5,000 for either one.

If the Wildcats make the Frozen Four, Kyle would earn $10,000, and an NCAA national championship – which Northern has won once in its history when he was an assistant coach in 1991 – would give him a $15,000 bonus.

To earn any of these bonuses, the Wildcats would need to take steps toward improvement. NMU got off to a fantastic start in the past season with a sweep of Big Ten foe Wisconsin, but faded down the stretch and just missed out on hosting a first-round WCHA playoff series.

After getting swept by Bowling Green State in a best-of-three series, the Wildcats finished with a 14-18-6 record.

NMU athletic director Forrest Karr was displeased with how the season ended and says he understands the frustrations of Wildcats’ fans.

“It’s unacceptable to be where we are right now, given the support we are receiving from upper-level university administration and the tradition that we have,” Karr said. “I had high expectations for last year. The team got off to a good start and then struggled. It was disappointing.”

Kyle echoed Karr, but emphasized that the team made progress from the previous season and battled significant injuries, including a season-ending leg injury to star goaltender Mathias Dahlstrom.

“I know and the staff knows that we haven’t had the success the last few years like we would’ve liked,” Kyle said. “We knew a couple of years ago that we would have to rebuild a little bit.

“We feel that we’re in a really good spot with that. I don’t think our record this year reflects where we are and I feel really good about having the opportunity to finish it.”

When asked what he thinks the Wildcats’ strengths are heading into next season, Kyle emphasized the leadership of the upperclassmen.

“I think in college hockey or college sports in general, you have to be strong in your junior and senior classes,” he said. “I liked the guys that we had this year. I think that this year’s team would’ve been significantly better if some things hadn’t happened.

“I think we feel really comfortable with the people we have going forward. I think with those guys healthy and with another year of experience, I feel really good about the next two years.”

Although he was disappointed with how the season ended, Karr also believes that NMU can get back on track and has faith in the Wildcats’ players.

“Walt and I have spoken several times over the past two weeks,” the AD said. “We had honest conversations about how we can improve and what needs to change. Walt explained how he is going to get this turned around.

“I believe in the group of student-athletes coming back,” Karr said. “I believe the team will be better next year.”

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal. net.