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No longer rolling forward

MARQUETTE – A new contract agreed to between head hockey coach Walt Kyle and Northern Michigan University changed the “rolling” nature of his contract and has a specific end date, which is the conclusion of the 2016-17 season.

His base pay remains what it was last year, $170,084, which according to NMU athletic director Forrest Karr is around the midpoint of salaries in Northern’s league, the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.

But it is the rollover nature that was part of his original contract dating back more than a decade that is the major change.

That first contract that took effect June 14, 2002, and was for slightly more than three years until June 30, 2005, stipulated it was a “3 year rolling contract” without further elaboration.

Karr said that the rollover date appeared to be intended for July 1. There was some uncertainty, though, as that contract predates Karr’s tenure at NMU by more than 10 years.

His salary then was $110,000 with a $10,000 contribution made to a trust for a total value of $120,000. He had also received $9,000 for relocation expenses.

In addition, that original contract stipulated that Kyle would be allowed to leave his NMU job for a National Hockey League coaching position.

There were bonus provisions in that first contract similar to ones in his new one, such as money to be paid if the team reaches the NCAA tournament and wins a national championship.

One bonus in that original contract dealt with an increase in paid attendance that isn’t part of the new contract.

In his new contract, the bonuses can add up to $49,500, the largest being $15,000 for winning the NCAA championship, which the team has won once since its inception in 1976.

That came in 1991, when Kyle was an assistant coach under the school’s only other coach, Rick Comley.

Kyle and other Wildcats’ coaches are also in line to receive university-wide raises if NMU approves them for non-union-represented employees, according to the athletic director.

Karr also said that most NCAA Division I coaches have multi-year agreements that can be renegotiated and extended by mutual agreement. He said Kyle’s current contract fits this model and that most schools are trying to get away from rolling contracts that were more popular around 2002.

If NMU had wanted to get out of Kyle’s contract at the end of this past season, Karr said it could do so, but the university would probably owe him the remaining amount of money on the contract, though it could depend on the interpretation of the three-year rolling contract.

Kyle is now entering his 14th season as head coach of the Wildcats. He is the second head coach in team history and has a record of 237-225-57 in his 13 seasons.

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