Five days after the UAH hockey program was saved by a fast and furious fundraising effort, Mike Corbett resigned as head hockey coach on Wednesday.
The resignation was first reported by WAFF’s Carl Prather. In an email Wednesday morning to supporters, assistant coach Gavin Morgan announced the “end of his time” with the Chargers.
Assistant coach Lance West will be the interim head coach for the 2020-21 season. Director of operations Ryan McRae and equipment manager Damon Wheeler will remain on staff.
“We’re thankful for the time and contributions to our hockey program and university from both Mike and Gavin while they’ve been here at UAH,” UAH athletic director Cade Smith said in the UAH’s official release. “We certainly wish them the best in their future endeavors. As we move towards the future, we’re confident in Lance and look forward to his leadership and what he continues to bring to this program.”
Corbett led UAH hockey for seven seasons, hired as the team was entering the WCHA. The Chargers were 48-181-24 during his tenure.
UAH made the playoffs three times in those seven seasons, winning one game. The highest the Chargers finished in the WCHA standings was seventh in the 2017-18 season.
West, who played for the Chargers from 1991-95, rejoined the UAH program before the 2018-19 season. Prior to returning to Huntsville, he was the interim head coach at Alaska for the 2017-18 season, when the Nanooks had an 11-22-3 record.
West was passed over for the permanent job in Fairbanks in favor of Erik Largen. The Nanooks were 16-15-5 last season with many of West’s recruits.
West was an assistant coach at Alaska for 10 years prior to his one season as interim head coach, and was an assistant under Doug Ross at UAH before that from 2000-07.
West getting a chance to be the head coach was a condition of Corbett’s resignation, according an email Corbett wrote to supporters on Wednesday afternoon.
“I want to thank all of you for your support and supporting the players during this time. It meant a lot to me and them. I wish things were different and the results were better, I truly do. I own that. I will not make excuses and I will tell you I came to work everyday and put everything I had into it. Not always making the right decisions, but doing what I thought was right for the program every day. Myself and my staff embraced it and fought the good fight every day. Only we know how that was and it was difficult but continued to put the program and the players first.”
The last two weeks were a roller coaster for Corbett and his staff. On Friday, May 22, the hockey program was eliminated, with his staff getting a final 90 days. Corbett spent the days immediately following the announcement on the phones trying to find new homes for his players.
On Monday, May 25, after alumni boosters met with university officials, a goal of $750,000 was to be raised in four days in order to save the program. With over $550,000 raised on GoFundMe and T-shirt sales in that time, top boosters Sheldon Wolitski and Taso Sofikits completing the balance, UAH announced on Friday that the program would continue.
West’s roster will certainly have a different look for 2020-21. Five players announced transfers to other schools, including last season’s leading scorer Josh Latta, four during the period after the program eliminated. The Chargers lost five players to graduation.
In the week the school announced the cutting of the program, the UAH hockey official Twitter account unveiled a six-player incoming class this fall. Two of them, Connor Szmul and Marty Westhaver, announced Wednesday that they was going to Long Island University to be part of its new program.
Meanwhile, the WCHA board of governors on Wednesday formally approved UAH’s return to the conference for the 2020-21 season. It’s currently expected that the 70th season will be the league’s last, with seven schools breaking away to form the new CCHA. UAH will be trying to join the new conference, which will start in 2021.
This story will update as more information comes in.