Maria Lewis, who was named the Hockey East co-Coach of the Year this past season after leading the University of Maine women’s ice hockey team to a school-record 11 Hockey East wins and a school record-tying 17 overall victories, is a candidate for the job at the University of Vermont.
Maine athletic director Steve Abbott said Vermont athletic director Bob Corran asked him for permission to approach Lewis for the job and he granted permission.
Tim Bothwell resigned his post at UVM last month after posting a 39-138-21 record in six seasons.
Vermont went 4-22-6 this past season, 3-16-2 in Hockey East.
Lewis said she will interview for the job next week and she has been informed by Vermont officials that they would like to announce their new coach within two weeks.
Abbott said he would hate to see Lewis leave after the job she has done at Maine in just two seasons.
“Maria is an outstanding coach and she’s done a terrific job here,” Abbott said. “I would love to have her stay in Orono. She has really had a profound impact on our program.”
Lewis said she is “heartbroken” because “Maine is the place I want to be.”
But she said the two schools are “polar opposites” when it comes to long-term vision and resources and if she is offered the Vermont job, it will be a difficult decision.
“Vermont wants to be a national contender (and will provide the resources to make it possible),” said Lewis.
Lewis makes $45,000 per year and her one-year contract expires at the end of June.
Bothwell made $106,000 last season according to a published report and both of his assistants (Grant Kimball and Mike Gilligan) made in excess of $52,000.
Lewis said it isn’t as much about the money as it is about being able to “provide our players with the Division I experience they deserve.
“They have done everything we’ve asked of them. They’re involved in the community and 16 of them were Hockey East Academic All-Americans which is more than any other school. They deserve to be taken care of,” said Lewis who noted that next year’s team should be “faster and better” than this past year’s team even though it will be young.
“I’m really excited about next year’s team,” she said.
Lewis said it won’t require much to keep her in Orono, she just wants the institution to strengthen its commitment to the program to help her continue to develop it into a national championship contender.
That would include increasing the recruiting budget, supplying better equipment for the players and improving the travel budget so they can play a full 34-game schedule, she said.
They are currently scheduled to play 31 games next season along with an exhibition against the Russian national team.
She also said they have a limited budget when it comes to booking non-conference home games.
They do have the full allotment of scholarships (18) allowed by the NCAA.
“We have limited resources,” Abbott said. “But we’d love to keep Maria. We know she’s very happy in Orono and has been extremely well-received in the area. Her team has really responded to her.
“Maria is one of those rare people who has never complained about her salary or compared it to the other coaches’ salaries. She cares very deeply for the program. That’s what matters to her,” Abbott said.
Lewis downplayed her role in the program’s turnaround, saying it was the commitment and dedication of the players that made it possible and led to Vermont’s interest in her.
The Black Bears went 17-11-6 overall this past season, 11-8-2 in the league, and went 3-3 against the two Hockey East teams that reached the NCAA Tournament, Boston University and Boston College. Two of their three losses were one-goal setbacks to Boston College.
BC and BU went a collective 47-24-4 including a 29-11-2 record against Hockey East teams.
Lewis inherited a program that had gone 25-89-15 in its previous four seasons, 13-59-12 in Hockey East play.
She guided the Black Bears to a 12-17-5 mark (6-12-3 in Hockey East) in 2010-11 before this past season’s 17-11-6 and 11-8-2 marks.
Abbott said he granted Corran permission to talk to Lewis out of respect for her.
“Somebody who has done as good a job as she has and has worked as hard as she has for the institution deserves the opportunity for professional development,” Abbott said. “I can’t deny her that opportunity.”
But he reiterated that he hopes she stays.