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Fridgen Finished

With Contract Set to Expire, Veteran RPI Coach Resigns

By Pete Iorizzo

Albany Times Union, March 22, 2006

TROY - Dan Fridgen, the men's hockey coach at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, has resigned, ending a 17-year tenure at the school, the past 12 as head coach.

Fridgen, the school's career leader in wins and losses, was in the final year of a three-year contract. His contract was set to expire June 30, and at the time of his resignation, he had not been offered an extension.

"It was a resignation," RPI athletic director Ken Ralph said. "That's important to understand. The program evaluation was ongoing. The contract extension was a piece of that. Dan didn't want a situation where it was going to drag out for a few more months."

Fridgen did not return a message left at his home Tuesday.

After taking over as coach on July 20, 1994, Fridgen compiled a career record of 211-193-38. His teams finished as high as third in the Eastern College Athletic Conference three times. But his teams made only one NCAA Tournament appearance - in 1995, his first season - and in the past four years twice finished in 11th place. By conference winning percentage, a three-season stretch from 2002-05 was the program's worst since the 1960s.

Men's hockey is the only Division I sport at RPI. Ralph said the school spends about $1.4 million a year on hockey and recently added $17,000 to its recruiting budget and $20,000 to its equipment budget. The program also employs three full-time coaches.

Wins and losses, Ralph said, were a major reason Fridgen's contract was not extended.

"We have a fully funded, fully staffed program," Ralph said. "You have to have expectations that winning is going to be a part of it."

RPI's hockey program once was a front-runner in the Capital Region sports market. It boasts eight NCAA Tournament appearances and two national championships, in 1954 and 1985. Former NHL stars Joe Juneau and Adam Oates are among its alumni.

Ralph said the school plans to continue evaluating its admissions criteria, which are extraordinarily rigorous, requiring incoming students to meet standards in subjects such as physics and calculus, in addition to core classes. But Ralph added that he believes the admissions process doesn't preclude success on the ice.

"People have said, 'You can't win at Rensselaer because of the prerequisites they have for being admitted,' " Ralph said. "We disagree."

Ralph said a search committee will assemble early next week to begin the work of finding a new coach. He said he hopes to have one in place within five weeks. The school will consider both internal and external candidates, he said.

Players learned of Fridgen's resignation at a meeting at 7 a.m. Tuesday. They acknowledged hearing rumblings about Fridgen's job during the season, which the team finished with a 14-17-6 record. The rumors intensified after the Engineers were swept in two games by Quinnipiac on home ice in the first round of the ECACHL playoffs.

"It's tough to take," senior captain Kevin Croxton said. "Guys are dealing with it in their own way. It's a new chapter for everyone. I think good things are going to happen for both parties involved. It's a sort of parting of ways."