Success means extra money for new UAA hockey coach

Doyle Woody

Incoming UAA hockey head coach Matt Thomas already owns the most lucrative contract in the athletic department's history -- a five-year deal with an annual salary of $150,000 -- and ample, annual bonus clauses furnish him the opportunity to significantly supplement his income.

Nearly all the bonus incentives relate to winning -- no small task for a program that has endured 20 straight losing seasons in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association -- and two others are tied, respectively, to the academic performance of players and attendance at Sullivan Arena.

In all, the bonuses afford Thomas, who joins UAA's payroll on July 1 after wrapping his current duties as head coach and general manager of the ECHL's Stockton Thunder, the chance to earn as much as $51,000 in extra income.

But that number comes with a big caveat -- for Thomas to reach it, the Seawolves would basically have to all but sell out Sullivan regularly and win the Division I national championship.

Still, UAA vice chancellor Bill Spindle, who oversees athletics, said the length, base salary and bonus opportunities Thomas was given are intended both to give the coach security and bring UAA in line with other Division I hockey programs. Dave Shyiak made a base salary of $128,500 in his last season as Seawolves head coach.

"Obviously, we're not in the same league as the Minnesotas and North Dakotas of the world -- their salaries are off the charts -- but we're trying to get to the level where we're competitive,'' Spindle said. "We're saying to Matt, 'Listen, we know it takes time, we know it doesn't happen overnight, and we want you to feel part of the family and give you time to succeed.' ''

Thomas said he is focused on consistently improving the program, and bonuses will come if that aim is achieved.

"I've just got to concentrate on winning,'' Thomas said in a telephone interview from Stockton. "It's about running your program the right way. If you do that, it means the players are getting good grades, we're succeeding on the ice, and at some point we're competing for championships. Then the bonuses take care of themselves.

"All that is a byproduct of doing your job, and doing it well.''

Spindle, in detailing the bonuses available to Thomas, said, "We tried to set the bar pretty high for him.''

Spindle said coming up with the money to pay for any bonuses Thomas might attain would likely come from increased gate revenue -- more wins usually equals more fans, which in turn equals more revenue.

"If he can do these things, we're filling the house and we can pay for it,'' Spindle said. "If he's making (significant bonus) money, that means he's earning it and we're having success.''

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Matt Thomas bonus clauses

Here are the bonuses incoming UAA hockey head coach Matt Thomas can earn each season:

Winning the annual Governor's Cup against UAF -- $2,500.

Improving average home attendance to 4,800-6,000 -- sliding scale of $2,500-$3,500. (UAA last season averaged just 2,729 fans per game).

Being voted WCHA Coach of the Year -- $3,000.

A winning record -- $4,000.

Team GPA of 3.0 or higher -- $4,000.

Making the NCAA tournament -- $6,000.

Hosting a first-round WCHA playoff series -- $8,000.

Winning the WCHA regular-season title -- $8,000.

Winning the NCAA championship -- $12,000.