Q&A with Rensselaer AD Ken Ralph
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
We spoke to Rensselaer athletic director Ken Ralph on Tuesday afternoon, just a few hours after coach Dan Fridgen announced his resignation.
CHN: Obviously, there's probably a truth out there that goes deeper than Dan Fridgen just resigned. What was the chain of events here?
Ralph: We had a program evaluation going on. A tremendous number of people on our campus were involved and other administrative areas on campus. We wanted to take a long look at what we were doing in hockey. Are we providing the right levels of support? Are we playing to win? We wanted to make sure we were putting the best product on the ice that we can. If we're going to spend this much money on a program — it's fully funded, it's fully staffed.
CHN: Is it clear that the president cares if you win or not?
Ralph: She (Dr. Shirley Jackson) cares deeply whether we win or lose. And it's important to her that we move in that direction. ... (Fridgen) was in the final year of his contract and he was concerned about not being renewed. He did the very professional thing and decided to step down. He told the team this morning. ... He's incredibly professional and fantastic to work with.
CHN: Is it fair to say he saw the handwriting on the wall?
Ralph: That's probably fair to say. ... He's always represented the school well. He wanted to tell the team personally, and I think that's important. And he's earned the right to do that.
CHN: Obviously, these things are tough, because they're not always personal. You have nothing against your coach. Not that too many people will sympathize with you, but these are tough decisions to make.
Ralph: These kind of days are part of the job. The main thing is making sure we're working with the students involved, and looking at taking hockey to the highest level, and get a coach they're excited about, and trying to win a championship.
CHN: To what extent is that still possible? You have a deep fan base who goes back a long time and remembers some glory years, such as the '80s. But — and this is an issue for everyone in the ECAC, St. Lawrence, Clarkson, and so on — the schools like Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan are just getting bigger and bigger. So can you win on that level again?
Ralph: We'll have to find some ways to do some things in the program that are a little different — do things more efficient than the big programs. But Rensselaer as a school is really gorwing. It has much more name recognition from a non-hockey perspective. We need to leverage some of the momentum the school has earned back into the hockey program. I do think we can bring someone in who can win. We can make changes that will take us back to the top. We'll be realistic, of course. We first have to concentrate on our own conference. And if we're competitive in conference, we'll be competitive nationally. Even this year, Dan led this team to wins over BU, Cornell, Harvard — those are (NCAA) Tournament teams — and took Miami deep into overtime. We can get it done. We got to make sure we do it consistently.
CHN: Of course, the inevitable question is, who will be the next coach? I'm sure you'll get plenty of good applicants.
Ralph: We want to make sure we're putting a well thought out list together. We want to make sure we go through a search expeditiously. We don't want it hanging out there.
CHN: Do you think you'll just see who applies, or will you actively pursue someone?
Ralph: I do think there will be excellent candidates, but we'll wait until we put a search committee together before deciding who to pursue. But it's correct to assume there may be some people we solicit an application from.