ORONO — University of Maine Athletic Director Karlton Creech believes his hockey coach is only halfway through the process of rebuilding a winning program.

So he gave Red Gendron a two-year extension on his contract Friday despite a 37-57-13 record in his first three seasons. The deal that Gendron signed in May 2013 earned him $209,100 last year, making him the highest-paid member of Maine’s athletic department. It will now run through April 2019, with the salary unchanged.

“I’m not concerned” about the Black Bears’ record of 7-20-6 this season, Creech said. “I believe that Red is building the program in the right way. The six-year threshold gives him a good recruiting window.”

Creech said he and Gendron had been discussing an extension for a few months and that he was happy to be able to announce it during the season. Knowing that the coach is on board for three more years will reassure potential recruits, five of whom are on campus this weekend for the Black Bears’ final regular-season home series against Merrimack.

Gendron didn’t want to discuss the extension at length, saying he preferred to keep the focus on his current players.

He did say: “I work with great people here and I have a great staff and a great bunch of kids, so I’m very grateful. There’s no question that it’s important to have a continuity in the program.”

Creech acknowledged that it is the competitiveness of major-college hockey recruiting that was a driving force behind the decision to extend Gendron’s contract rather than let him enter the final year of it with the future in doubt. Other Maine coaches typically don’t negotiate until their contract is near its completion.

“Men’s hockey is our premier sport,” Creech said. “This gives him two more years to build his program.”

Recruits do pay attention to coaching contracts, said Neil Shea of Massachusetts, a forward who has verbally committed to come to Maine in 2018, two years after his brother, Pat, dons a Black Bears uniform.

“They’re the ones who give you their word for it. You want to be sure they’re there and not some guy who hasn’t recruited you,” Shea said of learning that Gendron received a contract extension.

“I like Coach Gendron’s desire to win and the way he treats his players. I’m excited because I know he’ll be there and that’s what I planned.”

Under terms of the contract, the university would need to pay Gendron a year’s salary if it dismisses him before the 2018-19 hockey season.

Gendron took over when Tim Whitehead was fired after going 11-19-8 in his final season at Maine. Gendron’s team won 16 games in his first year and 14 last year. This year’s squad ranks last in scoring in the 12-team Hockey East conference at 1.88 goals per game.

The Black Bears, winners of national championships in 1993 and 1999, are trying to create an endowment to provide a steady funding source for the hockey program and have raised $300,000 so far. The first $1 million raised will be matched by alumni Tom and Sally Savage. Gendron has pledged 5 percent of his salary – $10,450 a year – to the effort.