The University of Maine has begun the search for its next men’s hockey coach.

The school announced on Tuesday the formation of a seven-person search committee that will find a replacement for Tim Whitehead, who was fired last Tuesday after 12 years as coach.

The committee, chaired by Dr. George Jacobson, a professor emeritus of biology, ecology and climate change at the university, is expected to have several candidates within the next two months, if not sooner.

“We give them two months as an outside deadline,” said UMaine Athletic Director Steve Abbott. “We hope to get names and to conclude our search sooner than that.”

Abbott said he has already been contacted by 10 people regarding the position and that “other people at the university have been contacted as well.”

Bob Corkum, the interim coach of the Black Bears, is among those who spoke to Abbott. “Bob has expressed, both publicly and privately, his interest,” said Abbott. “Bob is someone we think very highly of, the fact that we named him as interim coach demonstrates that. Bob knows this is an open search. His interim status doesn’t help or hurt him.”

The bottom line for the committee, said Jacobson, who estimates he has served on about 20 search committees for the school, “is to find who the best fit for the university is.”

The hockey program is regarded as the school’s highest profile sport. As Abbott said, “A lot of our school’s public identity comes from our hockey program. We need someone who can not only help our success on the ice, but reflect the values of our institution.”

Jacobson understands that. “We will look at this as a state-wide issue, not at the local hockey rink only. We’re looking for someone who can represent the entire state of Maine.”

Generally speaking, Jacobson said that every search committee he has been on has looked for “a very strong person who can serve the university at a high level for a long time.”

The search committee includes a mix of professors, business leaders and followers of Maine hockey, as well as a former player. Abbott and UMaine President Paul Ferguson will meet with the committee “to tell what we’re interested in for our coach and to hear what they’re looking for. That’s why it was important to have a cross-section of hockey constituencies in the committee.”

Whitehead was fired after the Black Bears posted an 11-19-8 record last winter — the third losing season in the last six years. He had led Maine to six NCAA tournament appearances — including a spot in the 2002 NCAA championship game — in his first six seasons, but just one since.

Abbott said the school is looking to find someone to take the program back to its elite level.

“People are very eager to reinvigorate the program,” said Abbott. “There are so many good things in the right places right now, from Tim Whitehead’s work. People want to build on that foundation.”

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at [email protected]

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