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What happened to NMU sports?

Just this past weekend, the Northern Michigan University hockey team dropped a pair of home games to Alabama-Huntsville.

Now, Huntsville isn’t your typical college hockey powerhouse, although they have improved since they went something like 2-35-1 three years ago.

But the double defeat left the Wildcats winless this year at home this season. And that underlines a problem in Marquette where Northern athletic programs have really struggled in recent years.

I’m not talking about hockey specifically, because coach Walt Kyle has had some good teams in his tenure. Rick Comley, the coach before Kyle, did very well and even won a NCAA title.

But the rest of the so-called “major” sports (men’s and women’s basketball and football) have also taken their lumps.

There was a time when NMU was a force in just about every sport.

I can clearly recall when a trip by the Wildcats to Houghton was an event looked forward to by local fans, at least.

Back in the 1960s and 1970s, NMU’s basketball teams were always the heavy favorite against the Huskies.

Led by such players as Gene Summers, Wayne Monson and Ted Rose, Northern usually won. In fact, the MTU’s men’s team didn’t defeat NMU between 1964 and 1979.

The arrival of Kevin Luke twenty years ago signaled better days for the Tech men on the hardwood.

In women’s basketball, Kevin Borseth helped MTU turn things around against their rivals. And that hasn’t changed since John Barnes and Kim Cameron seamlessly followed.

The same held true in football where the Wildcats seemed to win whenever the two Upper Peninsula rivals met. There was even a period where the two didn’t meet on the gridiron for a time because of the one-sided nature.

When Tom Kearly took over the fortunes for MTU, that trend was reversed. The Huskies have dominated for the most part since.

One could say the Huskies are doing a better job of recruiting. That could well explain part of it.

But I think a lack of continuity in the NMU coaching staffs is one of the major reasons.

Only Kyle and women’s basketball skipper Troy Mattson have at least 10 years on the job.

There’s been a revolving door in the other head coaching jobs in Marquette.

Just recently, football coach Chris Ostrowsky was terminated after five seasons. Personally, I thought Ostrowsky did a credible job and took MTU down to the final play three years running.

As a former NMU student (I was there briefly) it’s been discouraging to see the sports programs crumbling.

But the university needs to establish some continuity in the coaching ranks if it wants to become respectable again.