With both coaches in place, Robert Morris’ men’s and women’s hockey can focus on rebuilding rosters
For Robert Morris University’s recently restored ice hockey programs, this may have been the last of the first steps toward a return to the ice.
With two head coaches now in place, the big steps towards rebuilding can really begin.
Both programs were canceled by the university in May 2021. But thanks to a mixture of public pressure, fundraising and legal threats, the teams were reinstated in December.
On Thursday, the Colonials athletic department revealed that Logan Bittle will serve as head coach of the women’s team when it returns to action for the 2023-24 season. The announcement follows Tuesday’s announcement that men’s coach Derek Schooley has finalized a five-year contract.
Schooley is the only coach the men’s team has ever had. But because the programs were axed in May, he had to reapply formally for his old job before being rehired in September as both men’s coach and director of hockey operations for two programs that didn’t even have not yet officially reinstated at the time.
His new contract now paves the way for a long-term rebuilding of the team.
• Robert Morris signs men’s hockey coach Derek Schooley on a 5-year contract
“It shows a commitment we have to hockey at Robert Morris,” Schooley said. “I appreciate a lot (a lot) that they still have faith in me (to build a new team). I’ve done that once before, and we’ve had good teams here in the past. It may take some But the landscape is different now than it was in 2003-04. When it comes to the transfer portal, we can become much more competitive much faster.
Former RMU women’s coach Paul Colontino took a coaching job at Bishop Kearney Selects Academy in Rochester when the teams were axed. Bittle was part of Schooley’s inaugural class in 2004-05 on the men’s side. He was also Colontino’s assistant in the women’s team when it disbanded.
The former 2008 RMU spent 10 years with the women’s program, the first four as an assistant coach and the last six as an associate head coach.
Logan Bittle was named women’s hockey coach for Robert Morris on Thursday.
“He has been very passionate about his desire to lead the relaunch of the women’s program,” sporting director Chris King said of Bittle on Thursday. “I know he knows how to build a winning culture, a winning program. For me, he was the obvious choice as a primary target from day one.
When the teams were initially eliminated, Bittle began coaching the Pens Elite Girls U16/19 teams. He was also a founding member of the Pittsburgh College Hockey Foundation, which was the student-athlete fundraising and support center that spearheaded efforts to get teams back on the ice.
“The relationships I built with graduates and families came naturally to me. I really enjoyed it,” Bittle said. “Everyone wants to be a head coach. I have to do that this year with the Pens. The opportunity to return to Robert Morris as head coach is a job I am grateful for and so excited about.
Bittle is also married to Brianne McLaughlin-Bittle, a former U.S. Olympian who was a goaltender on the women’s team.
“Leading this program that has meant so much to me and my family is an incredible opportunity. I’m excited to start racing,” Bittle said.
Schooley, who has worked hand-in-hand with Bittle through reintegration efforts, said his former player was the best possible choice.
“If there is a ‘M. Colonial, ‘as far as hockey goes, he’s done a bit of everything,’ Schooley said when recruiting at Michigan. “He saw how we (created a new team) in 2004. He saw what we had to do to be successful. How to build a program.
It’s something Schooley will now have to do for the second time on the men’s side. But at least he will do it with the security of a five-year contract. For Bittle and Schooley, that time frame to put a team on the ice may still seem like a long way off. The Colonials won’t skate the rest of this season or all of next year.
But, with the mammoth task of rebuilding two programs at the same time, it can also feel like opening night is just around the corner.
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