ORONO, Maine — It’s not over, yet.
During a press conference on the campus of the University of Maine on Wednesday afternoon, school president Frederick Hutchinson and athletic director Suzanne Tyler made it clear that, while, in many cases, the NCAA’s penalties are fair and necessary, the added year of postseason sanction is “excessive.”
“That punishment seems excessive, given the circumstances and the penalties the program has already received,” said Hutchinson. “It also seems excessive in light of the uncommon and impressive level of cooperation that the NCAA acknowledges it received from our student-athletes.”
“There may be some penalties that, while harsh, we nonetheless might choose to accept in order to move on,” Tyler explained. “However, there is one penalty which we find so excessive and unfair that the president and I feel obligated to appeal it, specifically another year’s prohibition on postseason play for ice hockey.
“Whether we decide to appeal other NCAA penalties will depend on several considerations, especially the issue of fairness to the students.”
Maine officials were pleased that the NCAA agreed with Maine on many of the facts surrounding the case, including suspended ice hockey coach Shawn Walsh.
The NCAA had accused him of unethical conduct but they were not able to prove that Walsh acted unethically, and therefore did not impose any further sanctions on him.
Both Tyler and Hutchinson cited their concern for the players who during the last three years have missed two postseason tournaments already and that it was these players’ cooperation that made this investigation complete and successful.
“I am especially disheartened that members of that team — the very students who volunteered much of the information on which many of the findings were based — may now suffer for their honesty by being denied a chance to compete in postseason tournaments once again next year,” Hutchinson said.
Maine officials did not entirely focus on the negatives. While disappointed with the decision on postseason play, Maine officials were very pleased that the NCAA agreed about Walsh’s conduct, especially with the “controversy” surrounding this, as Hutchinson said.
Tyler said she was pleased to have a compliance system in place that the NCAA has commended, and other institutions have cited as models for their own compliance systems.
It was also apparent that there is a sense of relief that things are all out on the table, and Maine knows what their penalty is.
Shawn Walsh was not in attendance, but will make his own statement. Tyler did say that Walsh reacted to the decision with disappointment.
Maine was not specific under what grounds they will use to appeal, or if they will appeal other areas. Maine officials did say that Maine would be willing to swallow some of the other penalties with a successful appeal on the main area of disagreement, the postseason ban.