LOWELL, Mass. — It appears that Blaise MacDonald will keep his job as head coach at Mass.-Lowell after a recent arrest for operating under the influence led to an indefinite suspension without pay.
According to a statement issued by University athletic director Dana Skinner on Tuesday, MacDonald will be reinstated on Monday, July 23, based on an agreement between MacDonald and the University that he will participate in alcohol education programs on campus and make a voluntary financial contribution to the University’s National Youth Sports Program’s alcohol education program.
According to the Lowell Sun, MacDonald appeared in Lowell District Court on Monday to admit to the facts for a guilty finding for the charges of operating under the influence. A judge continued MacDonald’s case without finding, meaning that it will vanish from his record if he stays out of trouble for one year. MacDonald must also complete an alcohol-treatment program and will lose his license for 45 days.
MacDonald was arrested on May 29 after he failed field sobriety tests when officers found him asleep at the wheel of his Toyota Land Cruiser at 262 Littleton Road in Chelmsford, Mass. Police reports revealed that MacDonald’s blood alcohol content was nearly three times the legal limit in Massachusetts of .08.
After the arrest, MacDonald was immediately placed on suspension without pay which, according to the statement from Skinner was the “harshest penalty” the University could assess, given MacDonald’s union contract.
Skinner’s statement said that MacDonald met with him and new chancellor Martin Meehan last Friday, July 13. MacDonald apologized and accepted full responsibility for his actions.
Said Skinner: “His willingness to step forward and admit his mistake in court was the next important step and went a long ways toward resolving this matter.”
Skinner’s statement also gave reasoning for MacDonald’s reinstatement, basing it more on his track record and than this single incident.
“It’s no secret on campus that driving after drinking is an issue about which I have strong personal feelings. … So I had to go a ways to reach some level of balance when considering a response to this incident,” the statement read. “But I’m also mindful of the past 18 years in which I’ve come to know Blaise as one of the most disciplined people in our profession.
“The hockey program hasn’t had a single disciplinary issue during his six years as coach, and they have been the highest achieving male academic team in the department, achieving a team GPA over the past two years over a 3.0. He has effectively mentored hundreds of student-athletes.
“I don’t know what led to the events of his arrest, but his actions that night were not characteristic of the Blaise MacDonald I’ve come to know.”
With the fate of its head coach now decided, the Lowell program can now move forward on a campaign to raise the positive profile on campus and in the community. Earlier this off-season, the program’s future was called to question when the University’s Board of Trustees announced it would review the program’s status.
That, though, led to positive reinvestment of the University to bolster the strength of the Lowell program on and off the ice. Around the same time as MacDonald’s arrest, the University also announced that it had sold out the 350 club seats that are available in the Tsongas Arena, the first in a series of goals that had been set.