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Commentary: Many questions, not enough answers in Cronin suspension

On Friday afternoon, a news release came across saying Northeastern coach Greg Cronin and assistant coach Albie O’Connell had been indefinitely suspended pending an investigation into possible NCAA violations surrounding communication with potential recruits.

The suspensions came amid a week of highlight performances by Cronin’s team. On Monday night, the Huskies came within a whisker of capturing the school’s first Beanpot since 1988, losing to the nation’s No. 1 team, Boston College, 7-6 in overtime. Hours after the suspension, the Huskies again pushed the No. 1 Eagles to the brink, forcing a 7-7 road tie without Cronin or O’Connell behind the bench. On Saturday, they finally broke through and earned a 2-1 victory over the Eagles.

What should have been three memorable games for Northeastern are suddenly clouded by questions and speculation.

The school hasn’t said much. Athletic director Peter Roby spoke after Friday’s game but focused more on how proud he is of the hockey team than the specific violations that have left his team minus two coaches. His statement earlier in the day talked of a “culture of integrity” that Roby wants within his athletic department.

Integrity right now has to be a focus for Northeastern, which is on probation with the NCAA for major infractions found in recruiting for the men’s basketball team from 2003 through 2005. The probation began in April 2009 and continues through April of this year. Roby, who joined the athletic department as athletic director in 2007, is seen as part of the solution. Thus, any sort of red flag raised by compliance as an error, oversight or mistake in the recruiting process is likely to result in immediate action.

That could be part of the reason that indefinite suspensions resulted. Roby and his athletic department likely want to show swift action regardless of the magnitude of the violation. It’s known that a school’s ability to self-police violations with appropriate and just proactive discipline is looked upon with favor by the NCAA. You can speculate that Roby’s indefinite suspension of Cronin and O’Connell while all of the details are gathered could be a tool to keep the NCAA from further investigating the athletic department.

At the same time, the fact that any recruiting infractions happen within a Greg Cronin-run program is somewhat surprising. Twice prior, Cronin has been involved in programs that have been cited for major infractions by the NCAA.

The most well-known was Maine’s censure in 1996 for a number of violations that led to head coach Shawn Walsh’s suspension for a full year. Cronin arrived at Maine after most of the violations had occurred and his arrival led to his debut as a head coach, taking the reins during Walsh’s suspension and leading Maine to a respectable 27-14-2 record during that span.

The lesser-known past problem for Cronin occurred in the early 1990s while he was a member of the Colorado College coaching staff under the direction of head coach Brad Buetow. There, the staff was involved in the midseason recruiting of a goaltender who was illegally flown to the campus using an assistant coach’s frequent flyer miles, provided free accommodations and allowed to practice with the team despite still being enrolled in junior college. That case was amplified when Buetow didn’t cooperate with the NCAA investigation and was ultimately forced to resign.

Fast forward to the present to an NCAA program that is already on probation and a head coach that has been involved in programs found guilty of NCAA violations, and you would think that Northeastern’s men’s hockey program would be the squeakiest clean program in the nation.

Let me say this: As a reporter, I like Greg Cronin. He’s a no-punches-pulled type of guy who has done a great job in taking a team from 24 losses in his first season behind the bench to the school’s first NCAA bid in 15 years in 2009. He recruits with two powerhouses, Boston College and Boston University, in his backyard and does a great job to attract solid players.

He has built a culture of success and seen attendance consistently grow. Even this season, when the club had a horrific start, he turned things around and less than a week ago was the talk of the town for the Huskies’ effort in the Beanpot.

Now, unfortunately, a week later his name remains in the news but for all the wrong reasons. Selfishly, I hope that Greg Cronin comes out of this investigation clean and that he returns behind the Northeastern bench sooner rather than later. The team — and the game — need his coaching talents.

For now, though, there remain far too many questions and too few answers.


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  • NU Season Ticket Holder

    To borrow a line from a certain Boston movie, Peter Roby treats NU fans and everyone else like mushrooms; he feeds them $h!t and keeps them in the dark. After saying football was staying 3 years ago, stories were leaked about how NU was looking at stadium sites in Franklin Park and on Columbus ave in Roxbury. Weeks before the cancellation of the program, stories were released about NU using George Schoolboy White Stadium, and there was even a story looking ahead to the 2011 season where NU was to face UCONN. It was all posturing as Roby got his way (it was obvious he wanted football gone from day 1). Its not like I was a huge football booster either, I WANTED IT GONE TOO… It was a waste of money. It was just amazing to see an athletic director misinform an entire fan base for so long.

    Recently our basketball coach (Bill Coen) was looked at by other schools (like BC/Sienna). Instead of announcing intentions to keep him, Roby let the entire fanbase simmer in worry not knowing if Coen would be back. Some BC bloggers even announced Coen as going over to Chestnut Hill. Only after widespread calls for Roby removal did he finally announce a contract extension with Bill Coen that had BEEN SIGNED WEEKS EARLIER!!!!! If its not misinformation its no information with Peter Roby.

    This most recent decision by Peter Roby again shows his policy on how to treat media and fans.

    Hes a good person, and ill never say otherwise; but as an athletic director Peter Roby has shown himself to be capable at alienating boosters, infuriating fans, lying to the media, and promoting community service. Only one of those four skills is a positive for a man in his position. However, I’m not to that point yet… the point where I call for his removal, but its close… so very close.

  • Anonymous

    I would like to think that it was just a misinterpretation of the rules and an over reaction by the University. It is unfair to paint Cronin with the same brush as Walsh. Walsh had his own rules and could always justify his actions to his satisfaction. Cronin has done a nice job at a vey difficult place to win. Not much has changed in that regard on Huntington Ave. since the days of Fernie Flamin. Last weekends performance said alot about his team’s character.

  • Anonymous

    A real shame to see what is by all accounts a great school have such turmoil in athletics. Maybe the NCAA hammer will eventually cause a change in AD?

  • Peeters

    Peter Roby has done a great job compared to Dave O’Brien, he gets things done!!!

  • Cate

    Unless Cronin has changed dramatically in the last two years, NU is best to be rid of him. The disdain he showed his non-star players and the nastiness that he displayed on the bench in away venues is not something Hockey East or college hockey should be part of. It’s not surprising that he is being accused of recruiting violations – and perhaps this investigation is only the tip of the iceberg.

    • oldbantam

      What a ridiculous comment about his behavior at away venues. He is one of the more respected coaches in HE – a far cry from the true nastiness of Shawn Walsh. I am BU fan, but find comments to be absurd. If you don’t like the guy, fine, but most in the hockey community have great admiration for Cronin and his players love him. I wish BU’s players played with the same passion. God knows we have another under-achieving team this year

      • Birddog

        Cronin is not respected by the College coaching community ! He is a throw back to abusive Bully Coaches of the 60′s. He has no place coaching college hockey. He would have made a great coach in “Slap Shot”.

        • lightlight

          Not sure what’s your evidence to support your hateful opinion. But I do know Cronin’s fans were waving their flags of “free Cronin” at Matthews arena. Not even mention huskies’ achievement under Cronin’s leadership.

          Of cause, I am sure he might step on someone’s toe. It is not surprising to see a good performer get some jealousy from his haters.

        • Redwine

          Do you know Cronin was the Coach of the year at 2009?

          • Birddog

            THE COACH OF THE YEAR IN 2009 WAS JACK PARKER VOTED BY THE COLLEGE HOCKEY COACHES ! CRONIN WON THE HODDER AWARD ELECTED BY THE SPORTSWRITERS NOT VOTED BY HIS FELLOW COACHES—Check your facts ! He does not belong in the College Hockey Profession, period !!

          • Redwine

            For Birddog:

            Quote from HE (2009):
            Husky Head Coach Greg Cronin has built his team from a humbling three-win season in 2005-06 to a 25-win season this year as a new national powerhouse and championship contender. For his efforts, Cronin has been deservedly selected by his peers as the Bob Kullen Hockey East Coach of the Year.

            More about Bob Kullen Hockey East Coach of the Year

            This award is given in the name of the late Bob Kullen, who served as head coach of the UNH Wildcats. The award goes to the head coach who is considered to have demonstrated the highest number of significant accomplishments over the course of the season as voted by the conference’s head coaches

          • Birddog

            Stand corrected !! 10 Hockey East Coaches Vote–Cronin votes for himself and 3 other coaches–Voila ! He wins ! Head down to to College Hockey Coaches Convention in Naples this Spring and ask around at one of the cocktail parties. He could be the least respected College Hockey Coach in the country.

          • Haiyanwang528

            Wow, I listed the evidence and you reply to me with your hallucinations like one of the “desperate house wives”.
            You sound like hanging out with those coaches days and nights. What Cronin has done to you makes you so hateful.

            Yes, we can all imagine the coaches getting together trash about another coach like gossip girls.

            I have better things to do. Have fun here….

          • Bill

            Birddog, you are full of crap. You are a typical donkey who probably never played a sport in your life. Why don’t you go tell Cronin this stuff to his face?
            He’d give you an old time butt kicking.

  • BU Season Ticket Holder

    Cronin is a diversion away from the AD mismanagement and their continued hoops follies. The AD would have happily accepted and taken credit for the Beanpot win if NU scored the overtime winner. Cronin is respected in college hockey; he would light a fire under the BU guys.

  • Bartneally

    In the end, Maine was found to have violated nothing. Cronin is a great person and coach and Walsh is dead.

  • Laifu

    This so called NCAAA rule of no texting is ridicules! Are they still living in 21st century? Do they know how much high school kids texting everyday? They would rather text each other instead of talking even in the same room! For god sake! Maybe NCAAA need to think about come out of ice age and stop being a dinosaur!!

    Suspend a coach for texting? Are you kidding me?

  • latuda

    Or unless this whole thing is a set up…. Cronin builds up the program and someone wants to take the credits…otherwise it’s really hard for fans to understand this over reacted decision….. Texting?! Can you find a better reason?
    Looking at Peter Roby’s history, his is nothing good but a politician!!

  • go NU

    Coach Cronin is a great coach and a great guy. Mr. Roby is also a great guy, but people need to realize they have different agendas. Mr Roby’s job is beyond W’s, he has a mission he is working to. Both Coach Cronin and Mr. Roby inherited tough situations (hockey was in shambles, and for the AD, a disaster of a hoops program). Other HE schools give their hockey programs more freedom, but unfortunately for NU, the former hoops coach put a spotlight on NU that forces our AD to overreact here.

  • NU fan

    I find it surprising that a reporter would say its surprising that Cronin has “cheated” in recruiting. The man has never had a clean program. As stated in this article he was there with Walsh. He was there at CC. Both had the NCAA come down on them.

    If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck…. IT’S A DAMN DUCK!

    Third times a charm, and this one is going to cost him his job. Everyone says how great of a man and a recuiter Greg Cronin is. Well, I guess we all found the reason why. CHEATING the system.

    • Bill

      Good luck watching NU suck NU fan. Do your homework. Cronin arrived at Maine after the violations, and had nothing to do with CC’s infractions.

  • Luigi

    latuda, there are rules for when and how much you can contact a recruit either via phone calls, texts, or emails. Don’t act like the NCAA doesn’t allow coaches to text kids. They can, they just have rules they need to follow. Cronin didn’t follow them.

    • Latuda

      I I just feel sorry for all the coaches. I bet everyone text… Yes, we should all follow the rules. But when a policy is outdated, should we question it? I want to know, why it is OK to twitter and facebook, but not OK texting? Is it the cost issue? If so, then NCAA should know that things are different nowadays. If you are a parent you may know many kids only have texting plans and are lot cheaper than 2 years ago.

      As a coach, they not only need to worry about winning, building program, manage finance, training, recruiting, found raising…. Now… everyone, be careful about text messaging too!

  • Luigi

    For the 2nd time, latuda… TEXTING IS ALLOWED. Now go take your meds and stop posting until you figure out what you’re talking about.

    • Guest

      I know texting and phone calls are allowed after the recurites sign the contract for the cost(to the kid) concern. But as I know twitter, facebook and email doesn’t subject to this rule.

      Don’t get personal, Luigi.

      • Guest

        Texting are NOT allowed before recruits sign the contract. This is the vilation I guess.

  • NU hockey spirits

    A very suspicious timing: right after beanpot.

    I just want to know why now? Quote from NU web:

    The possible violations relate to telephone and text message legislation and were revealed during the course of routine internal compliance monitoring

    Can NU (including Peter Roby) answer few questions:
    1. Routine means every year?
    2. When did this routine monitoring happen during last 6 years?
    3. If it is every year, why did you wait for 6 years?
    4. Why you waited just one week after beanpot? What if NU won the beanpot, could it be a different outcome?

    We all should follow the rules if we want to stay in the game. But no one is saint…. There are times we overlook something. Well, Bill Clinton still stayed in his white house office after the scandal and what Cronin did is not even merely comparable to that.

    NU tries to establish a “Clean” image and “reinforce a culture of integrity”. But this overacting decision can’t make fans stop question what they are truly aftering. Any coaches, before they decide to work for NU they should think twice: Are they going to be disposable over something likes this, doesn’t matter how much you’ve achieved? Any players before they join NU they should think twice: how much stability and protection they could get from NU?

    If you want to get rid of someone, you can always find a reason. Sorry to see a great coach becoming a victim of stupid politics.

    Good luck NU and Peter Roby find another good coach and good players after people see what happened to Cronin.

  • mashole

    INTEGRITY – I sat in the Cronins office as he offered my son a full ride and then 3 weeks later and more then the aloowed texts to my son tells him he never made the offer. 3 other HE coaches told my son after they found out that he’s not the first Cronin did that to. He respected as a caoch by his pears not on how he conducts himself – to me I’ve meet with and got to know many D1 head coaches and by far Cronin is ranks #1 in the unethical catagory

    • Bill

      Mashole, your son didn’t get a scholarship because he wasn’t good enough. Stop with the sour grapes. Your handle fits you well.

      • mashole

        No he had other offers and went else where – once we found out what cronin really about were glab were not there, it was a matter a time before it caught up to him (just a note – he’s rated in top 50 for this years draft) and my handle is for all the masholes because I am not from there

        • All Hail

          Based on your spelling, I am guessing your kid couldn’t get into NU. Not Cronin’s fault the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I don’t think NU is in the business of turning away top-50 kids unless there is a behavior or academic liability. Also shouldn’t be hard to figure out who you are as there aren’t many eligible kids in the top 50, unless of course you are lying.

        • Guest

          You are bitter because you couldn’t make the NU program. And I am sure you also hate coaches of BU, BC maybe the rest of schools because you couldn’t make it. Just let your kid play his hockey and be happy. And you being a father should set an example for your son. No matter wining or losing, he should always behave as a decent fighter instead of whining for excuses.

  • Bill

    Greg Cronin has done a tremendous job at NU. The program has come a long way during his tenure.He has recruited top notch players, who would not have gone to Northeastern in pre-Cronin years. I’m sure any infractions were oversights. For those of you who disagree, have fun watching the program fall apart very quickly. As far as his intensity, hockey is a physical and emotional game. I’d rather have his fire than some poltically correct new age coach calling the shots. If he goes whether its forced or on his own accord, NU hockey will become very familiar with the Hockeyeast basement. Wake up NU!!!