The NCAA has denied the University of Maine’s appeal of postseason sanctions on the Black Bears hockey program, the university announced Thursday.
In a written statement, Maine President Frederick Hutchinson said that the decision “brings to an end a very difficult period for the entire university community.” He said the decision “adds nothing new to what had previously been said or known, except closure.”
The NCAA applauded Maine for its cooperation with investigators, including its self-report and how quickly the school corrected and cleaned up its compliance system.
In contrast, the Appeals Committee also said that the conduct of head ice hockey coach Shawn Walsh offset the good work done by the university and directly led to the decision to uphold the penalties the NCAA handed down to Maine on July 31.
Hutchinson expressed disappointment that “there was no indication given in that [July] report that the addition of penalties by the NCAA was related to Shawn.”
“Had that position been part of the committee’s official report in July, it likely would have influenced our decision to appeal the post-season ban [for 1996-97],” said Hutchinson.
In December of 1995, the University of Maine suspended Shawn Walsh for one year without pay for his role in NCAA violations and removed itself from consideration from the 1995-96 NCAA Tournament.
On July 31, the NCAA added to the penalties by imposing a postseason ban on the hockey team for the 1996-97 season, and also stated that the one-year suspension of Walsh was sufficient for his part in the rules violations. The NCAA also added to scholarship reductions Maine imposed on itself in December of 1995.
Walsh was not available for comment, but in a written statement Walsh said that he was relieved it is over. He noted that “at no time did I feel we would win the appeal.”
Walsh said that, as far as he’s concerned, his team’s playoffs begin Friday night with a pair of games at UMass-Amherst.
Maine Director of Athletics and Recreation Suzanne Tyler said she “respectfully disagrees” with the NCAA’s ruling, but doesn’t regret any decisions.
“Looking at the evidence, I still think we made the right decision,” Tyler told WZON radio. “I really thought we were right and that right would win. We are just moving ahead.”
Maine has six games remaining in its season, starting with two at UMass-Amherst this weekend. Maine then returns home to close out its 1996-97 campaign with games against No. 3 New Hampshire on Feb. 18, two games against No. 4 Boston University on Feb. 21 and 22, and one game against UMass-Amherst on March 1.
Tyler said late last year that Hockey East had passed a rule last summer that said if a member school was ineligible for the NCAA Tournament, it would also be ineligible for the Hockey East Tournament.