Friday night’s stunning announcement, that Vermont is canceling the rest of its season, sent shock waves through college hockey. But what does it all mean? There are as many questions as answers:
How does this affect the remainder of the schedule? Does Vermont forfeit the rest of its games, giving all scheduled opponents an automatic win? Or do the games get canceled? If you cancel the games, you either have to eliminate the games already played against Vermont from the records, or just anoint them as nonconference games.
Canceling the games is less messy than counting them as forfeits. If you award forfeits for the remainder of the games, what do you do about the teams that already played, and perhaps lost to, Vermont? Games have been forfeited in the past, but there’s no precedent for just ceasing the program midway through a season. In this case, it seems proper to give everyone in the conference four points for the season, or none, for their games against Vermont.
And remember, forfeits don’t count in consideration for the NCAA tournament. Whether the games are considered forfeits or cancelations, they will factor the same — not at all. Eliminating those games from consideration, especially ones already played, could have interesting postseason implications.
Eliminating the games would leave one open game on the schedule, which would allow the other ECAC teams to schedule one extra game. Would they be able to pull that off in time? The easiest way would be to play their travel partner in a non-conference game on the weekend that they would’ve played Vermont. But the logistics will be tough. For example, if Princeton is scheduled to play Dartmouth on Friday, and Yale plays Dartmouth on Saturday, when would Princeton and Yale play? And what would they do instead on the day they were supposed to play Vermont?
Dartmouth is going to have a pretty huge complaint here. They will be playing every Saturday against a team that’s fully rested. Will, or can, the ECAC do anything to rectify that?
Does the NCAA or ECAC get involved in sanctions? Probably not — it wouldn’t appear to be in their jurisdiction. And whether you agree with the decision or not, Vermont has already decisively taken matters into its own hands.
Nonetheless, how will the ECAC handle this situation? There really isn’t anything they can do to the team that it hasn’t already done to itself, but this will be a test for Commissioner Phil Buttafuoco’s regime. We’ll see if mechanisms are in place to handle this as gracefully as possible. This makes the ol’ Hockey News fiasco seem like an alumni club barbeque.
One of the more obvious questions is, what happens to the athletic director Rick Farnham and head coach Mike Gilligan? Are the politics of this situation too great for them to keep their jobs? Do they deserve to keep their jobs? They say they are not responsible because the players did the deed, then covered it up. Certainly the players are responsbile for the deed, but was the school’s original investigation vigorous enough?
Do Vermont’s players get to transfer to other schools and play immediately? That is the case for players from a program that receives NCAA sanctions, but this seems to be a much different situation. Worth asking, however.
What does this mean for Corey LaTulippe’s lawsuit? With the school acknowledging the behavior of its student-athletes, it obviously increases LaTulippe’s legal standing. But enough to get damages from the school?
Thanks to Mike Machnik and Jayson Moy for their contributions to this article.