What’s Next For The ECAC?

On the first evening of games since Vermont’s Friday announcement that it would be canceling the rest of the season, reactions ranged from shock to bewilderment to sorrow.

“It certainly is unfortunate,” said ECAC assistant commissioner Steve Hagwell. “It’s a no-win situation for everyone involved, from Vermont all the way through the ECAC.

“It was a little surprising and we recognized the severity of the information we were able to get. How it affects the league is primary right now. Not to downplay the incident, but it’s secondary right now that they had to do what’s best for the University.”

“I don’t pretend to know the details of their business,” said Dartmouth head coach Bob Gaudet. “It’s unfortunate for their coach, Mike Gilligan. He’s a good friend and a tremendous guy. I spoke with him this weekend, and it’s just a brutal situation.

“It’s an institutional situation. It’s not for me to say. It’s just unfortunate for everyone that’s affected. I think it’s really easy to sit back on this side of things and say that the punishment did or didn’t fit. But people who say that don’t know the politics of the situation.”

“I was shocked,” said Union head coach Kevin Sneddon. “We come off a great win last night and then I was informed and I was kind of down. It’s a dark day for the ECAC and for UVM, that’s such a strong hockey program. I have a lot of respect for the coaching staff up there and to see them go through this is tough. I’m sure there was a lot of thought put into it, but it’s tough to see happen. Disappointed would be another reaction.”

“It’s an unfortunate situation as far as the team and the coaching staff is concerned,” said Rensselaer head coach Dan Fridgen. “But the allegations were pretty serious and I don’t think things like that can be happening in a program. I think it will be a wake-up call to teams across the nation. Times have changed, and it’s no longer an old boys’ fraternity.”

Reaction in the stands ran the full range.

“I think it’s unfair of Vermont to do that to everyone,” said an unidentified fan. “They’ve thrown the league into turmoil and I think it is selfish.”

“You have to teach people a lesson and this seemed like the right thing to do,” said another fan. “You can’t have your youth running wild like that without suffering the consequences. It’s very much like parenting.”

In the meantime, the ECAC has to figure out how to handle the situation. That hopefully will all be resolved in the ECAC conference call on Monday morning between the athletic directors of the institutions in the ECAC.

“Phil (Buttafuoco) and I talked about the situation and we have to give the athletic directors all the possible options,” said Hagwell, who also declined to name any options.

The Catamounts had 15 league games remaining and the problem that arises is obviously what to do with them. One of the ideas floated around is that all league games involving Vermont, played and canceled, would be wiped from the slate.

“The only fair thing for them to do is to eliminate UVM from the schedule — the past and present games,” said Sneddon. “There will be people hurt that have already beaten them, but there will be fewer teams hurt by creating a 20-game ECAC schedule.”

“I don’t think they can do anything,” said Fridgen. “It’s going to give the teams that lost a little bit of a side relief, and the teams that have already won it will give them the shaft, but I don’t know what else you can do. It’s not like there is precedent here. It’s going to be a learning experience for everyone involved and I don’t think there’s an easy solution here.”

Aside from what to do with the league games, there are also other factors that have to be discussed.

“How will this affect Dartmouth is one area of discussion,” said Hagwell. “How will it affect them and what can we do to help that situation out.”

“I really feel for Dartmouth in this situation because it puts them behind an eight-ball,” said Fridgen. “They’ll be playing twice [when] other teams are going to be playing once and teams will be waiting for them. I don’t think you can alleviate that. There’s a possibility of going Friday-Sunday but that doesn’t solve the two games in a weekend.

“You’re also throwing off the schedule of other teams that have planned certain events that go along with the hockey games. And Dartmouth is probably just going to have to go with the flow.”

“The interesting thing is what to do with Dartmouth,” agreed Sneddon. “It’s going to be real tough with them. How are they going to handle being the only team without a travel partner? I don’t know if they’ll do anything with them, or if it’s just an unfortunate situation. I don’t see anything happening in terms of a shakeup of the schedule.”

Gaudet disagreed.

“Obviously, something has to be done with the schedule,” said Gaudet. “We can’t wash our hands of it at this point and say that nothing should be done. We’ve lost a travel partner. In terms of our situation, there will be two teams at home while we’re the only one on the road, and vice versa. Something needs to be done.

“What needs immediate attention is our schedule. A lot of things need to be rescheduled. Whether it takes playing mid-week games, or playing one on Thursday and one on Saturday, or one on Friday and one on Sunday, I’m not sure what the ECAC will decide. But the schedule needs to be changed.

“The issue that impacts us the most is how we can make this an equitable situation in terms of playing what amounts to more than half of our schedule.”

Other things to be discussed in the conference call were elaborated on by Hagwell.

“Whether or not the stats count and how it affects the NCAA,” he mentioned. “Then we also have to look at our playoff situation and games that Vermont has played and how that affects the RPI rankings and the whole NCAA picture. There’s a lot of things we need to consider here.”

“There are many, many things that need to be worked out,” added Gaudet. “What happens to UVM’s games? Are they expunged from the record? Does Farkas, who is a Hobey Baker candidate, not have five goals against them? Did Vermont not beat Boston University? Without that loss, BU has a better power rating. There are just so many implications of this situation.”

Hagwell, Buttafuoco and the ECAC athletic directors hash out all the details Monday morning. But until then, it’s a waiting game.

“It’s certainly tough,” said Hagwell. “But we’ll make it through.”

Thanks to David Sherzer, who contributed heavily to this story.