Mark Morris, in his 15th season as head coach at Clarkson, has been placed on administrative leave while the university investigates an incident that occured during a practice last Saturday.
In the interim, assistant coaches Fred Parker and Jason Lammers will take over full responsibilities of handling the team. Parker will be considered the head coach behind the bench this weekend, when Clarkson plays at Rensselaer and Union, according to Clarkson sports information director Gary Mikel.
In a statement released Tuesday night, the university said it was investigating an incident “that involved a player and coach Morris. We were made aware of the incident after last weekend, and the university will determine what action is warranted after the investigation is completed.”
According to various sources, Morris had a physical confrontation with a player during a 3-on-3 pickup game after practice. Post-practice pickup games normally involve players who aren’t dressing for that night’s game. The Watertown (N.Y.) Daily Times is reporting that the player is junior forward Zach Schwan, who filed a complaint after Morris retaliated against him for a bodycheck.
Morris, athletic director Sean Frazier and Schwan’s family all declined to comment.
This came on the heels of last week’s suspension by Morris of six players, including the two captains and the assistant captain, for missing an early-morning workout session last Wednesday. Morris initially suspended the players — captains Dave Reid and Kevin O’Flaherty, assistant captain Chris Bahen, plus Dustin Traylen, Randy Jones and Jay Latulippe — for Saturday’s game against St. Lawrence, but rescinded that after more information came out on Friday. As a result, the players sat for the first period, but did dress for the game.
“It wasn’t really that big of a deal,” Bahen said to the Daily Times. “I don’t really have anything more to say about it.”
Parker is in his first season as assistant coach, after coaching in Canada’s junior program the last 10 years. His Ottawa team went to Canada’s Tier II championship last season.
“I think ever since you were a young kid and played hockey, one of the great things is once you hit the ice you seem to forget about everything else,” said Parker to the Daily Times. “I don’t think it’s going to be a problem. I think these guys are mature enough to play hard and play well.”
Morris’ future is in the hands of Clarkson’s board of trustees, but there is no word on how long it will take before a decision is reached, according to Clarkson’s director of public relations, Anne Sibley.
Clarkson is the only head coaching job Morris has ever had. A native of New York’s North Country, Morris was an assistant for St. Lawrence coach Joe Marsh before taking over the Golden Knights program in 1988. He was hired by then-athletic director Bill O’Flaherty, who was also Clarkson coach at one point and is now player personnel director for the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings.
Clarkson went 16-13-3 in Morris’ first year, then reeled off 10 straight 20-win seasons, including 29-9-2 in 1990-91, when the Golden Knights went to the Frozen Four. In those 10 seasons, Clarkson made nine NCAA tournament appearances, but never made it back to the Frozen Four after 1991, and hasn’t been in the tournament since 1999.
Morris has a 306-153-42 career record entering the season, with five regular-season and two ECAC-tournament championships. He has been named ECAC Coach of the Year twice.
The list of NHL players Morris has coached include Craig Conroy, Todd White, Chris Clark, Todd Marchant and Erik Cole.
Jayson Moy also helped with this report.