Clarkson President Demands Apology Over Bertagna Letter

The situation surrounding the termination of Mark Morris at Clarkson has taken another step.

In a letter to the editor of the [nl]Potsdam-Massena Daily Courier-Observer on Dec. 3, 2002, American Hockey Coaches Association Executive Director and Hockey East Commissioner Joe Bertagna stated his displeasure at the termination of Morris.

“It is clear that forces at work on the Clarkson campus wanted hockey coach Mark Morris removed all along and the incident that took place at Cheel Arena on Nov. 2 gave Clarkson officials the chance to do just that,” Bertagna wrote.

Bertagna questioned why Morris was targeted and then asks why no action was taken against Zach Schwan.

“What is not clear to us is why this successful coach was so targeted and why no action was taken against the student-athlete that initiated the physical confrontation that sparked this incident,” Bertagna said. “This student was even allowed to play while Coach Morris was placed on administrative leave.

“The nation’s hockey coaches can only infer that Clarkson President Denny [nl]Brown deems it acceptable for a 21-year old athlete, in peak physical condition and wearing full protective equipment, to take an unprovoked run at a coach twice his age, wearing only sweats.”

"Mr. Morris hit the player in the face and neck with the stick, lifted off the player’s helmet with the stick, and hooked his stick in the player’s genital area."

— Clarkson president Denny [nl]Brown

He then called the actions taken a “slap” to all amateur coaches.

“The lack of an appropriately measured response against the student-athlete is a slap at amateur coaches across the country, particularly those working at the intercollegiate level.”

Today, [nl]Brown responded to Bertagna’s letter with a letter addressed to Bertagna, but released to the media.

[nl]Brown states that Bertagna does not know all the facts and demands a retraction and apology.

“I am writing to express Clarkson University’s indignation with the unfounded allegations about Clarkson’s termination of hockey coach Mark Morris in a letter to the editor of the Courier-Observer newspaper,” said [nl]Brown. “It is particularly disturbing that you would make such statements on behalf of your national organization when you are not aware of the facts of the situation and made no effort to contact Clarkson to determine the facts.

“I ask that you retract your false statements and apologize in a letter to me with a copy to that newspaper and any other individuals or media to which you made those allegations.”

[nl]Brown then clears the air with the results of the investigation that Clarkson conducted.

“In light of the innuendo and rumors that have been appearing in the media, I feel it is necessary to provide clarification about the termination of Mark Morris. Although we normally do not like to carry on conversations such as these in a public forum, since you aired your false statements in the media, we are also sharing this letter with the media in order to assist with clearing up the misinformation.

“As the University has said on earlier occasions, the statements that we received from six witnesses to the incident on November 2 contradict the account Mr. Morris has given after his termination.

“The witnesses provided written and signed accounts that were consistent: the player made light contact with Mr. Morris on two occasions while performing ‘rub-offs.’ The player did not check Mr. Morris into the boards and was not more forceful than was typical for those games. After the first rub-off, Mr. Morris commended the player, saying that was the type of aggressive play he wanted from his players.

“Mr. Morris reacted to the second rub-off in a way that shocked all those present — after the rub-off was concluded and the player was skating away, Mr. Morris hit the player in the face and neck with the stick, lifted off the player’s helmet with the stick, and hooked his stick in the player’s genital area, pulling the player towards him, all the while shouting obscenities. Another coach separated Mr. Morris from the player. The player never fought back, and after that left the ice.”

[nl]Brown went on to restate that Morris never participated in the investigation, despite the University’s urging, and stood by his decision to terminate Morris.

He closed his letter to Bertagna by once again asking for a retraction and apology.

“I hope that in the future you will be more prudent about spreading false allegations regarding situations of which you have no direct knowledge,” said [nl]Brown. “I anticipate your retraction and apology.”