Buffalo News: Canisius Players Went Above AD’s Head

Canisius athletic director Tim Dillon was overruled by higher administrators in the decision to fire longtime hockey coach Brian Cavanaugh, according to a report in today’s Buffalo News.

According to the article, the decision was made by the school’s vice president for student affairs, Ellen Conley. This came, according to newspaper sources, after the players first brought a list of grievances to Dillon, who tried to negotiate a solution. The players, however, were not satisfied with those talks, and took their concerns to Conley, according to the News.

The newspaper calls Conley a “longtime Cavanaugh adversary.”

Cavanaugh was fired last week after 24 years on the job. The school cited “irreconcilable differences” when making the announcement. According to USCHO sources, the players threatened not to participate in the matchup against Mercyhurst on Dec. 10 unless Cavanaugh was fired.

All parties have refused comment on the situation, including Conley, Dillon, the school, the players, and Cavanaugh, who has referred inquiries to his lawyer.

According to article, John Hurley, Canisius’ vice president for college relations and general counsel, reiterated that it was not a single incident that caused Cavanaugh’s dismissal. Cavanaugh was reprimanded four years ago after an incident between himself and a player, Matt Coulter. Coulter charged that Cavanaugh forcefully hit him over the head with a hockey stick, while Cavanaugh said he just tapped him lightly to get his attention.

The News said it obtained a letter the players sent to Dillon, outlining their grievances. Among them, bad practices, poor organization, and a belief that Cavanaugh’s hot-headed behavior and negativity was adversely affecting the team and its perception in the hockey world.

There is no indication of other specific physical confrontations with players.

The News article paints a picture of other coaches on campus being concerned that players could take a list of grievances such as that, and take it above the athletic director to get a coach fired.