Canisius athletic director Timothy Dillon, a member of the Division I men’s ice hockey committee, has resigned from his position at the school. The move comes just following the completion of an internal school investigation into the actions of men’s hockey players and school officials after a game in Grand Forks, N.D., in December.
Marshall Foley, associate athletic director for internal affairs, has also resigned, under request from the school.
John Maddock, associate athletics director/external affairs, will oversee many of the day-to-day operations of the Athletics Department until a replacement is named. Canisius said a search is under way immediately to find a replacement.
“Tim Dillon has presided over Canisius athletics during a period of great change and we are grateful to Tim for his many contributions to the college,” said Canisius president Rev. Vincent Cooke. “But he and I have discussed the results of the internal investigation and have agreed that it is in the best interests of the athletics program at Canisius College to put this incident behind us and provide new leadership at the top.”
The internal investigation confirmed press reports of misconduct by players and school officials. The school also self-reported an NCAA violation related to the handling of the incident.
Dillon leaves with over a year remaining on his contract, which was set to expire in June 2006.
“Father Cooke and I discussed the results of the investigation,” said Dillon. “Ultimately, I bear responsibility for the supervision of the athletics program, and Father Cooke and I have agreed that Canisius would be best served by new leadership in the athletics department. This also gives me an opportunity to be reunited with my family in Alaska.”
Dillon has been under criticism since the firing of hockey coach Brian Cavanaugh, which followed a threatened player revolt along with a list of player grievances submitted to Dillon about Cavanaugh.
Since that time, there were two instances of disciplinary action taken against hockey players. The latest involved players consuming alcohol during a hockey road trip in Grand Forks, N.D., and causing damage to a hotel room and injuries to junior forward Jonathan Durno. The alcohol, according to a report, was also purchased using university credit cards.
More criticism followed because the incident happened in December, yet wasn’t acted upon until the end of January, when four players were suspended for a weekend.
“Our investigation concluded there was inadequate supervision of the team during that trip leading to the use of alcohol by some team members, damage to a hotel room and injury to a student athlete,” said Cooke. “This is completely unacceptable to Canisius College. Further compounding an already bad situation was the lack of an immediate and appropriate response by senior athletics-department officials to the incidents when they occurred and in the aftermath.”
According to the school, damages to the hotel room were charged to a university credit card. Durno was supposed to reimburse the school, but he was allowed to play three games before he established a repayment plan, thus resulting in the NCAA violation.
“In addition to the suspensions, I have directed the vice president for student affairs to implement strict disciplinary measures for the hockey team,” said Cooke. “I have also directed that students are to be warned that any alcohol-related incidents or disciplinary problems on or off campus could result in dismissal from the team and revocation of scholarships,” he said.
Interim coach Clancy Seymour received a reprimand for his role in the incident, but no further discipline.
“Coach Seymour has received a reprimand because it was determined that he should have been more forceful in asserting control of the team in North Dakota, but we felt that the ultimate responsibility for the incident lay at a higher level.”
Said Quinnipiac athletic director Jack McDonald, who has worked closely with Dillon on the ice hockey committee and in Atlantic Hockey, “It’s our biggest fear as ADs considering how responsible we are for the welfare of the student athletes and coaches. When great things happen, we all feel good. When mistakes and poor judgments are made, we are held responsible. It is one of the responsibilities of the position.
“He’s a great administrator who has done some great things for college hockey. From hosting the Frozen Four in Anaheim and Buffalo, to overseeing the expansion of the MAAC and Atlantic Hockey with the addition of RIT. He’s a very dedicated member of the college hockey world. I am sure things will work out very, very well for him.”
Atlantic Hockey commissioner Bob DeGregorio also had praise for Dillon.
“I feel bad. Tim was a great administrator,” DeGregorio said. “He did a lot for not only Atlantic Hockey but also hockey itself. He’s going to be missed.
“I don’t know the whole story, and I’ve heard bits and pieces. I don’t know
where all the pieces fall. Everything I’ve gotten it’s second and third
Dillon was hired in May 2000. In his tenure, Dillon turned over a majority of the athletic department’s coaches, and led the decision to drop the school’s football program and six other programs in 2002, reducing the school-sponsored sports from 23 to 16.
The men’s hockey program survived the cut.
“Tim was very proud of being able to keep the program alive,” said a source.
However, the program could be in severe jeopardy now, with no head coach and no athletic director currently in place.
“No question that program is on the bubble,” said one close observer, a sentiment echoed by others in hockey.
DeGregorio also expressed his concern.
Those concerns could be well-founded. Canisius, according to sources, has withdrawn its posting for the vacant coaching job, and is not currently accepting applications.
Meanwhile, questions remain over how significant Dillon’s role was in the firing of Cavanaugh.
Original reports indicated that players filed a list of grievances to Dillon, concentrating on administrative issues. A Buffalo News report, however, initially suggested that it was vice president Ellen Conley that made the decision to fire Cavanaugh.
Later, USCHO learned, according to sources, that Dillon himself made the decision with the approval of the president and that Conley wasn’t involved. Further, USCHO also learned that Dillon met with players in their apartment five days in advance of the firing, a move that multiple sources deemed “inappropriate.”
Questions remain, however, over who pushed who and at what level the ultimate decision came from.
“The players better start looking over their shoulder,” said one high-ranking administrator. “They have not been good for Canisius, not good for college hockey. The coach is gone, the athletic director is gone — now who are they going to blame?”
Dillon is credited on the school’s web site with orchestrating the renovation of the Koessler Athletic Center on campus, which was completed in November of 2002. This helped raise season ticket sales 400 percent, according to the school.
“I am very proud of the progress we have made in Canisius athletics over the past five years,” said Dillon. “We are currently enjoying our most successful winter sports season and I hope that my resignation at this time will allow the spotlight to be cast on our student athletes and their successes.”
Dillon was athletic director at Alaska-Anchorage from 1992-99, and also served as president of the Pacific West Conference. Dillon helped orchestrate Anchorage’s bid to host the 1999 Frozen Four in Anaheim. He later did the same thing at Canisius, which hosted the 2003 Frozen Four in Buffalo.
Dillon served as assistant commissioner of the Colonial Athletic Association for two years before becoming the athletics director at the University of North Carolina at Asheville from 1990-92. He was the director of games operations for the 1987 International Summer Special Olympic Games and an assistant athletic director at [nl]St. Mary’s College in [nl]Notre Dame, Ind., from 1981-85.
A native of Flanders, N.J., Dillon is a 1980 graduate of Slippery Rock University and earned his master’s degree from Eastern Kentucky University in 1981.