TMQ: On Sun Devils, postseason bans and postgame vulgarities

Alec Hajdukovich and Alaska got news last week that they’d miss the postseason this season because of NCAA punishments (photo: Rachel Lewis).

Each week during the season we look at the big events and big games around Division I men’s college hockey in Tuesday Morning Quarterback.

Todd: There’s plenty to talk about in college hockey after the last week brought a postseason ban for Alaska and a Cornell-Quinnipiac coaching confrontation, but let’s start with talk of a 60th Division I men’s program.

In a series of tweets last Friday, Let’s Play Hockey reported that AHL Chicago Wolves owner Don Levin was in talks with Arizona State about being the lead donor of a push to start a varsity program at the Tempe school. The school and Levin, whose son plays on the Sun Devils’ club team, denied the report to ASU blog House of Sparky.

There has been plenty of talk about further expansion since Penn State made the jump to varsity status two seasons ago. Do you think Arizona State could be the next one in, and would it be a smart move?

Jim: I think anything can happen but I personally doubt this will and, if so, whether it makes sense. While I totally support expansion, I think it needs to be carefully planned. You can’t take the NHL approach and expand simply to expand. Arizona is a significant trip for any team in the nation, something that threatened the future of Alabama-Huntsville in not-so-recent days.

At the same time, the market has hardly been kind to the NHL in its time there. Attendance hasn’t always been strong and corporate support has followed. It does seem the Coyotes are on better footing now but that club received serious relocation consideration. Does that market need college hockey?

College hockey needs to first grow in markets that support the sport — major cities with successful NHL teams. If we had 80 or so successful programs, then I think a one-off approach in experimental markets makes sense.

Am I just too negative about warm-market hockey?

Todd: I don’t know if it’s about the weather, but it’s hard not to think about U.S. International and Northern Arizona when we start talking about Arizona State. Those schools were part of the Great West Hockey Conference with Alaska and Alaska-Anchorage in the 1985-86 season. Soon, U.S. International (a San Diego school) and Northern Arizona were out of the varsity hockey business.

I don’t doubt that things would be different at Arizona State, a school with a far deeper athletic program. And playing in an area of the country removed from other college hockey programs can work — see the Alaska schools. But it could be a tough sell for the long term.

We’ve heard talk about the University of Rhode Island and the University of Buffalo as possible Division I programs, but it really comes down to money, doesn’t it?

Jim: It does, and that is what keeps me from writing off Arizona State. If it has the potential to receive money similar to what Terry Pegula gave to Penn State, almost everything is possible. But the investment to begin a program is in the millions and most schools don’t simply have that type of money at their disposal.

Todd: Speaking of money, a series of NCAA violations involving player eligibility will cost Alaska-Fairbanks $30,000. Even more significantly, the punishment handed down last week by the NCAA included a postseason ban for this season.

I get that it’s unfair to punish athletes for the offenses committed by administrators before their time at the school. But I struggle to come up with what would be a good punishment in that case. Your thoughts?

Jim: I have the same feelings. Today’s student-athletes did nothing wrong but will pay for the actions of others. Still, you can’t allow a program that significantly breaks the rules to profit from a potential postseason appearance. This has been the NCAA’s way of handling things for many years for violating schools.

My only alternative way of dealing with this also hurts current student-athletes, and that is stiffer fines. At the end of the day, the people who break the rules will never pay unless they are banned from working in college athletics. It is always a trickle-down punishment.

Todd: We can’t wrap up this week without mentioning what happened at the end of Saturday’s Cornell-Quinnipiac game. Angered by Bobcats coach Rand Pecknold claiming one of the Cornell players embellished a hit from behind, Big Red coach Mike Schafer had some harsh words for Pecknold in the postgame handshakes, and it carried over to Schafer’s meeting with the media.

Schafer drew a one-game suspension from ECAC Hockey for his vulgar language critical of Pecknold. Right call by the league?

Jim: I think the league definitely had to act. Once the comments went viral and were picked up by The Hockey News, it has become a bit of a spectacle. What shocked me most was the apology by Schafer and Cornell’s athletic director in this release from the school:

Mike Schafer, the Jay R. Bloom ’77 Head Coach of Men’s Hockey at Cornell University, has issued the following statement following ECAC Hockey’s announcement that he has been suspended for the team’s next game.

“I’d like apologize for using profane language in my postgame comments on Saturday evening following our contest against Quinnipiac. My language was unnecessary, and I did not represent Cornell and our hockey program in a first-class manner.

“Cole Bardreau, who had previously suffered a serious neck injury, was run into the boards from behind in the game,” Schafer added. “Cole’s status continues to be evaluated, but the hit on Saturday may force him to miss future games. I was angry that there was no recognition of the seriousness of the play and let my emotions get the best of me after the contest. The safety of student-athletes is paramount to me. I have apologized to Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold for my comments.”

“I respect Coach Schafer’s passion and respect for the health of his student-athletes,” said Andy Noel, the Meakem*Smith Director of Athletics and Physical Education. “He used inappropriate words to describe how he was understandably upset at the situation. The Cornell Department of Athletics and Physical Education understands ECAC Hockey’s decision to suspend Coach Schafer for this isolated incident.”

That may be the most unapologetic apology I have read. But I think much of this shows some of the personality conflicts among ECAC coaches. Last year, we had Seth Appert and Rick Bennett fighting on ice and this year they worked a Dunkin’ Donuts drive thru together. Maybe next season Pecknold and Schafer can sell pizza at the takeout window at Frank Pepe’s in New Haven?

Thumbs up

To the sellout crowd last Wednesday at Hartford’s XL Center for Connecticut’s Hockey East home debut against Boston College. More of those — and more performances like the Huskies posted in the win over the Eagles and a tie at Boston University on Saturday — could mean some big things ahead for UConn.

[youtube_sc url=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=weSSv89IgEA]

Thumbs down

To Ferris State’s offensive production. The Bulldogs have allowed 11 goals over their last seven games, which really should net more than two victories. But they’ve scored only four goals in those seven contests. Ouch.

Coming up

There are three series between ranked teams on this week’s schedule:

• No. 1 Minnesota plays a home-and-home series against No. 13 Minnesota-Duluth.

• No. 2 North Dakota hosts No. 7 Miami.

• No. 10 Vermont plays at No. 16 Providence.

26 COMMENTS

  1. -IF- there was a team-to-be in Arizona, it should be in Flagstaff [:)] – but I don’t see it happening either way.

    Put the money on:

    (1) Northwestern with the Chicagoland/Blackhawks market,
    (2) Purdue which is close to Northwestern, Notre Dame, Bowling Green [Western, MSU, UofM, and Ohio State as well], and
    (3) Central Michigan with the intense rivalry with Ferris and Western.

    Oh yeah… and disband the horrible selfish idea that was the NACHO conference while you are at it…

    • Yes, put it in flagstaff so even fewer people will watch *eyeroll*. At least ASU has the potential student body. If they put together a decent program in a nice facility they may actually start a following.

    • What would be a nice new conference would be if Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan and Grand Valley State would start up D1 hockey but the problem is they would have to build a new arena. You could have a conference of CMU, EMU, GVS, Western Michigan, Ferris State, Bowling Green, Miami of Ohio.

        • If you don’t already know I will explain to you, the MAC conference is already trying to get a couple more teams to move into D1 so they can have there own conference. The NCHC is not going to be around. If the MAC can get the teams Ferris will move to that conference for just hockey

        • It is exactly this attitude [and I am not saying its yours] that is toxic for the sport. The NACHO conference was created, and is run, with said attitude.

          Teams like North Dakota, Minnesota, Boston College, etc should headline conferences… everybody else needs to be divvied up accordingly (e.g., money, location, commitment).

          As an example, both Alaska schools should be part of NACHO… alone for the easiness of flying into cities like Denver and Minnie – not to mention their western location.

          But really I guess it comes down to money… so sad seeing hockey following the same footsteps of D-I basketball and football. Nothing is holy anymore…

          I am no Nostradamus… but I still have hopes of rearranging the NACHO for the creation of something that makes a little more sense. Again possibly accepting both Alaska schools and giving up, lets say, Western and Miami.

          GO TECH GOLD!

    • Northwestern is most likely, as it’s private, has a large endowment, an existing club team, and is positioned well to a major city. I wouldn’t rule out Iowa either; the state currently fields 5 USHL teams and I think fans could definitely support a team there.

      U-Buffalo could share the new arena with Canisius, so they have a facility and since Atlantic Hockey lost UConn, they logically wouldn’t have trouble finding a conference.

      As others have noted, however, it boils down to money. Any of these scenarios I mention (and others have mentioned) still need a sugar daddy.

      Heck, I wouldn’t mind ASU joining up. I’d love to go to Tempe in February to catch some SCSU games!

  2. what the heck are you talking about?

    he said ” I have apologized to Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold for my comments.”

    “I’d like apologize for using profane language in my postgame comments on Saturday evening following our contest against Quinnipiac. My language was unnecessary, and I did not represent Cornell and our hockey program in a first-class manner.”
    What should he have said, I LOVE YOU.
    Get real pal

    • You also left out the fact that the statement still harps on the issue Schafer had with Pecknold in the first place: ” I was angry that there was no recognition of the seriousness of the play and let my emotions get the best of me after the contest.”

      The AD did the same with his statement: “He used inappropriate words to describe how he was understandably upset at the situation.”

      To me that says, “I’m sorry I got suspended for my actions because I still think what I said is correct.” Hey, we all can read things differently.

      • You should take a look at the checking from behind major that SCSU’s Kossila took against Duluth’s Austin Farley. All I’ll say is, you can embellish a check from behind, and it wasn’t Farley’s first time (and it won’t be the last time) he’s done garbage like that. Not saying embellishment wasn’t the case here (haven’t seen the video).

      • He apologized for the words he used, which were inappropriate. He doesn’t need to apologize for being upset that Pecknold was saying Bardreau embellished.Pecknold should be upset that his player checked someone in a dangerous manner. That’s the whole emphasis about checking from behind into the boards.If you don’t think it’s reasonable to complain, in a rational manner, then well, you and I will have to disagree and never get into an argument.

  3. Get a half dozen or so pack 12 schools to start programs (Colorado,Utah, Washington & State,Oregon & State,etc) and go for it. Otherwise,it will never work.

  4. As for expansion: many SEC and ACC schools do have Club Hockey programs. Georgia Tech, Auburn, Ol’ Miss. Florida, Clemson, Vanderbilt. Why not look there.

  5. Arizona State hockey? Terrible idea. A confirmed party school with crazy, drunk students. All they’ll want to see is fights. Too bad they won’t realize until after drunkenly screaming for fights at the first few games that fighting isn’t allowed in college hockey.

    Hockey outside of places where it is seriously played, and followed, is just a bad idea. I’m from upstate NY where hockey is big. Lots of former players, but even if people haven’t played competitively, they can still skate.

    If you can’t skate there is a HUGE chance that you’ll only want to see goonery in hockey. You’ll have no idea how hard it is simply to skate.

    Just went to a Carolina Hurricanes game last night, as I live in central NC. Team is finally winning and the stands were less than half full. Worse, most of the fans are there to eat 5000 calories and feed their already fat faces, not watch hockey. They simply don’t appreciate how incredible and fast and fun hockey is to play and watch.

    Why does everything need to expand? Oh…money and the fact that MBAs now run the world.

    I hate Cornell. Speaking of money…how charming that every position at the school comes with some add-on title. Gotta love all the rich alums who need to feel that their education (not their 200 years of family money) was integral in making them wealthy as heck. Oh the humor. Money makes money, and donated money makes rich men look altruistic.

      • Buffalo already has two D1 teams and there are always open seats. Syracuse, they don’t have an arena, your talking 100 mil to build an onsite faciltiy

        • The Dome can be used for hockey (crunch/comets game happening there soon actually) and they’ve also go the war memorial in town, so while not ideal in the long term, there are places they could play…

        • And to be honest, it’s pretty sad that they make their division 1 women’s team play in the tiny little rink that they do. If they got a men’s team, maybe the women could eventually benefit from a decent facility to play in.

    • “Terrible idea. A confirmed party school with crazy, drunk students. All they’ll want to see is fights.”
      Hmm, does that mean you’re advocating UND dissolve their D-1 program, too? Making friends fast, aren’t we…

  6. Even schools with license-to-print football programs have no interest in funding start up hockey programs. Minnesota State Moorhead couldn’t come up with 37 mil in donated funds and dropped D1 plans in 2012. If they did their homework, that’s a big hurdle to get started right. I think it’s just as likely that we will see contraction before reaching 60 schools playing D1.

  7. The smart way, meaning the money making way, would be to follow the example of the Big Ten, an existing league with an existing set of TV contracts. This provides additional TV content.

    That means SIX schools in one of the major football and basketball conferences would start Men’s and Women’s program, securing an autobid. I seriously doubt the SEC or Big XII will be the first or second conference to join the Big 10. This leaves the ACC and the PAC-12.

    The PAC-12 needs six schools, most likely needing the two LA programs, the two Bay Area schools, Oregon because of Nike and one other. While not likely, there is a logic to pairings, so if ASU fielded a program, Arizona would also field one. I think the same holds true for Oregon State. I have difficulty imaging Colorado trying to muscle in on the history of DU and Colorado College.

    The ACC is most likely, since BC and Notre Dame are part of ACC, with the obvious caveat of ND’s independent football. Connecticut could join ACC, which means something like Pitt, Syracuse and a team to be named could force the second iteration of realignment.

    I believe we will see Big 10 expanding first, likely to Rutgers, Northwestern and Maryland, to capture TV and recruiting. Any of those schools could get a mega donor and automatically be in an autobid league.

    My two cents.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here