Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Boston University Hockey and Institutional Control

It's not just the big-time football powers that have trouble with the behavior of their athletes. Boston University has issued a report into sexual assault charges against a pair of players on the hockey team in which it says "a culture of sexual entitlement exists among some players on the men’s ice hockey team, stemming in part from their elevated social status on campus."

The report was ordered up by the school administration after back-to-back incidents last season that led to sexual assault charges. Corey Trevino, a 2008 draft pick of the New York Islanders, pleaded guilty to assault. Rape charges against Max Nicastro, who is the property of the Detroit Red Wings, were dropped. Neither player remains in school.

The report says it doesn't attempt to judge the guilt or innocence of the players, but rather look into "whether inherent aspects of the program's culture and climate could have helped to foster the actions that led to the criminal charges." 

BU is an interesting case. The school doesn't have a football team; it eliminated the program in 1997. But that only confirmed what most everybody already knew: BU is a hockey school, with five NCAA titles, 21 appearances in the collegiate Frozen Four and the longtime domination of the Hockey East conference and the annual battle for Boston's bragging rights called the Beanpot. 

The report acknowledges hockey's special status on campus:
For those unfamiliar with Boston University athletic programs, the men’s hockey team, which has won a total of five national championships, has garnered substantial national recognition and is often among the top university ice hockey programs in the nation. Its visibility both on and off campus exceeds that of any other BU athletic program.
The report also noted that hockey is an unusual situation, in that players are often drafted before they attend college. That calls into question, perhaps even more than in other sports where a pro career might be assumed, the players' commitment to their academics. In its conclusion, though, the report hit the school for a lack of sufficient institutional control over its flagship athletic program.
There are a number of important structures and processes that are failing to achieve the full level and quality of oversight of the men’s ice hockey program that is expected and appropriate at a major university. These failings include issues of institutional control and governance structure at the highest levels, as well as shortcomings in leadership at the team level. Further, the absence of a few routine, transparent, and systematic processes that would establish clear expectations for players’ behavior has created a culture in which important aspects of oversight for our student-athletes’ behavior—beyond performance as a team member—has fallen inappropriately to the coaching staff.
The report said its outside investigator, Michael Glazier, chair of the Collegiate Sports Practice Group in the firm of Bond, Schoeneck & King, PLLC, "found no evidence of major NCAA violations."

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