Thursday, January 30, 2014

Aftermath

The supplemental discipline came down from the league on Monday for the tussle at the TU Center on Saturday night, and it generated plenty of additional discussion - enough that another round of suspensions came down last night.

The ECAC did get some things right. The referees deserve credit for getting it right when they issued game DQs to Mat Bodie, Mike Zalewski, Eli Lichtenwald, and Luke Curadi. Each certainly was guilty of an offense that, by the book, warranted such a penalty. The league got it right by sanctioning Bodie an extra game considering he was the genesis of the whole thing, and by banning Bo Dolan for tomorrow's game since the RPI senior was pretty out of control coming off the bench.

For the life of me, after reviewing the videos, I can't figure out what exactly it was that Daniel Ciampini and Ryan Haggerty did during the whole mess that would have warranted a suspension. The worst thing Ciampini did seems to have been to pull Jake Wood's helmet off his head. But if that's all it takes, why not Brock Higgs for pulling Bodie's helmet off, or Mike Vecchione for pulling Bo Dolan's off?

As for Haggerty, there are only two things I can see - he was the first one off the bench to engage a Union player, but then again, he was also sized up and popped in the grill by Daniel Carr. If what Haggerty did was suspendable, where's Carr's suspension? The other is that he may have been taunting Rick Bennett after the majority of the blowup near the benches was over, he's seen on camera kind of waving Bennett away. That's... pretty thin.

I'm not saying that Higgs or Vecchione or Carr should have been suspended, mind you, I'm only making direct comparisons.

Seth Appert originally was not suspended for his actions when the league put out its supplemental discipline on Monday. That surprised us a little bit, we thought he'd get at least a game off. He did, after all, have to be restrained by his own players - while Bennett was going after him, he did seem to have an eye on going after Bennett. So the game that the league suspended him for yesterday was appropriate, but it should have been sent down on Monday in order to give the team enough time to properly prepare.

But the most glaring omission - originally - was the league's failure to tack any additional games onto the suspension handed down by Union College to Bennett. He struck an opposing student-athlete.

Mike Eidelbes from INCH wrote a good argument for a lengthy suspension being appropriate. He suggested that Bennett should have been suspended for the remainder of the season. That's not an exaggerated or overblown idea.

This isn't a personal thing against Rick Bennett by any stretch of the imagination. If all of this could simply be based on Bennett generally being a soft-spoken, nice guy (and he is), that no one got hurt, that he's genuinely remorseful for his actions (and he is), that Milos Bubela was wearing his helmet when he was struck, that he wasn't intending to hit Bubela (and he almost certainly wasn't), then yes, perhaps just the two-game suspension would have been fair enough.

But the basic description is difficult to swallow. A head coach threw a punch, and struck an opposing student-athlete. That's an extremely unconscionable action, no matter who's doing it, why, and whether it was intentional. Taking swings in the first place is a huge part of the problem.

The incident immediately conjured up thoughts of the 1978 Gator Bowl, the infamous incident in which legendary and long-time Ohio State football coach Woody Hayes was fired after punching Clemson's Charlie Bauman following an interception that basically clinched the game for Clemson. It called to mind Mark Morris' firing in 2002 by Clarkson for assaulting one of his own players in practice. Both of those incidents outline an important element - it simply is not OK for a coach to act with violence upon a student-athlete.

The caveats listed above are true. It wasn't an intentional move, but would it have been somehow better if he'd hit his likely target instead, Seth Appert? What if Bubela's helmet had come off at some point and instead of making contact with the helmet, he'd socked him right in the side of the head?

I like Rick Bennett as a person - I've had the opportunity twice to interview him and he seems like a nice guy. But coaches must be held to a higher standard. Having an equivalent penalty to that of the player on his team responsible for starting the whole conflagration isn't fitting of that higher standard.

I've never been sure exactly what the appropriate punishment was supposed to be. I've never thought termination was the appropriate response, considering the above caveats. But one weekend? The league originally missed an opportunity to reinforce the notion that coaches set an example for their team, and should be held to a higher standard. If the entire season was too much, you'd think a suspension that lasted at least through a couple of weekends, meaning a home and a road weekend in this case, might have been in order. Thankfully, even if it was a bit late, that appears to be the message the ECAC now sees fit to send.

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