May 24, 2020

Hutchinson’s full statement

The full text of Wednesday’s afternoon’s statement by University of Maine President Fred Hutchinson announcing the five-game suspension ofPresident Fred Hutchinson announcing the five-game suspension of hockey coach Shawn Walsh:

“As most of you know, late last week the university learned that Coach Shawn Walsh apparently knew that a student he had recruited, Jeff Tory, might not meet the NCAA’s eligibility requirements for intercollegiate athletics. This information came as news to us. For several days, in the face of challenges from other schools, Coach Walsh had allowed the university to assert that it had no reason to doubt Mr. Tory’s eligibility.

“The university initiated an investigation of this issue as “The university initiated an investigation of this issue as soon as we heard that Coach Walsh might have more information about Mr. Tory’s eligibility than he had previously shared with us. Yesterday (Tuesday) we interviewed the coach, his assistant, the admissions officer who handled Mr. Tory’s application, the university’s compliance officer and Mr. Tory. Taking part in that investigation were Mike Ploszek, athletics director, Dr. George Jacobson, our faculty representative to the NCAA, and myself.

“Our investigation substantiated the basic assertions reported in this weekend’s newspaper. Questions about Mr. Tory’s eligibility had indeed been raised with Coach Walsh in personal conversations with other coaches. In addition, Coach Walsh had obtained a letter another university had received from the NCAA in which significant questions about Mr. Tory’s eligibility were expressed in writing. Despite the many warning signs, Coach Walsh chose to ignore them. He trusted that his own interpretations of the rules were correct. He felt that concerns raised by others – including the NCAA – could be ignored.

“The information Coach Walsh had received was critical to the credibility and position the university was taking with the NCAA in defense of our interpretation of the rules. Had we known that the NCAA had expressed strong concerns about Mr. Tory’s eligibility, we never would have allowed him to play in a single game until his status had been formally and officially resolved.

“Coach Walsh was in a position to share key information about Mr. Tory’s eligibility with university officials and did not do so. We are convinced that he did not deliberately withhold that information; he simply didn’t feel the information was relevant. By failing to communicate what he knew to his superiors, the allowed the university to present incomplete information to both the public and to the NCAA.

“His action, by itself, did not violate NCAA standards. However, that lapse in judgment did cause the university to violate the NCAA initial eligibility rule. That violation will result in the forfeiture of three wins this season. Nobody wants to forfeit those games. The team earned them. But given what has happened, we have no choice.

“The issue is not whether Coach Walsh accurately interpreted the eligibility rules of the NCAA. The issues are two: his failure to recognize – and acknowledge – the potential problems related to Mr. Tory’s eligibility certification, and his failure to let the administration know what he knew about the situation and when he knew it.

“Poor judgment and a failure to communicate are out of character for Coach Walsh. Yet the potential for damage to the university and its hockey program, created by his actions and inactions, was tremendous. It threatened the credibility and integrity of the university and a sports program that has brought pride to the entire state of Maine.

“Based on our conclusions, I have decided to take the following disciplinary action: effective (Wednesday) night, Coach Walsh will be suspended without pay until Jan. 1. His assistant, Grant Standbrook, will coach the team during the five games Coach Walsh is under suspension. Coach Walsh is not to have any contact with the team during that period of time. He will be allowed to rejoin the team in Minnesota on January 1 for the team’s game the next day. The coach has been informed of this decision.

“We all recognize the contributions Coach Walsh has made to the university and to the hockey program over the past 10 years. There is no question about that. In fact, we look forward to additional contributions in the years to come. But his success on the ice and off does not diminish his accountability to those he works for and works with. He and every other coach and administrator have a duty to put the interests of the university, the students, and their programs ahead of their zeal for success.

“Like many people at the university and throughout the state, we regret that we have to take this action. However, this response is necessary to protect the reputation of the university and its hockey program, and to make it clear that such behavior will not be tolerated at the University of Maine.”

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