BU Task Force Concludes Report
Outlines 14 Recommendations, But Finds No 'Clear Systemic Issues'
CHN Staff Report
Calling Boston University's hockey program a "celebrity culture," school president Robert Brown released the findings of an internal task force charged with assessing the team.
The task force was put together in March in the aftermath of two sexual assault allegations on campus involving hockey players. Both players were kicked off the hockey team, though one player eventually had those charges dismissed.
According to a letter from Brown to the campus community and posted on the school's web site, "The Task Force concluded that the unique culture of men’s ice hockey, played at the highest collegiate level, and the preeminent status of our team on campus contribute to a celebrity culture and an isolation of these athletes from the majority of our student body.
"I believe this situation is exacerbated in men's college hockey where professional teams frequently draft players before they enter college," Brown continued. "This insular and elevated status can lead to unacceptable and destructive behavior, including a culture of sexual entitlement and abuse."
Though the task force did not find any violations of NCAA regulations, Brown called out long-time coach Jack Parker for lack of oversight. As part of the task force's 14 recommendations, the executive athletic director position that Parker held, has been eliminated in order to "establish clear lines of responsibility and accountability between the coach, the Athletic Director, and the President of the University."
In general, the task force concluded that there were no "clear systemic problems" with the hockey program, but that players on the team are too segregated from the rest of campus, and often have grades and entrance scores below the general student population.
"With respect to student life, players very quickly become insulated from the larger BU undergraduate population by virtue of their housing arrangements, having their own functionally exclusive training and competition venue, and the demands of team participation," the report said. "This insulation is an inherent part of participation on a high-level athletic team and is not necessarily a problem in and of itself. It is our judgment, however, that steps should be taken to address the extent to which hockey players are separated from both other BU athletes and the larger undergraduate population. Finally, our assessment of team members’ recent disciplinary history did not reveal a pattern of infractions that was significantly different, in type or number, from the undergraduate population as a whole."
Parker, the coach at BU for almost 30 years, maintained his full support of the task force.
"I think their summary of findings is accurate," Parker said. "More importantly, I feel their recommendations for action will help our team, other student-athletes and the student body in general to ensure a better all-around experience. My staff and I endorse the findings and it is our job to implement and monitor the recommendations that are specific to the hockey team."
Among the other recommendations:
- The men's ice hockey team members should undergo sexual assault prevention training on an annual basis
- The Athletics Department should develop a strategic plan to ensure that members of the men's ice hockey team in particular, and student-athletes in general, are better integrated into student life. Special attention should be given to the issue of housing, including the extent to which team members are housed in the same residence halls.
- Student-athletes should not have the option of enrolling in Metropolitan College. (Metropolitan College is generally considered the least demanding school at BU. ed.)
- Steps should be taken to establish regular, formal communication between coaches and representatives from appropriate campus resources in order to ensure that men’s ice hockey players have full access to campus programs and staff to help them address their behavioral, substance abuse, or mental health-related issues.
Said Brown in his letter, "Men's ice hockey has a storied history and has defined the pinnacle of athletic success at Boston University. We owe it to our student-athletes, including the members of our men’s ice hockey team, to help them be successful students at Boston University while performing at the high level required for NCAA Division I sports. The Athletics Department has been asked to develop a plan that will help better integrate members of our hockey team into the student community, paying special attention to student housing accommodations and student life."
BU said it plans to start it has already begun to implement all of the recommendations.
"Throughout this process, we have ensured that the University administration and our athletic department continue to share the same goals in regards to our men’s ice hockey program and its future as part of BU’s campus life," BU athletic director Mike Lynch said. "This has been a challenging year, but we are ready to move forward as an even stronger athletic program."