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May 29, 2013 E-MAIL PRINT Bookmark and Share

Cobb Lashes Out After Firing as UAA AD

CHN Staff Report

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Steve Cobb, who came under a firestorm of criticism in recent weeks over his handling of the Alaska-Anchorage hockey program, has been fired as school's athletic director after 13 years.

“Dr. Cobb’s legacy at UAA includes a number of remarkable achievements of which we are all proud,” said Chancellor Tom Case in a statement. “However, it has become clear in recent days that despite his efforts, Steve will not be able to bring all elements of the public together in support of UAA, and that criticism of Steve has become a distraction from the great work that UAA does every day.  Though it’s necessary for us to move ahead under new leadership in Seawolf Athletics, Dr. Cobb’s outstanding contributions to our student-athletes, the community and to Seawolf Nation have been unprecedented.”

After the firing of coach Dave Shyiak after this past season, both the Alaska State Hockey Association and UAA Hockey Alumni Association wrote scathing letters to the school president, expressing a non-binding vote of no confidence against Cobb for his handling of the search. They were particularly upset that Cobb did not include any "hockey people" in the original committee.

The school eventually decided to "re-open" its coaching search after an initial round of interviews.

That was followed by another letter from a former player detailing accusations that Shyiak hit another former player during a practice in 2011. Shyiak's attorney said it was just a ploy to make Cobb look bad for not taking care of the situation at the time, but Shyiak followed with an open letter expressing how upset he was dragged back into it.

Last month, Case expressed his support for Cobb. But a recent letter from Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell, urging Alaska president Patrick Gamble to "take a stand" on what was happening with the athletic department, may have been the last straw.

Late Wednesday, Cobb let loose in a statement with criticism of the firing, and at Ashley Reed, a lobbying who he says influenced Gov. Parnell to get involved.

"Patrick Gamble may be mentally ill," Cobb said in the statement, "when you give away the university to Ashley Reed and a few local scoundrels, you are by definition insane and I intend to prove it in court. ... Gamble made the decision to fire me without speaking to one employee of the UAA Athletic Department, not one staff member, not one coach, not one student-athlete and certainly not me. Apparently Ashley Reed is the final authority. ... I am suffering secondary embarrassment for the university that I loved and devoted almost thirteen years of my life."

Case said in his statement that there was no wrongdoing on Cobb's part in that 2011 incident.

“Although a final report is not yet complete, and consistent with the alleged victim's position, I have been assured by police that the investigation found no basis for recommending criminal charges against Coach Shyiak or anyone else," Case said. "I am particularly pleased that there was no evidence of intimidation of players and that the investigation confirmed that AD Cobb did in fact conduct a good faith review of the allegations at the time.

“In hindsight, it may have been more appropriate to have simply referred the matter to police at the time.  However, Dr. Cobb concluded that the allegation was overstated, as has proven to be the case.  Nevertheless, UAA takes seriously the need for students and student-athletes to feel safe at UAA and we will redouble our efforts to ensure that all students and employees understand reporting procedures for safety-related issues.”

Others expressed concern over Cobb's dismissal.

"This is not a good day to be a Seawolf, there's no question about it," said UAA track and cross-country coach Michael Friess to the Anchorage Daily News. "I think it could have been handled differently with the focus really on helping to develop a struggling (hockey) program."

Friess was particulary concerned that outside forces influenced the university.

"If the attempt was to help our athletic department, I don't think this will do the job. I think this will set us back several years."

Meanwhile, a new hockey coaching search committee was formed, which included former UAA coach Brush Christiansen, and is still in the process of vetting candidates. Bill Spindle, vice chancellor for administrative services, will choose the new hockey coach from a list of finalists expected to be announced next week, a UAA spokeswoman told the Anchorage Daily News.

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