February 4, 2005 PRINT Bookmark and Share

Everyone Looks Bad in Canisius Situation

by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor

When I last wrote about the Canisius situation, I tried to point out some concerns about the firing of coach Brian Cavanaugh. It was said that it's too hard for the public to ever know the truth on what happened; and because he's well-known by fans and media for being accessible and a big booster of the sport, that he was more likely to be given benefit of the doubt.

Some of this was misinterpreted. For one, no one is absolving him of guilt if he did the things some people accuse him of. The point is not that he should be given a pass, just that it's human nature to give benefit of a doubt to someone you know. That's why the hockey community is naturally skeptical of a coach being fired like that. The facts, however, should absolutely be pursued.

But the other point is, we'll just never know. No matter how much those within the team think they know about Cavanaugh — and I'm sure they genuinely feel it — there is no way for outsiders to ever know exactly what to believe. That's just the way it is.

Nobody on the current team is willing to speak, or is legally obligated not to speak. There is still work to do in contacting old players, but concentrating on that misses the point. If 30 players came out of the woodwork to tell us that Cavanaugh was too much of a bully to his teams, it still would not get to the heart of the bigger matter — or at least the matter that I am interested in.

For one, the players' list of grievances, submitted to the administration, did not list any untoward physical conduct by Cavanaugh towards the team. It was a laundry list of petty reasons, which may or may not be fair.

But the bigger point is that no one in this entire mess comes out smelling good. That's really the issue. Cavanaugh certainly has some explaining to do. But, for my money, the people that still need to do the most explaining are the players and the Canisius administration. Their obfuscation, and the general environment at Canisius, is really the bigger matter right now, not whether Cavanaugh was a bully to his players.

Athletic director Tim Dillon is really starting to take heat, after what appears to have been an effective smokescreen that led people to believe it was Canisius vice president Ellen Conley that made the decision to fire Cavanaugh, not Dillon. What was not said was that Dillon met with players at their apartment five days before the firing decision, a move that has been widely criticized as being inappropriate. Conley has also told sources that the only thing the Buffalo News article got right about her was the spelling of her name.

And certainly the players still have a lot of explaining to do. Public exposure, drunkenness, trashing hotel rooms to the point of players getting injured. All of this has occured since Cavanaugh's firing.

The players may be right in their assertions. But I repeat, how is anyone supposed to take this bunch seriously? Nothing excuses getting physical with players, but what if Cavanaugh was the only one able to keep the hogs in the pen?

These players were not noble for "making a stand." If anything, it now appears they were being used by Dillon, and encouraged to come up with a petty list of nonsense as reasons for wanting Cavanaugh to be fired. If their big reason for wanting Cavanaugh out was because of his physical abuse, why wasn't that listed in the letter to the administration?

It remains interesting, too, that for all the squawking by some that there's an endless series of players willing to talk about Cavanaugh's awful behavior, no one has e-mailed us in regards to any of the old articles to back those claims, or take exception to any of our oldarticles. Quite the contrary, actually.

As of now, the only publicly-quoted ex-player is Mike Buczkowski, the general manager of the Buffalo Bisons, the minor-league baseball team in town. He said to Pat Murray of the Niagara Gazette recently: "I've let Father Cooke [Rev. Vincent Cooke, Canisius' president] and Tim Dillon know how I feel. I was very disappointed. It's an embarrassment for the school and hockey program.

"I've talked with a number of people I played with. They share my disappointment. There wouldn't be a hockey program if not for Brian Cavanaugh."

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