WATCH: University of Ottawa President Allan Rock on why the men’s hockey program suspension has been extended, and how the decision was reached to fire its head coach.
TORONTO – The University of Ottawa’s men’s varsity hockey program has been suspended for the entire 2014-15 season and the head coach has been fired, prompting several students to threaten the school with legal action.
“He was not involved in the alleged incidents, but his reaction to them did not meet University expectations. In particular, he failed to report the allegations to the University,” said the release, sent just before University of Ottawa President Allan Rock gave an afternoon press conference.
The hockey program had initially been suspended in March amid a sexual assault investigation.
Thunder Bay Police believe the alleged sexual assault happened on the weekend of Feb. 1, when the Ottawa hockey team was in Thunder Bay for two scheduled Ontario University Athletics (OUA) division games against Lakehead University.
At the time, the University of Ottawa would only say the Sports Services department received third party information on Feb. 24 about an unspecified incident involving allegations of serious misconduct on the part of some members of the Ottawa hockey team.
The decision to suspend the team into the 2015 season and to fire the coach were the result of an internal review conducted by independent experts organized by the university.
That review involved experts in university sport management, ethics and student disciplinary processes and will result in new behaviour guidelines for student-athletes.
Steven Gaon, an independent investigator, also conducted interviews on what happened in Thunder Bay, including “allegations of excessive drinking and sexual misconduct,” said the university.
“Gaon’s findings reveal that while the events in Thunder Bay represented an isolated incident, the behaviour of some players was unacceptable, did not reflect the University’s values and failed to meet the University’s expectations of its student-athletes,” according to the statement.
Those findings won’t be published to “avoid any interference with the ongoing police investigation and out of respect for the University’s privacy obligations.”
Thunder Bay Police told Global News their investigation has concluded and is being reviewed with the Crown. They expect to make an announcement in “a few weeks.”
Several of the hockey players have retained lawyer Lawrence Greenspon, who is considering a suit against the university and its president, Allan Rock. Greenspon calls it a situation where the “alleged sins of the few are being visited upon the many.”
“Some of these guys didn’t go to classes for weeks after the allegations came out, and they were suspended, they were denied privileges to attend the sports graduation, they were name-called by association because they’re members of the team,” said Greenspon.
“Other guys have lost job opportunities as a result. It’s punishment of the innocent in advance of any decision to even charge people who may or may not be involved in misconduct.”
Greenspon said he didn’t understand the university’s reasoning, and suggested that even if any of the students had been charged by police, they would have the right be presumed innocent until proven guilty.
“These guys aren’t even charged; they’re being investigated! And yet they’re being punished ahead of any decision to even charge any of the individuals.”
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