Friday, February 26, 2010

WCHA head games vs USCHO mind games

In her US College Online column on the WCHA this week, Theresa Spisak addresses the issue of the WCHA's inconsistency in calling penalties for hits to the head. I'm in full agreement with her about the ridiculousness of the league's handling of contact to the head penalties and its seeming unwillingness to discipline players when they engage in dangerous on-ice conduct.

That being said, it's unfair to compare the hit by UND's Corban Knight on UMD's Mike Connolly to the hits made by Aaron Marvin on Chay Genoway and Blake Geoffrion. We still don't know if Genoway will return this season. And who knows how long Geoffrion might be out? Knight's hit wasn't even close to the hit on Minnesota's Nick Leddy. He was out for weeks with a broken jaw, which the WCHA apparently doesn't consider part of the head.

Connolly practiced this week and will play this weekend for the Bulldogs. While it's unfortunate that he was injured as a result of Knight's hit, it is not at all clear that his injury was caused by an elbow or any other deliberate blow to the head. Saying something happened does not make it so. The video doesn't conclusively prove anything regarding the claim that Knight's elbow was the cause of Connolly's injury.

In no way do I condone hits to the head. I'm in total agreement with the NCAA's zero tolerance policy against them. If the video proved that Knight went after Connolly's head, I'd be among those calling for the WCHA to suspend him.

However, I believe that if Knight was guilty of anything when he hit Connolly, it was boarding. To me, it appears that Knight got lower than Connolly and brought up his right shoulder, which drove the UMD player backwards. The left side of Connolly's helmet violently impacted the glass. An elbow wasn't needed to cause the injury, which turned out to be nowhere near as serious as Genoway's, Geoffrion's or Leddy's.

I can see this now because I have the benefit of watching the video in slow motion. But when I was at the game covering it for USCHO, Knight's hit didn't look dirty or illegal. Usually when such hits occur, there are reactions and comments made in the press box, such as, "He got away with one there." I don't recall anybody saying anything about this particular hit during or after the game. As the video shows, the crowd barely reacted to it. I can understand why no penalty was called at the time. It simply didn't look that bad.

Sioux players have been getting called for contact to the head penalties all season long, so I know they're not angels in this regard. One would hope that players and coaches would have a clear understanding of what "zero tolerance" means. If they did, it would greatly reduce incidents of headhunting.

However, when WCHA officials don't consistently call contact to the head in cases where it's clearly warranted and the league office displays great reluctance in giving suspensions to players whose hits result in serious head injuries, it should come as no surprise that such dangerous plays continue to occur.

So, by all means, criticize the WCHA for its lackadaisical attitude toward head injuries and its unwillingness to enforce the NCAA's mandate against the plays that cause them. But there's no need to create new controversies where they don't exist, especially when there are already plenty of glaring examples of WCHA ineptitude on the record.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Why now?

Folks, I've provided that history of Bruce McLeod to let some of you know just that: History.

What must be dealt with now is how the WCHA is being run today.

Is the league looking out for player safety?

Are the rules being enforced by the book?

More Revelations

After my last post recapping the past adventures of WCHA Commissioner McLeod I've received more information (this time from the Star-Tribune) about his past exploits. Enjoy.

UMD athletic official was at the center of police probe; In an investigation of suspected witness-tampering and bribery, authorities taped conversations in 1992-93 between Bruce McLeod and a student who told police she was assaulted by a hockey player.(NEWS)

Article from: Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)
Article date: June 19, 1996
Author: Oakes, Larry
More results for: bruce mcleod duluth investigation
Copyright 1996 Star Tribune

Bruce McLeod, the University of Minnesota-Duluth's athletic director, offered to arrange payment to a UMD student if she would decline to testify against a hockey player who assaulted her, according to a police investigation that included recordings of their conversations.

Transcripts show that during a private meeting in his office, McLeod discussed with Erin Masser, then a UMD sophomore, the disadvantages of pursuing an assault case and offered to act as "middleman" in passing money to her from hockey player Sergei Krivokrasov, who had signed a pro contract worth $900,000. ...

McLeod: " . . . Maybe you should be compensated in some way for your, you know, anguish and your time."
Masser: "Whose money would it be?"
McLeod: "It would be his."
Masser: "Sergei's?"
McLeod: "Yup. . . . I was trying to figure out in my mind if, in fact, that something was done, how you could kind of keep it as private as possible or something like that. I even thought of, you know, acting as a middleman or something like that and just tell him that, you know, write Bruce McLeod the check. . . . "


This is the commissioner of the premier college hockey league in the country? This is how he operates?

Monday, February 22, 2010

We Expected Better?

Many, including me, have expected better from WCHA Commissioner Bruce McLeod for numerous reasons, primarily related to player safety and officiating.

It seems that expectation is naive given his track record.

But can someone explain to me how the premier college hockey league in the country can have a guy who was investigated for witness tampering (in a sexual assault case no less) and charged with felony theft and swindling as commissioner?

Grand Forks Herald (ND)
June 20, 1996
Edition: FINAL
Section: SPORTS
Page: D03


Author: Associated Press
Dateline: DULUTH

Article Text:
The athletic director at the University of Minnesota-Duluth offered to arrange a payment to a student if she would decline to testify against a hockey player who assaulted her, a newspaper reported.

In a copyright story Wednesday, the Star Tribune of Minneapolis cited a police investigation from 1992 and 1993 that did not result in charges against Bruce McLeod, who is also the commissioner of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. The player, Sergei Krivokrasov, pleaded guilty to an assault charge in 1993 and now plays for the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks.

Transcripts show that during a private meeting in his office, McLeod discussed with Erin Masser, then a sophomore, the disadvantages of pursuing an Krivokrasov, who had signed a pro contract worth $900,000, the newspaper said.

As part of the investigation into suspected witness tampering and bribery by McLeod, Duluth police taped conversations between McLeod and Masser.

The St. Louis County attorney's office never filed charges against McLeod, in part because no money changed hands, according to the attorney who examined the case. However, police Lt. John Hall, who directed the investigation, told certainly see why somebody could think that. But that was certainly never the McLeod's involvement with Krivokrasov puzzled investigators, not only because it potentially violated the law, but also because Krivokrasov was never a Minnesota-Duluth student.

And while the school took no disciplinary action against McLeod, a senior college official ordered a workshop for athletic department personnel about appropriate ways to counsel students.


Grand Forks Herald (ND)
October 19, 1996
Edition: FINAL
Section: SPORTS
Page: C03


Author: Associated Press

Article Text:
Members of the faculty committee overseeing the Western Collegiate Hockey Association say they plan no immediate action against WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod who has admitted stealing money from the University of Minnesota-Duluth.

The Star Tribune on Thursday surveyed several committee members to ask about any possible plans against McLeod, who has resigned as athletic director at Minnesota-Duluth.

On Wednesday, McLeod entered into a court-approved program for first-time offenders. If McLeod completes the program, es will be dismissed after one year.

Several WCHA committee members in the 10-university association said they want more information about McLeod's case before making a decision on any action against him as commissioner.


Grand Forks Herald (ND)
October 23, 1996
Edition: FINAL
Section: SPORTS
Page: D01


Author: Gregg Wong, Knight-Ridder Newspapers

Article Text:
It's time for Bruce McLeod to step down as commissioner of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. Now. Not in January or at the end of the season.

McLeod resigned in August as athletic director at Minnesota-Duluth because of several misdeeds in his administration, the biggest an admission that he stole $18,000 of the school's money for his own use. He later made restitution.

Last week McLeod entered into a pretrial diversion program for first-time offenders. If he completes the program, felony theft and swindling charges against him will be dismissed after one year.

McLeod also was involved in other questionable actions while he was Umd's athletic director, among them offering to arrange payment for a woman student so she would not testify against a Russian hockey player, a non-student, who had assaulted her; secretly giving an assistant coach a bonus; and diverting money from the women's program to men's athletics.

There have been no revelations of any misdeeds in his role as Wcha commissioner, a position he has held since July 1, 1994. Nonetheless, for the good of the league, he must step down now. If the Wcha is to remain the best college hockey league, which it claims, it cannot have a leader with this kind of baggage.

The Wcha's executive committee has ordered an outside audit of the league's books. The committee, led by Pat Merrier, Umd's acting athletic director, has indicated it probably will not act on McLeod's status with the league until January, when the audit is complete and the committee has its regularly scheduled meeting.

"I've been proud of the fact that all the Wcha people are doing justice to someone they all know and like and who has made many contributions to the league," Gophers men's athletic director Mark Dienhart said. "I'm not alarmed that nobody has pulled the trigger. That wouldn't be appropriate at this time. But I know there may be some discomfort between now and January."

Yet, Dienhart added, "We need a commissioner who is functioning at the highest level, who is empowered and who has the confidence of the league behind him or her."
Before McLeod admitted that he took the money, most of the league coaches and administrators voiced their support. Now, since his admission, some of that support is waning. And, according to a source, McLeod's predecessor as commissioner, the retired Otto Breitenbach of Wisconsin, already has been alerted that he might be asked to step in as acting commissioner.

McLeod probably realizes his fate. He has sold two of his three houses, including a lake cabin, and reportedly plans to move to Denver. He was in Denver over the weekend, perhaps seeking a new job and home. He was traveling on Monday and did not return a phone call.

In any case, when McLeod does resign or is fired, the Wcha must try to find an independent commissioner, one not concurrently employed by one of the league schools, so as to avoid any hint of partiality. The new commissioner also must know hockey and be well versed in marketing, media (notably television) and public relations.

With new arenas in Denver and Colorado Springs and the probability of Mankato State and Nebraska-Omaha joining the Wcha in the next few years, the league and its popularity should grow immensely. And the commissioner has to be the point man for that growth.

On another disciplinary matter, Gophers coach Doug Woog merited being reprimanded for passing on tuition money to former Gopher Chris McAlpine.

Woog should have known better. You don't hand over an envelope with cash to a student-athlete, even if his eligibility has expired.

Woog's intentions were admirable -- helping a kid without any money stay in school. But he should have thought it out. The money could have been given to McAlpine without Woog's involvement -- and then there would be no suspension or loss of scholarship.


Grand Forks Herald (ND)
November 29, 1996
Edition: FINAL
Section: SPORTS
Page: D02


Author: Virg Foss, Herald Staff Writer

Article Text:
Former Minnesota-Duluth athletic director Bruce McLeod, who resigned after he was charged misappropriating school athletic funds, sold his house and lake cabin and moved to Denver last weekend, Bulldog hockey coach Mike Sertich said.

The cloud of the investigation into McLeod's activities has hung over the UMD athletic department for eight months, Sertich said. "It's important we have some closure to all of this," Sertich said. McLeod's departure from Duluth may lead to that, he added. McLeod, who still serves as Western Collegiate Hockey Association commissioner, will run the league office from Denver.

The WCHA still is conducting an audit of its funds under McLeod. If the WCHA takes steps to remove McLeod, that would come at a league meeting in January.

There is talk that McLeod could tell the WCHA in January that he will resign, effective at the end of the season. He's reportedly looking to find a job with a professional sports franchise in Colorado.

If McLeod does resign, there's already speculation that his replacement could be former UND head hockey coach Gino Gasparini.

Gasparini is beginning his third season commissioner of the United States Hockey League, which supplies many of the players for the WCHA.


Gasparini back in WCHA?
With Bruce McLeod's forced resignation as athletic director at Minnesota-Duluth and subsequent move from Duluth to Denver, his days as commissioner of the WCHA may be numbered.

If so, perhaps the leading candidate to replace him would be ex-UND coach Gino Gasparini, in his third season as commissioner of the United States Hockey League.
For the record, Gasparini is taking the stance that's he's perfectly happy doing what he's doing. "I have a wonderful job that I enjoy immensely," Gasparini said Monday. "I'm not in the market of looking for a new job."

But if the WCHA needs a new commissioner and is interested in him, he said he would talk.

Gasparini would be the perfect candidate. He not only has a background in the league as a long-time coach, but he knows the inner workings of the USHL, now the prime feeder league for WCHA schools. Another bonus would be that Gasparini has no ties to a WCHA school as McLeod did in his dual role as AD at Duluth and commissioner of the WCHA. McLeod's two jobs created the potential for a conflict of interest.


Grand Forks Herald (ND)
February 5, 1997
Edition: FINAL
Section: SPORTS
Page: D01

Index Terms:
Author: Associated Press
Dateline: DULUTH, MINN.

Article Text:
A former University of Minnesota-Duluth soccer player says she was forced to quit the sport because scholarships were unavailable to the team but were offered disproportionately to male athletes.

Julie Grandson filed a lawsuit Monday in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis, saying Minnesota-Duluth has violated a federal law by denying female athletes the same opportunities it extends to male athletes.

Grandson says that although women made up 33 percent of the school's athletes in the 1995-96 school year, their teams received only 21 percent of the total athletic budget, 18 percent of athletic scholarships and 18 percent of athletic recruiting money.

The suit demands that soccer be funded equitably and asks damages of more than $75,000.

Wide disparities have persisted despite an annual state subsidy whose intent is to help Minnesota-Duluth attain gender equity in sports. The school has accepted more than $5 million in such funds since 1985, records show.

Last summer, after an internal probe, Chancellor Kathryn Martin acknowledged that the school's spending on women's sports was unfair and promised to fix the problem by 1999.

The investigations also led to the discovery that Athletic Director Bruce McLeod made $18,000 in undocumented withdrawals from a fund-raising account. He resigned, was charged with theft and was accepted into a pretrial diversion program. He still heads the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.

Grandson suit cites 19 defendants including Martin, McLeod and each member of the university Board of Regents. University officials declined to comment.