University of Alaska Anchorage Chancellor Tom Case believes that sacked UAA athletic director Steve Cobb provided unprecedented “outstanding contributions to our student-athletes, the community and to Seawolf Nation.
“Dr. Cobb’s legacy at UAA includes a number of remarkable achievements of which we are all proud,” Case wrote.
According to Case’s press release, Cobb got fired because “despite his efforts, Steve will not be able to bring all elements of the public together in support of UAA.”
“Criticism of Steve has become a distraction from the great work that UAA does every day,” Case, who is reportedly good friends with Cobb, wrote.
It must be a great distraction when you’re employing the kind of guy who would call your boss, UAA President Pat Gamble, “mentally ill,” and those in the hockey community who had been pushing for his firing “scoundrels.”
(Cobb is threatening to sue. If that happens, Case’s heap of praise will certainly be used as evidence.)
It must be hard to bring elements of the public together when you all but turn a blind eye when your coach thwacks a student. And here, I’m referring to both Case and Cobb, both of whom knew about the 2011 assault by a hockey coach on a student. And both of whom have chosen to basically defend it. Today, Case called the allegation “overstated.”
Let’s be clear here: A hockey player was physically assaulted by a coach, whose immediate boss was Cobb. And the coach didn’t so much as get a slap on the hand from Cobb. And Cobb was fired not because he didn’t act on the assault, but because he supposedly couldn’t bring the community together.
Let’s revisit the story. Here’s what we know so far: In 2011 then UAA hockey coach Dave Shyiak struck player Nick Haddad with a hockey stick during a drill. That’s not disputed.
What is in dispute, as if it even matters, is how hard the strike was. Shyiak has said that he only hit Haddad’s knee pads. Others present, including former UAA hockey player Mickey Spencer who has gone public, say that the hit was more like a “baseball-style” swing at Haddad’s thighs.
“He tomahawked, lumber-jacked-whatever you want to call it-him across the thigh on his (hockey) pants,” Spencer said. Shyiak then told the players to keep it between them, Spencer said.
Haddad confirmed the hit, but didn’t think that Shyiak had meant to injure him.
Shortly after the incident, Cobb ordered a half-hearted investigation into the matter, where nobody, including Shyiak nor Haddad was interviewed, even though nearly the whole hockey team witnessed it.
Shyiak was fired two years later not because he hit a kid with a stick, but because he was a losing hockey coach.
“In hindsight, it may have been more appropriate to have simply referred the matter to police at the time,” Case wrote about the incident. “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.”
No Case: What you as the chancellor need to ensure is that none of your employees hit students, with a hand, a ruler, an eraser, or a hockey stick, tomahawk style or not.
And if ensuring that no student gets hit isn’t one of your priorities; if you can’t ensure the community that such behavior will not be tolerated, then you have no business leading UAA. Instead, you should join Cobb, sit in a corner, and mutter about how everybody else is mentally ill.
Contact Amanda Coyne at firstname.lastname@example.org