Changing the Culture of Boston University Hockey

By Emma Harger
A report detailing the “culture of sexual entitlement” at Boston University found that Agganis Arena was once used for something other than playing hockey. Andrew B. Fielding-US PRESSWIRE

The Boston University hockey program is generally known for its triumphs, not its controversies. The Terriers have won 12 major conference tournament championships (five in their old conference; seven in their new), 29 Beanpot tournaments (a Boston-area tournament, played at TD Garden, featuring the four big college hockey teams in the area), five NCAA championships and made 21 appearances at the NCAA Frozen Four. BU alumni who now play in the NHL include Brandon Yip, Colin Wilson, Chris Bourque, Matt Gilroy and Ryan Whitney. Six Terriers have their names on the Stanley Cup. Their cross-town rivalry with the Boston College Eagles is well-known and intense. At BU, hockey is king: the school disbanded its football program in 1997 and Agganis Arena is the gem of their athletic program.

Now another, darker side of the Terriers is coming to light–and it’s a dark side that could put a huge stain on a generally well-respected program.

In recent months, two Terriers were charged with sexual assault: Max Nicastro, a Detroit Red Wings prospect whose charges were dropped and Corey Trivino, a New York Islanders prospect who pleaded guilty to his charges in August.

However, Nicastro and Trivino’s legal troubles were just the surface of what BU, in a recently-released report, referred to as players’ “culture of sexual entitlement.”  The Boston Globe was able to obtain documents from the report and bring the details into the spotlight. This investigation began after Nicastro and Trivino were charged.

After the Terriers won the NCAA championship in 2009, the report detailed a late-night Agganis Arena party with kegs in the locker room, naked people shooting pucks on the ice and people having sex in the penalty boxes. The campus police and administration didn’t find out about the party until this year and even the team’s coach, Jack Parker, initially said he had no idea what was happening, but then admitted he knew about “a few guys drinking in the locker room.”

The report also found that some players did not feel a need to ask potential sexual partners for their consent before engaging in sexual activity with them. One anonymous player even admitted that to the task force when he said he didn’t know how Nicastro and Trivino’s actions were considered assault.

“You don’t ask [permission for sex] when you are drunk,” he said.

A female student reported that she was at a party with players when one shoved his hands down her pants and refused to take them out, even when she started punching him. She did not feel able to report the incident, though, writing it off as something the players just did.

Another player used two slurs to describe women who “hook up with multiple guys” before asking “What other word for them is there?”

On the academic side of things, some players have SAT scores much lower than their non-player counterparts. Until recently, players used a loophole by enrolling in BU’s continuing-education program instead of the undergraduate colleges, but the school banned that practice.

One professor reported that some players intimidated classmates, answered their phones mid-lecture and tried to hijack the course. When he told them to cut it out, they cut him out–by all dropping his class.

Further reports about professors being told their grades would differ from the ones on players’ transcripts and players being allowed to skip class no matter what have been disputed by the report’s co-chairs.

A campus bar, T’s Pub, was also named as a place that was part of the problem: until recently, it reportedly allowed players to drink for free without showing any ID.

BU provost Jean Morrison described the report as “a full-throated characterization of the whole breadth of stuff that we saw.”

Keep in mind that Parker is a well-known and highly respected coach. He’s been with BU for 39 years, much longer than any of his current players have been alive. When he was younger, he too played for the Terriers. He’s won more than 800 games behind the bench, has been named Coach of the Year three times and even has a cheeseburger named for him at a grill named for the school’s mascot, Rhett.

However, the report says that sometimes he cared too much about not hurting the players’ feelings and so he would “criticize, then apologize.” He has already faced consequences: he’s been removed from the post of executive athletic director, but will stay on as coach, earn his salary and not face any more trouble.

A BU alumnus who now plays for the Providence Bruins and is in the Boston Bruins system, Colby Cohen, had an interesting response to this report: blame not the players for their behavior, but the school for the investigation.

The findings of the BU task force is a joke. Boston University should be ashamed of the way they have handled this from the start. Disgusted

— Colby Cohen (@ColbyCohen36) September 5, 2012

Cohen did not elaborate on how he would’ve done things differently.

John Muse, who went to Boston College and now plays for the ECHL Florida Everblades–he helped backstop the team to their first-ever Kelly Cup championship–shared Cohen’s belief that the investigation, not the behavior, was the problem.

Listen, I hate BU Hockey as much as the next guy, but are you kidding me with this whole investigation and written report? What a joke.

— John R. Muse (@ImTheMoose01) September 7, 2012

Sounds like the BU Task Force watched Slap Shot and wrote a report on all hockey stereotypes more than they investigated the hockey team.

— John R. Muse (@ImTheMoose01) September 7, 2012

When asked by a follower if he read the report, he answered:

@molsonontap All 12 pages. And here, I’ll sum them up for you with a picture.…

— John R. Muse (@ImTheMoose01) September 7, 2012

(Why he felt the need to use a Condescending Wonka macro that seems to include him as a BU player when the report is not about his school is unknown. Also, considering most of the report’s findings were confidential and the Globe presumably got them through a Freedom of Information Act request, but did not publish their entirety, Muse probably hasn’t read the entire report.)

…what’s the difference between an athlete hooking up with someone in a locker room and normies hooking up in a library/classroom?

— John R. Muse (@ImTheMoose01) September 7, 2012

The issue was less with the fact that people hooked up in the locker room and more with the fact that players sometimes did not ask for consent before doing so, which can lead to assault charges like the ones Nicastro and Trivino faced.

Consider that, according to RAINN, 54 percent of rapes are never reported and 97 percent of rapists will never face jail time. The one student who was touched without her permission felt that she couldn’t report the incident, which is common among assault victims.

The University of Illinois Chicago reports the findings of surveys that show many college-aged males have used coercive behavior, like ignoring a woman’s protesting, to have sex. (The school also did a study of its own students in 2002 and found that both male and female students have experienced some form of sexual aggression.)

Reporting bad behavior is not the problem. The bad behavior itself, and the core ideas that support it, is the problem and this report is one step in attempting to fix a problem known at college campuses all over the country.

I spoke with a BU alumnus, who wished to remain anonymous, about the controversies at their alma mater.

“I’m really surprised that Coach Parker was called out for not only turning a blind eye to this, but giving conflicting accounts of what he knew about the sex in the penalty box/naked shootout/drinking in the showers thing at Agganis. Mainly because he always had the reputation of being super strict and always meant business, which is one of the reasons why he’s been kept on as coach for 40 years…If Coach Parker was turning a blind eye to this, when I always heard he was so strict with the team, god. It’s like [Joe] Paterno,” the alumnus said.

The alumnus did point out that some players did not engage in the behaviors detailed in the report.

“The captain my senior year bought the pep band seniors a pitcher of beer at the hockey dinner after party and thanked them for being so supportive. Asking around, it sounds like he was always very sweet like that.”

The alumnus also discussed the academic culture of the university.

“BU is notorious for grade DEFLATION (there was a NY Times story on it about five years ago), so I find it pathetic that the school’s OK with inflating grades to keep hockey players on the team, but will gladly threaten professors with termination for giving too many A’s in one class,” they said.

“In this particular history class, the hockey player offered to pay [a friend] to write his final paper for him. I forget how much he offered her, but it was definitely more than $100. She was having enough stress writing her own, so she told him no way. I have no idea if he ended up writing it himself, or found someone else to bribe.”

The alumnus also mentioned Cohen and Muse’s responses to the report and discussed the general findings.

“The line about the players saying drunk women don’t need to ask for sex is disgusting and so misogynistic, it makes me furious. And I don’t get why some are so outraged about [the] report and what BU has to do to remedy it – one of the changes is to open a sexual assault center on campus. What is so wrong about that?”

“I love my school, I spent the best years of my life there, and I’m proud of my degree from BU. However, I am absolutely disgusted and repulsed by the findings that were reported. Sure, we all knew about the team getting preferential treatment about things. But when it’s spelled out like this and more stuff is revealed, throwing in the two sexual assault arrests last year, it pisses me off. This isn’t a “boys will be boys” thing – it’s wrong, very wrong.”

“I still love the team and my school, and I knew a lot of this happened, but hearing the really dirty parts is awful. I’m proud I went to this school, but people need to know that this behavior is WRONG,” the alumnus said.

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