February 9, 2005
Canisius A.D. Dillon Resigns

By James Jahnke and Nate Ewell

A tumultuous season at Canisius, which has thus far seen the firing of head coach Brian Cavanaugh and the suspension of five student-athletes for at least two games each, took another turn on Wednesday, as athletic director Timothy Dillon resigned following the school's internal investigation into the team. Dillon has been a member of the NCAA Division I men's ice hockey committee, from which he will now resign, and was a driving force for Atlantic Hockey on issues such as the decision to admit RIT to the

Associate athletic director Marshall Foley also resigned, and interim co-head coach Clancy Seymour was reprimanded following the school's investigation into incidents two months ago in North Dakota.

"Over the past several weeks, we have been conducting an investigation into the incidents involving the men's hockey team during its December road trip to the University of North Dakota," said Canisius President Vincent M. Cooke, S.J. "Our investigation concluded there was inadequate supervision of the team during that trip leading to the use of alcohol by some team members, damage to a hotel room and injury to a student-athlete. This is completely unacceptable to Canisius College. Further compounding an already bad situation was the lack of an immediate and appropriate response by senior athletics-department officials to the incidents when they occurred and in the aftermath."

According to Dillon, the North Dakota fiasco went down like this: After the team’s 4-1 loss to the Sioux in the series finale on Saturday, the team had dinner until a little after 11 p.m. Foley, the senior athletics department official on the trip, knew that the players would want to go out for a bit before retiring for the night. Dillon said he had sent Foley with the team because he “didn’t want anyone to get in trouble or do something stupid” in the wake of bad-PR events such as Cavanaugh’s dismissal and forward Dan Bognar’s arrest for exposing himself and punching a police officer shortly after a game in December. But, according to Dillon, Foley felt that he could appease the players’ desires and still keep everybody out of trouble by busing to and from a nightclub en masse. So Foley, Seymour and the 21-and-older players who wished to go out hit the town in a bus. While the players socialized, Foley, Seymour and the bus driver sat in the corner of the nightclub eating snacks. Dillon said everybody was well-behaved and the group left the club at 12:45 a.m.

Back at the hotel, more beer found its way into a few players’ hands possibly from parents who were on the trip. The players apparently Jon Durno, Tim Songin, Billy Irish-Baker and Mike Ruberto, all of whom subsequently were suspended for a series against the Under-18 U.S. National Development Team last month - were roughhousing and “stage wrestling” late into the night when Durno did a somersault off the bed and hit a wall, causing a framed painting to fall and break. Durno cut his arm and foot on the broken glass, and when the players couldn’t stop the bleeding themselves, they called the team trainer, who, in turn, called Foley between 4:30-5 a.m. Durno received stitches to close his wounds.

When the team returned to Buffalo, Foley called a vacationing Dillon to inform him about the events. Foley told Dillon that there was an incident during which a player injured himself, but “everyone was safe and everything was taken care of.”

At that point, Dillon admitted to INCH on Wednesday, he “failed to investigate or ask any more questions.”

“I know I’ll take some heat for this, but it was right around the holidays, and it was my first vacation in months,” Dillon said. “I just heard that everyone was OK, and I failed to follow up on it. That was a mistake.”

A few weeks later, when school administrators got wind of the incident, school vice president Ellen Conley ordered an internal investigation, of which Dillon was not a part. That’s why, he says, he didn’t publically comment on the incident until he resigned.

Dillon refuted reports that alcohol was purchased for players with a university credit card and also that Foley was drinking with the team. Fr. Cooke did say that Canisius self-reported an NCAA violation regarding the sequence of steps taken by the college to reimburse the North Dakota hotel for the damage. When the hotel discovered the broken frame and a small hole in the wall, it immediately charged the college's credit card. While Durno ultimately agreed to reimburse the college for the damages, Canisius allowed him to play in three games before he established the repayment plan, thus resulting in the violation.

Overall, Dillon said the whole situation was “not appropriate,” but he doesn’t have any hard feelings toward the team or the school.

“It was a mistake in judgment by Marshall taking them (to the nightclub), and then I didn’t ask the right questions afterward,” Dillon said. “The only thing that people were talking about was what happened at North Dakota, so I thought it might be time for new leadership, and Fr. Cooke agreed. I’ve taken myself out of the picture, so now the story can be on the student-athletes, where it belongs.”

Dillon was the chair-elect of the Division I Ice Hockey Committee before his resignation. He was hired by Canisius in April of 2000 and has helped run two NCAA Frozen Fours: in Anaheim in 1999, while he was athletic director at Alaska Anchorage, and in Buffalo in 2003.

He said he might stay in the hockey world, but it’s too soon to know what his future holds. For the time being, he’s planning to spend time with his family, which still lives in Alaska.

Despite the turmoil, Canisius stands in first place in Atlantic Hockey (10-5-3) and has a .500 record overall (12-12-4). The Golden Griffins hold a three-game unbeaten streak and have this weekend off before traveling to Quinnipiac for two games Feb. 18-19.

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