In the three-plus weeks that Northeastern head coach sat on the sideline awaiting his fate, he admitted that not only was it difficult, but it was extremely frustrating.
“The worst part about it was waiting to find out what your penalty it,” said Cronin, who said he spent part of his time away at his parents’ house in Kennebunk, Maine. “A part of you wants to get away from it all. But I couldn’t go away because I kept waiting for the answer.”
Cronin said that he watched each and every game on the computer (“I got on the website of each school and you can pay the $7.95 and watch each game,” said Cronin). And he joked that his emotions were maybe a little bit too much for his own mother to handle.
“My mother was screaming at me up in Kennebunk, ‘Stop swearing in there,'” laughed Cronin
All joking aside, Cronin seemed joyous on Monday to be back with his team. After athletic director Peter Roby addressed the team at 2 p.m., Cronin was allowed back and from there and Cronin’s personality immediately returned to the locker room.
“I just walked in the room and said, ‘The sheriff’s back,'” said Cronin. “They were all clapping and cheering. They’re a good group of guys. They’ve got a lot of durability.”
Cronin applauded Northeastern’s professionalism in how the staff handled the suspension and the investigation. He also delineated the differences between what happened at Northeastern and what happened at Maine in the early 90s right before Cronin joined the Black Bears coaching staff.
“When we went through this situation at Maine, it was kind of a collaborative effort,” said Cronin. [The late] Shawn [Walsh] was guilty. There was no way of trying to manipulate that. Susan Tyler and the staff decided they were going to get the attorneys together and devise some plan that would appease the NCAA while salvaging Shawn’s future there.”
Cronin said the easy thing in that situation would’ve been to fire Walsh to put things behind them as his final violations made him a repeat offender.
Northeastern, though, knowing that the staff knew what they did was wrong, decided to face things head on.
“What Northeastern did was huddle together as a compliance staff with the assistance of higher management and find out what the volume of the problem is and then get together with the coaches,” Cronin said.
“I don’t know who has the blueprint of [handling these situations] correctly. In my opinion, [Northeastern] did it in a very efficient way because they handled it privately without being adversarial. There was no banging heads here. Professional is the right word. Nobody was trying to manipulate the data or paint anybody as the bad guy.
“It’s never easy because you have human beings and you work together.”
Roby said directly that, though there will be further punishments and sanctions for the program, he sees no reason for any of the coaches to lose their jobs.
Both Roby and Cronin acknowledged their relationships with one another with Roby saying that things continue to remain very professional.
“Peter [Roby] is a very fair person,” said Cronin. “He wants things done the right way. He doesn’t want people cheating. He wants people to treat others the way they want to be treated.
“How can you argue with that? You can’t coach a hockey team and tell your players that you want them to be respectful and then you go out and lie and cheat. His message is clear and transparent. The word respectful is accurate.”
The one question that many people had for me earlier in the week was the suspicion of the timing of everything involved in the incident.
Many thought it strange that the suspension began after the Beanpot final, likely the team’s highest profile game of the year. And the reinstatement occurs right before the Hockey East playoffs, another team that Northeastern is under the national microscope.
The fact that Cronin will be behind the bench for these big games despite the violations has some conspiracy theorists asking whether all of this was a well-choreographed production.
In my opinion, it was not. I’m willing to take the school’s word at face value. Roby suspended the coaches at the exact time that the violations were discovered. He reinstated them when the entire investigation was complete and he felt the suspension served met the violation.
He also said he didn’t suspend assistant Sebastien Laplante at the time for two reasons.
“There were two things that factored in: One was that based on the information we had at the time, Sebastien didn’t seem to be overly involved as were [Cronin and Albie O’Connell],” said Roby. “Secondly, we needed some continuity in leadership. Thus, it was appropriate that we had someone on the staff to maintain the continuity and the leadership to protect the welfare of the student-athletes.
“We didn’t want to have a situation where someone who didn’t have a connection to the program would come in and lead us in competition.”
As I said in my Monday story, this whole situation is far from over as the school will now wait for the NCAA to react to the sanctions that they will self-impose in coming days.
But with the Hockey East quarterfinals upon us, it’s really nice to have this incident in the rear-view mirror with no lingering questions as to what happened.