BU Hockey Coach Jack Parker Goes Skate-Free
It was about 10 minutes until puck drop and students were flooding into Boston University’s Agganis Arena. The men’s hockey team was about to open its season against conference rival Providence College, and the undergrads, stepping in from the October chill, moved past ticket takers, picked up red “Dog Pound” T-shirts on the concourse, and started to fill the two sections of seats behind each goal. The marching band was rocking with “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” and when the BU players skated onto the ice for warm-ups, the crowd went crazy. Soon the Providence starting lineup was announced and the BU students, as they do, punctuated each name with “Sucks!” The PC goalie was greeted with the traditional chant of “Sieve! Sieve! Sieve!”
The public-address announcer next introduced the BU players, before intoning, “Starting his 40th year behind the Terrier bench, the coach, Jack Parker!” When Parker’s face appeared on the big screen, everyone cheered, the whistles and applause going on for an extra few notes in a show of support.
Last season, two of Parker’s players were accused of sexual assault. One of them, Corey Trivino, was charged with assault with intent to commit rape and ultimately pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of assault and battery. The case against the other player, Max Nicastro, was dropped when prosecutors decided that they didn’t have enough evidence for a conviction. Nevertheless, the arrests and the brutal headlines that came with them shook the campus. The allegations followed a string of other problems in recent years, including two players being kicked off the team and several others suspended. The misconduct that led to those disciplinary actions was never disclosed by Parker, but clearly, whatever happened was serious.
With BU gearing up for a billion-dollar fundraising drive—Parker is a favorite of donating alumni—the timing of the allegations of sexual assault could not have been worse for the school’s president, Robert Brown. He ordered an investigation into what had happened, and on September 5, the task force that conducted the inquiry released a summary of its findings. The official report stated that a “culture of sexual entitlement exists among some players on the men’s ice hockey team, stemming in part from their elevated social status on campus.” Apparent confirmation of that came the next day, when the task force’s subcommittee reports—pieces of testimony that the school had intended to keep confidential—that were leaked to the Globe included tales of a wild on-ice sex party after the team won the 2009 national title.
Parker first told the 16-member task force that he knew nothing about the party, then admitted that he might have heard about some guys drinking. Beyond being less than forthcoming, he’s also been, at times, tone-deaf. When Trivino was accused of attempted rape, Parker immediately kicked him off the team and expressed appropriate concern for the victim—but he also mixed in some head-scratching thoughts about his former player. “He’s a terrific kid. I can guarantee you, he has no recollection [of] what he did that night,” Parker told the Globe at the time, adding, “I know he’s a good kid and that’s not Corey’s M.O. except when he’s drinking. Some people can’t drink, he’s one of them.”
In 2012, most of us are past the idea that somebody can be a terrific kid except for when he’s attempting to rape someone. Clearly, Parker is old school—and considering his team’s string of disciplinary issues and rotten culture, one thing is clear: It’s time for him to go.
As the game against Providence College began, Parker stood stoically behind his bench, occasionally scribbling in a small notebook or leaning forward to talk to a player. He is beloved at BU, for his three national championships as well as his dedication to the school, for which he is an enthusiastic fundraiser. Accordingly, his team plays on Jack Parker Rink.
Just down the boards from the team’s bench was an ad for T’s Pub, a place alleged in those secret subcommittee reports to have supplied BU players, including underage ones, with free drinks—a charge the pub’s current owners deny. The task force cited the team’s heavy alcohol use as a problem, which seems normal enough for college until you consider the attitudes that apparently went along with it. As revealed in the leaked subcommittee reports, one unidentified hockey player told the task force, “You don’t ask [permission for sex] when you are drunk.” A female student reported that a hockey player had stuck his hands down her pants at a party, refusing to remove them even when she punched him. Many BU hockey players—some of whom enter the school having already been drafted by NHL teams—see their time on campus as just a brief stopover before hitting the big time. In other words, they believe they’re different from other students.
And Parker is different from other coaches. Over the decades, he’s become tremendously independent at the university. In April 2002, he was given the title of executive director of athletics, in recognition of the leadership role he’d already been playing in the department. “Jack will become the chief strategist, advocate, and spokesman for varsity athletics at Boston University,” school president Jon Westling said at the time. Essentially, Parker was given the freedom to run his program his way, without having to worry about much oversight.