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Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Alleged NCAA violations disputed by LSSU, Anzalone

From the Soo Evening News:

Lake Superior State recently issued a news release to announce that two secondary rules violations occurred within its hockey program last season.

Former Laker coach Frank Anzalone adamantly denies the allegations, however, and his attorney is demanding a retraction from the university.

According to an LSSU statement, the alleged infractions occurred during the 2004-05 hockey season and involved bylaw 17 - playing season violations at the Division I level. LSSU states that Anzalone illegally observed unofficial practices out of season, that he used “deliberate actions” to circumvent NCAA rules and that there was “willful intent” to cover up the violations.

LSSU Athletic Director Bill Crawford said LSSU has imposed practice time sanctions upon its hockey program this season to make up for last year's transgressions.

Anzalone was fired by LSSU in June after four seasons in his second coaching stint with the Lakers. Anzalone's attorney Michael Dettmer issued the following statement in regards to LSSU's news release:

“My client, Frank Anzalone, is extremely disappointed by the actions of his former employer, Lake Superior State University. The actions of its athletic director and the school's administration accusing Frank of intentional NCAA violations is libelous and simply intended to destroy his career. In response, we have sent a letter to the university seeking retraction. If they fail to apologize and do not retract, I will advise coach Anzalone to pursue all appropriate legal avenues open to him. The idea that an ‘investigation' is conducted without contacting the ‘accused‘ and allowing or seeking his response, is simply evidence of a witch hunt and only serves to exhibit their actual malice. The university's actions are shameful and in retaliation for the necessity of Frank being forced to file litigation to obtain the monies due him and his family under his contract. Their tactics, their malice and their failure to live up to their contractual obligations speak volumes about the state of Division I hockey at this school under this athletic director.”

College athletes are allowed to work out on their own prior to the official practice dates allowed by the NCAA. These so called “captain's” practices, are permitted as long as there is no supervision from coaches. Most college hockey teams begin their “captain's practices” in mid-September. College hockey coaches are not allowed on the ice, to direct practices, or even to watch their teams skate until the first week of October.

The question of whether or not a hockey coach is observing practice at Lake Superior State may be difficult to determine. The Laker hockey coaches' office at Taffy Abel Arena overlooks the ice, a design common among college hockey rinks, and one which was requested by Jeff Jackson during the “Gem of the North” update to the Norris Center.

According to LSSU, Anzalone left behind documentation after he was fired which indicate he violated NCAA rules by observing and evaluating captain's practices and by having players practice for too many hours per week.

Anzalone says he still has his records, and he did not break any rules. Anzalone also said LSSU did not contact him, or inform him of any investigation before reporting the alleged violations to the NCAA.

Anzalone, the winningest coach in Laker hockey history, guided LSSU to the 1988 national championship and a 191-108-22 record from 1983-1990. In his second stint as Laker coach, Anzalone had a 32-97-20 record and several players left the program for various reasons.

A lawsuit has been pending between Anzalone and Lake Superior State since June. Anzalone signed a three-year contract with LSSU in 2004 at a salary of $80,000 per year plus traveling stipends. The university still has not given any reason for Anzalone's dismissal, and ceased paying him following his termination.

Anzalone now coaches the Johnstown Chiefs of the East Coast Hockey League.

Lake Superior State has now reported three violations to the NCAA during Crawford's watch. Previously, LSSU informed the NCAA that it used an ineligible player during the men's basketball season.

The Laker basketball team was ordered to forfeit five wins from last year and the player who was then ineligible must sit out 12 games this season.

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