Union’s Bennett Deserves Lengthy Suspension

If you watch WTEN/WXXA-TV photographer Justin Andrews’s YouTube video of the aftermath of Saturday’s Union-Rensselaer game at the Times Union Center in Albany, N.Y., there’s a moment around the 48-second mark where Union coach Rick Bennett, while being restrained by officials, attempts to throw a punch at RPI coach Seth Appert.

Full disclosure: I’ve known Appert since we both worked at Denver in the late 1990s and consider him a friend. That relationship does not factor into this discussion, however.

Based on the clip, however, it appears Bennett’s fist connects with the helmet of Milos Bubela, an RPI player trying to keep the coaches separated.

Tossing a haymaker at an opposing player, one would assume, was not Bennett’s intent. But it sure looks like that’s what happened. If that’s the case, Bennett needs to be severely punished.

Look, I didn’t see the game. I don’t know what transpired leading up to that final faceoff and the ensuing chaos. I’m not absolving others involved in the fracas for their transgressions. They, too, should be punished.

That said, rule no. 1 for people of authority—coaches, officials, and the like—in amateur sports is never, ever get physical with a student-athlete from another team. What Bennett did wasn’t as egregious as ex-Ohio State football coach Woody Hayes slugging a Clemson player during the 1978 Gator Bowl, but it happened. And as Ohio State president Harold Enarson said the following day at a press conference announcing Hayes’ dismissal, “There isn’t a university or athletic conference in this country that would permit a coach to physically assault a college athlete.”

Sunday, Union athletic director Jim McLaughlin suspended Bennett for the team’s next two games. He’s still allowed to run practices during the week. There’s also the chance ECAC Hockey commissioner Steve Hagwell could discipline Bennett. There’s also a chance—a pretty good one, in fact—that it won’t be enough.

So what constitutes an appropriate punishment? Should Bennett be fired? Without talking to anyone involved in the melee, I’m fairly confident he wasn’t trying to slug Bubela. I could give Bennett the benefit of the doubt, but zero-tolerance types could make a pretty strong case for his ouster.

Putting intent aside, however, this sure looks like a case of a coach making physical contact with an opposing player.

That just can’t happen—ever. Bennett must be suspended for the rest of this season.

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10 responses

  1. did you see how union’s bench never cleared? it was 20 on 6 and unions bench never cleared. Why was Appert walking on the ice during this chaos?

  2. you are a fool for not reporting the story. kind of like reporting a car crash and not pointing out the drunk driver who caused it. Bennett should be suspended a couple games.
    Curadi swinging stick. appert running his mouth at union players and letting his entire bench on. ice
    that says a lot. bennet co.troled his bench. rpi players dont listen to or respect appert. his own media guy came on bench and took cheap shots

    rpi is a program spiraling down. because they have a pretender for a coach

  3. agree with jeff above. i was there at the game and have gone to every rpi-union game for the past couple of years. rpi plays to injure. last year union walked away with numerous injuries from the rpi games. this year was a bit more tame until saturday night. there were calls that the ref did not make that made union frustrated and that led to the escalation. bodie cross-checked which started the fight. but was it necessary for the whole rpi team to rush the ice and proceed to go after the 6 union players? not at all, it was truly a horrific and disgusting moment. the union bench didn’t even take the ice at first when it was going down. in video, appert took the ice first and was most likely running his mouth about something and probably being unrestrained in his words. something was said to set bennett off. bennett is a man that doesn’t do something without cause or reason. i have heard plenty of interviews of appert where he said he tells his players to be “angry and ornery” (that was said after the rpi-colgate game in the fall). he runs his mouth all the time. there are plenty of rpi fans who believe appert is hurting their program and have brainwashed their players to be goons, which is costing them in the rankings. i’m sick of the media being biased towards rpi when all the union-rpi games have to be looked at and the history that rpi has as a violent team. if rpi walks away without any suspensions for the coaches for unsportsmanlike conduct, i will be thoroughly disappointed. after all, players get penalties for retaliating in a fight, so should coaches.

  4. Agree Bennett should be history. Not only did he physically assault a player but then was still trying to go over coaching staff. Guy is clearly a lose cannon. ECAC should come down heavy on him

  5. Anon you are wrong. RPI cleared their bench because they had just won the game. Teams who win rejoice on the ice. Heck Union does it. But when they came out Bodie cross checked an RPI player in front of them after the horn. Union lost and was angry that RPI beat them. That is how it started. RPI doesn’t play to injure. Neither does Union. You have no idea what Appert said on the ice. What you say he might’ve said is very biased. You don’t know.

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