January 09. 2014 2:38PM
Fired UNH women's hockey coach wants job back
DURHAM - The University of New Hampshire has had little to say since terminating long-time women's hockey coach Brian McCloskey last month.
According to a Dec. 6 press release issued by the university, McCloskey was terminated for inappropriate physical contact with a player.
On Thursday, Erika Mantz, director of media relations for the university, clarified the incident was not sexual in nature but involved physical contact on the bench during a game.
"The decision to terminate Coach McCloskey was not made lightly and was warranted," Mantz said in a prepared statement. "It is not appropriate for the university to comment further on a personnel issue, but the safety and well-being of all of our students is and must always be our number one priority."
But according to letters McCloskey and his attorneys have sent to UNH President Mark Huddleston and UNH Board of Trustees Chairman Pamela Diamantis, McCloskey wants a public apology from the university for how they handled the situation and reinstatement as coach.
In a redacted letter to colleagues published at fosters.com, he details the incident on the bench during a Wildcats home game, stating he reached out for the jersey of an uncooperative player at her shoulder and put her on the bench to reprimand her after she yelled and turned her back on him.
According to a letter sent from McClosky's attorney, Laura Studen, to Huddleston dated Dec. 6, McCloskey seeks an apology from the university for not clarifying the inappropriate conduct in press releases and statements claiming they harmed his reputation by the implications of a male coach inappropriately making contact with a female player.
His attorney states that as an employee with an unblemished record and distinguished 20-year career, McClosky deserved better from the university.
"Even assuming that his alleged conduct on Nov. 30, 2013, was as described in the termination letter (and it was not) the university's termination of his (McCloskey's) employment was not only a vast overreaction and an excessive response, but it was also improper and illegal," the letter reads.
Therefore, McCloskey requests immediate reinstatement.
In a letter to Diamantis received by the New Hampshire Union Leader, McCloskey requests that his attorney independently review the process the university followed that led to his termination.
Mantz did not respond Thursday when asked by email whether the university had responded to McCloskey's request for independent review.
McCloskey was an assistant with the men's hockey team at UNH before taking the helm of the women's program in 2002.
He guided UNH to five consecutive NCAA tournament appearances between 2006 and 2010 and berths in the Frozen Four in 2006 and 2008. Under McCloskey, UNH captured six Hockey East regular season championships and tournament championships in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009.
McCloskey led the Wildcats to a school-record 33 wins in 2006 and 2008, the program's first perfect home record (17-0-0 in 2006), is a three-time New England Hockey Writers Association Coach of the Year (2003, 2006, 2009) winner and four-time Hockey East Coach of the Year (2003, 2005, 2006, 2009) winner.
In an interview with Foster's Daily Democrat, McCloskey said his students are the collateral damage of this situation.
"I think the real tragedy is what's been foisted on the players," McCloskey told Foster's. "It's egregious. I just don't know how much thought (the school) put into it. Clearly, looking at what's unfolded, it couldn't have been much. I feel terrible for the players, especially the seniors. It's a small class of three and I was close to them. That's a heavy burden for those kids to bear."
In the letter to Huddleston, Studen said by requesting reinstatement, McCloskey is not waiving his right to make claims against the university for defamation, breach of contract and wrongful termination.
As of Thursday afternoon, no filings had been made in Strafford County Superior Court.