Welfare check on Delaware?

Delaware disappeared from the ESCHL playoffs on Friday, but there’s been more leads on the whereabouts of Jimmy Hoffa than there are about what happened with the Blue Hens. Did they have a roster of Canadians that got deported by ICE this past week or something? Is this going to affect Nationals at all? Anyone want to swing by for a welfare check?

Oh… ask and you shall receive, I guess.

Just posted on the ACHA website:

So we’ll all be getting a do-over on those Nationals brackets, eh?

(still wondering what the story is, btw)

Just stumbled on this from a few days ago. Seems highly suspect on the university’s part, but apparently this is the story.

Men’s club ice hockey suspended indefinitely due to marijuana allegations


Seriously, though, that sounds rough. Granted, it’s a student paper, so I’m sure they tend to lean one way more than another on this sort of thing, but I feel bad for the players if what’s reported was the whole story.

Makes one wonder if this sort of thing might not give other teams pause when thinking of puting a road trip out to Colorado on their own schedules in the future.

Delaware admin is gun-shy…Their D3 program was suspended for 3 months this season and I beleive the D2
in the recent past.

The opposite of “gun-shy” comes to mind, actually.

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…I have worked in hospitality for the past 10 years, at three different high class hotels, and unfortunately there really is zero burden of proof. Most properties can basically hit you with that charge at will. I’ve seen the desk charge rooms cleaning fees for bad BO. With my background in that field I always stress out about being on our best behavior on the road. This is literally the horror story that I give as an example to my team.

I am familiar with the property the team stayed at and I will say, that general area of Fort Collins always smells like weed. Hotel is pretty much on campus, surrounded by a neighborhood that is almost solely populated by loud, college students who regularly host Tuesday night ragers. It isn’t out of the realm of possibility to think they may have gotten got. I understand code of conduct and all that jazz, but c’mon, seems a bit harsh UDel club sports guy.

Regardless of whether the kids did or did not smoke some pot (remember we are talking about adults doing something completely legal under state law and no federal laws apply) the school broke its own administrative policies and regulations. THAT is the real crime. Those poor kids were denied due process like a bunch of gitmo terrorists. Not that it matters now but the team could have sought an injunction allowing them to play pending the outcome of the university’s established process.

This is completely irrelevant. The school’s club sports policy manual clearly states “Use of alcohol or drugs while traveling for a club event, including in lodging spaces, is strictly prohibited.”

I don’t have the school’s statement in front of me, but I seem to recall that the due process you say was denied is in process now, and that guilt or sanctions has not yet been decided. And I’m not sure that I agree puting club activities on hold while the investigation runs its course rises to the level of a “real crime”.


You are right, that part about smoking being legal is irrelevant, which is why I began with “regardless” and included that bit in parentheses, but it does provide some context.

Let’s not start holding the club sports policy manual up as some glorified constitution. It’s essentially a non-binding gentleman’s agreement. To the extent that the players agreed to be bound by the manual, they did so with the explicit understanding that any alleged violations of that policy would be subject to the school’s pre-established judicial process.

In this case, the students attend a public institution and you can view the privilege of playing club hockey as a “government benefit,” very broadly speaking. Legally, for the government (or any institution acting in its place, UDel here) to remove a benefit, the affected person is entitled to two things: 1. notice, and 2. a right to be heard. Both of those things have to happen BEFORE the benefit is withheld. This is basic civil procedure. If the news story above reported the facts accurately, neither of those things happened BEFORE the team was suspended.

UDel can’t honestly expect the club to live up to the manual standards if they aren’t willing to follow the rules themselves. This doesn’t even touch on the subsequent issue of standard of proof. The school isn’t required to prove things beyond a reasonable doubt but they would at least have to clear the preponderance of the evidence hurdle. That seems unlikely, given the facts presented here.

Again, none of this really matters now, at least for UDel. That ship has sailed. But this is a good learning experience for every club and university affiliated with the ACHA. There’s a reason there are rules for these things and they need to be followed. UDel’s actions don’t just affect the players here. This touches coaches and parents. It affects other schools who rely on UDel’s committment to the league. Then you have the ACHA scrambling to fill holes at tournament time. This is bigger than UDel dodging a PR bullet.

“Hey, a rule is a rule, and let’s face it, without rules there’s chaos.”

  • Cosmo Kramer, in “The Big Salad”

I suspect the same sort of attitude toward the school’s sports club policy manual and participation being akin to a “government benefit” that you’re espousing may have been a significant contributing factor as to why Delaware’s M1 team is in its present situation.

To be clear, playing club hockey is not a right. UDel doesn’t have to let anyone play club hockey. But once they make the decision to allow the kids to play, then they have to follow the prescribed rules and regulations before they can remove that privilege. My gut tells me the kids probably screwed up and deserved to be punished, but they still have the right to make the school prove that and they deserve a chance to defend themselves.

Yes, and that’s what’s happening now.

You seem to think missing nationals was the punishment for them screwing up? It wasn’t. Puting team activities on hold while due process runs its course is not unusual, nor unexpected; missing nationals was just poor timing (and should be the least of their concerns at the moment). There may be expulsions and the team itself may cease to be for next season, depending on where the investigation leads. That’s what the students (and “anonymous parents”) should be concerned with right now.

Well that’s definitely something we disagree on. Maybe there are additional punishments coming, but missing nationals was certainly a punishment. Neither of the teams I follow made nationals and I know those boys would kill for a chance to go to nattys. There were seniors on the UDel team and instead of going out on the big stage their careers have ended in shame and secrecy over a scandal that has yet to be proven.

I also disagree that it’s common for team activities to be suspended pending adjudication. The “common” thing is to preserve the status quo. That’s what the injunction I mentioned above would have done, because UDel did not have the legal right to suspend team activities. You seem to think that “innocent until proven guilty” is some antiquated legal concept when in actuality its a lynch pin of our society. There is no immediate and irreparable harm to letting the kids continue to play. This isn’t a sexual assault case. There is nobody in physical danger.

Regardless of what the kids did and the university is going to do, the university does not have the legal right to suspend activities without first completing their administrative process. That’s not something we disagree on, that’s a simple fact.

Is it?

I look forward to your citation of relevant legislation and case law that supports this “legal right” assertion of yours.
Take your time. :popcorn:

I didn’t think the smell of Marijuana would be a problem in the state of Colorado now!


You could write an entire law review article on this tiny procedural dispute. In fact, several people already have (I suggest "Marie T. Reilly, Due Process in Public University Discipline Cases, 120 Penn. St. L. Rev. 1001 (2016)).

I don’t have the time nor the inclination to write a new one for you, but hopefully a few scraps of law will serve to placate you and educate our wider audience.

First, public universities must provide each student with due process of law under the 14th amendment (Regents of Univ. of Mich. v. Ewing, 474 U.D. 215, 223 (1985)). (Note, private universities are not held to this same standard.)

As I asserted above, due process in an educational setting means two things: 1. notice of the alleged violation, and 2. a right to an informal hearing (Goss v. Lopez, 419 U.S. 565 (1975)). In deciding what constitutes due process and how much due process is sufficient, courts will generally balance a number of factors, including the interests of the state (the university) and the student. In Mathews v. Eldridge the Supreme Court held that the burden on the state for providing notice and a right to a hearing was “extremely low” (Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319 (1976). Conversely, the stakes for students are very high (See e.g. Dixon v. Ala. State Bd. of Educ., 294 F.2d 150, 158 (5th Cir. 1961) holding that “without sufficient education the plaintiffs would not be able to earn an adequate livelihood”). Violating a student’s right to due process invalidates the school’s attempt to punish a student and if the case is dismissed with prejudice the university will also be barred from pursuing further punishment. While violating one prong of a student’s due process rights is enough to invalidate a punishment, making many small errors that would not by themselves constitute a violation can lead to an accumulation of errors that does violate due process (Furrey v. Temple University, 884 F.Supp. 2d 223 (E.D. Pa. 2012). These procedural requirements would have been the entire focus of an injunction hearing. The actual facts of the case (whether or not they did smoke) are not relevant until you get to the administrative hearing.

Again, we are talking about students who have been admitted to a public university and have been given permission to play on the team. There is no inherent right to attend the university or play on the team, but once the university makes an affirmative action to admit the student and grant them permission to play on the team, the university becomes bound by its own administrative rules and regulations. At that point the student also has a “liberty and property interest in an education” sufficient to warrant due process protections (Woodis v. Westark Cmty. Coll., 160 F.3d 435, 440 (8th Cir. 1998).

So, to answer your question, yes. The university did not have a legal right to suspend the team prior to fulfilling the students’ due process rights.

You’ll have to forgive me for the tardy response. With the season being over and life happening to some degree, I’m not checking back here as often anymore.

I don’t see how Delaware is in violation of this at the moment. Are you claiming they have not given notice of the alleged violation and/or are not proceeding with an informal hearing? Everything I’ve read indicates that they are doing just that.

[quote=“UD”]The team has been referred to the Office of Student Conduct. The moratorium will remain in place pending the resolution of the student conduct process.
(emphasis mine)[/quote]

I would venture a guess that if you disagree, it likely revolves around your contention that putting a temporary hold on club activities while the due process runs its course constitutes punishment, while I (and apparently the 5th Circuit in Dixon & the 8th Circuit in Woodis) tend to believe punishment is a bit more “expulsion-y” than that.

It’s a point we’ve discussed already, and I don’t see anything here that helps move us past that disagreement on the semantics, but surely you must recognize the fairly clear difference between not being allowed to go on an extra-curricular club sports road trip and being deprived “sufficient education” to “be able to earn an adequate livelihood”.

Most schools have the legal jargon written to basically say they can get rid of any club at any time for any reason. They do this because if they feel a club has done something to give them negative publicity they can react swiftly. Even more with sports than any other club. You want to see a pissed off athletic director? Have a club sport do something stupid and the A.D. getting phone calls about something that doesn’t even fall under him at the school. (yes, this part doesn’t apply to all programs).

Sidenote: I was told all of the above by the direct of student activities at a school that has had club hockey for approx 40 years.


My entire argument is that suspending the team before giving them notice and an opportunity to be heard is a violation of due process rights. Whether the University is fulfilling their obligations at a later date is irrelevant. All I am saying is that 1. if the students had challenged the process early on they would have had a pretty good chance of getting the suspension overturned, and 2. if there are ultimately expulsions/further suspensions, the students will have a pretty good procedural argument to take to the federal district court.

You seem to think that the school can suspend anyone they want for just about any alleged violation. That is simply not true. The courts have consistently decided the appropriateness of suspensions on a sliding scale (see the balancing test in Mathews above). Suspension is appropriate in cases involving alleged sexual assault because the university has an obligation to protect the victim’s Title IX privacy rights. Cases involving other alleged criminality are decided based on the severity of the alleged crime and the threat posed to the university community. Where a student has been charged with assaulting a police officer suspension is appropriate because there is the chance the student is unstable and poses a threat of further violence. However, a student charged with misdemeanor theft does not pose any immediate threat to the community and is not likely to be suspended. In our present case there isn’t even the allegation of criminality, making suspension highly inappropriate. During a preliminary injunction hearing, the court would have required the school to prove that allowing the team to continue would have posed an immediate and irreparable harm to the university community. I’ve made some pretty creative legal arguments in my career, but you will have a hard time finding an attorney willing to stake their reputation on making that argument.

@hockey9 is also correct that most schools have their club policies written so that they can easily impose punishments on teams that generate negative publicity. I’m not saying Delaware is any different, but I am saying that they have to follow their own rules and regulations if they want the legal system to support their decisions.

Here’s another good resource for adjudicating due process claims: FIRE's Guide to Due Process and Campus Justice | The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression

You’ll notice the Goss, Mathews, and Ewing cases I mentioned above all figure heavily in the discussion.

I’d also like to point out that “due process” is not the only legal theory the students could use to challenge the suspensions. Universities can also be held to a higher standard under breach of contract rules. In the case of King v. Depauw University, a student was suspended for alleged sexual misconduct. The court found that the claimant’s due process rights were not violated when they suspended him (again because of the lower threshold created by Title IX protections for victims) but they also found that the school had violated it’s own student handbook promises by allowing substantial delay and an incomplete hearing. Therefore they ordered the student to be reinstated pending the outcome of an administrative process that complied with the university’s own stated rules and regulations.

The University of Delware Code of Conduct calls for 1. notice (via email), and 2. a hearing within three (3) days.


Again, if the facts in the original new story are true, the university failed to live up to its own standards. That deficiency calls into question the validity of any punishment the University has already or is going to impose.

Again, a school could have rules set in place that allows them to automatically suspend a student organization with no reason at all. A student code of conduct applies to a student not the entire club. You clearly have more passion about this than most on here which means you won’t like the answer. It’s a club, a student organization. Also known as a privilege and not needed at all for one to complete the sole purpose one should be attending an institution of higher learning.

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