On Saturday, while the football players were lacing up their cleats to play Guelph in the first round of playoffs, Western's Intercollegiate Athletics sent out a media release announcing Mustang head coach Larry Haylor had been suspended for one game by the OUA for verbally abusing a referee during the preceding weekend's matchup against McMaster.
Although the decision was handed down on Wednesday, the OUA left it to Western to release the bad news and they did but at the last possible second. In a classic public relations move, Western refrained from releasing the information until game day in what Darwin Semotiuk, chair of Intercollegiate Athletics, claimed was an attempt to prevent a media feeding frenzy. The team wasn't even informed of the handicap until late Friday night.
Western was given two days to decide whether to appeal the decision which allowed for total silence before turning down the offer. The university also requested the OUA judicial committee undertake a full review of the process and circumstances surrounding the incident on Saturday.
The decision to suspend Haylor was never in question by the university. Western fully supported the position of zero tolerance when it comes to the disrespecting of officials. However what is in question is the timing of the release.
While it is true the game is long over and the Mustangs did come out as victors and now move on in the playoffs, local and national media are now harping on the issue of Western's manipulation which may have prevented one uproar but has now created another. However this time, the Mustangs are heading into the Yates Cup Ontario finals. In essence what the school has done is delay the criticism and allow it to become an issue on the doorstep of a more important game.
Players are being questioned over and over about the issue, distracting them from the big game. Haylor and Semotiuk are being roasted in public for their improper handling of the issue.
The Yates cup holds a long tradition at Western, which has taken it home five out of the past 10 years the fans will clearly not forget a loss in such a big game. What the school should have done is taken their medicine last week instead of allowing it to drag on further into the playoffs. Unfortunately, Western decided to take the low road, using cowardness and distrust to deal with the situation, leaving to question if their poor handling will do more damage this Saturday versus Waterloo than a feeding frenzy could have done last week.