CAMBRIDGE — When Chris Cahill ’11 was a last minute scratch for Friday night’s game at Dartmouth, many assumed he had the flu. But to Julie Robenhymer, a blogger for hockeybuzz.com, it was a sign that Yale was readying itself to prepare for an NCAA investigation that threatened to vacate the No. 1 men’s hockey team’s wins — and possibly its historic season. But there may have never been a scandal in the first place. Other journalists have since reported that Yale is not facing an investigation, let alone sanctions.
Robenhymer stirred up a cloud of online speculation Saturday evening about Cahill’s eligibility when she reported that an anonymous correspondent had written all the coaches and athletic directors of the ECAC to notify them that Cahill may have violated NCAA regulations when he played on a professional hockey team in France last year.
Head coach Keith Allain ’80 and Senior Associate Athletic Director Wayne Dean said they have not seen the anonymous letter and denied the accuracy of the allegations Saturday night.
“If there were any truth to it, do you think he would be in the game tonight?” Allain said after Yale completed a 4–2 win against Harvard in Cambridge, in which Cahill scored a goal.
Cahill took last year off for what he has called personal reasons, but what Robenhymer identified as expulsion from Yale for academic policy violations. He spent the year in France, where he played for Les Phenix of Reims, a club team in the second highest level of the French Hockey Federation, according to the team’s website and collegehockeynews.com. Reims has junior amateur teams but, because of his age, Cahill played on their senior team which pays most of its players, according to Robenhymer.
The left winger, who has nine goals and 18 points so far this season, did not draw a salary while he played for Reims. But playing for free does not guarantee that a player maintains eligibility. According to Robenhymer, NCAA regulations prohibit student athletes from “playing with or against professionals” — a condition she alleges Cahill unquestionably violated.
Rule 188.8.131.52 in the NCAA 2010-2011 Division 1 Manual states that, “An individual shall not be eligible for intercollegiate athletics in a sport if the individual ever competed on a professional team.”
Cahill has declined to respond to questions about his time in France at various points this season. He also declined to comment Saturday night about what steps he took to ensure his time in France would not conflict with NCAA regulations.
The post set Internet rumors swirling about the implications such a violation could have for both Cahill’s collegiate career and the No. 1 Yale hockey team. The consequences, Robenhymer wrote, could range from nothing if the NCAA had made an exception for Cahill — as is allowed in its regulations — to forcing Yale to vacate its wins so far this season. She claimed that officials of the Ivy League discussed Cahill’s situation, but never consulted the ECAC or the NCAA.
Jason Klump of College Hockey News claimed on Twitter Saturday night that he could confirm the existence of the letter from the anonymous correspondent. He also reported that Steve Conn, director of Yale Sports Publicity, denied the existence of an investigation into Cahill’s eligibility.
Chip Malafronte of the New Haven Register wrote on Twitter that he had been told reports questioning Cahill’s eligibility were false and that Cahill has been cleared by the NCAA. Malafronte did not name the source of his information.
Cahill, along with his freshman year linemates Mark Arcobello ’10 and Sean Backman ’10 was one of the players who helped lead Yale in Allain’s first seasons with the Bulldogs, including an eight goal freshman season, good for third on the team.