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Archives & Special Collections: Hockey Crisis of 1977


In 1977, the Union College hockey team and its coach, Ned Harkness, quit during the middle of the season and left Union. The reason they claimed was because of harsh treatment from Union's administration and students.  Union's 1977 hockey team was considered one of the best Division 3 hockey teams in the nation at that time. Coach Harkness came to Union after serving as coach for the Red Wings at RPI. He was recruited along with Tom Cahill, a nationally known football coach, by newly elected Union president, Thomas Bonner.

Bonner's presidency ushered in important changes, including the creation of a six-year medical program. However, Bonner's presidency was rocked by the hockey scandal. To increase the success of Union's sports program, Bonner apparently told his coaches to win at any cost. Coach Harkness took Bonner at his word and recruited new players against the rules of NESCAC. Because the new players did not meet the rigorous academic standards set by the College, Coach Harkness eventually resigned after four of his starting players were placed on academic probation and barred from playing on the team. After Coach Harkness departed, the entire hockey team followed several days later. This major event played out publicly and led to the resignation of President Bonner after he lost the support of the trustees and faculty. 

Primary Sources

The following articles are from the Concordiensis:

April 6, 1977 "Harkness Suspended, Reinstated"

January 11, 1978 "Union Hockey Lives On"

January 11, 1978 "Opinion

January 11, 1978 "Union College Makes Time Magazine

January 11, 1978 "Bonner's Comment on Resignations

"Board of Trustees Votes to Reinstate Ned Harkness." Adirondack Daily Enterprise. April 1, 1977, page 6.

Bonner, Thomas Neville. Moving Forward...This Year and Beyond: Address to the Faculty of Union College. Schenectady: Union College, 1976. Special Collections B716m Located at UR B716m (Special Collections)

Bonner, President Thomas Neville. The State of Union College: The Promise and the Paradox, Address to the Board of Trustees. Schenectady: Union College, 1977 (Special Collections)

"Harkness, Ned, Faculty (Director of Achilles Rink, Hockey Coach) 1975-1977" Vertical File (Special Collections)

"Hockey, 1976-77" Vertical File (Special Collections)

Walker, Cecil, "Union Board Votes to Leave NESCAC" Schenectady Gazette. May 19, 1977. 

Putnam, Pat, "No heels in the Achilles." Sports Illustrated. February 7, 1977.

Union College Magazine May/June 1977. (This article discusses the resignation of Thomas Bonner.) 

"A Difference of Opinion on Campus." Union College Magazine July/August 1977. (This article discusses the disapproval of the faculty toward Bonner.)

"The Debate Continues." Union College Magazine. Nov/Dec. 1977. (This is a lengthy account of the presidential dishonesty on campus)

Secondary Sources

Lacorte, Dagan. "The Hockey Scandal that Rocked the Program." Concordiensis, February 24, 1995

Huntley, C. William. Thirty Years in the Life of a College. Schenectady: Union College, 1985.