Copyright 2014 Albuquerque Journal
Albuquerque Journal (New Mexico)
UNM athletic director Paul Krebs said there's "no question" members of the Lobo women's soccer team engaged in hazing, as he described a night of partying, going to several different locations, pressuring players to drink alcohol and forcing freshmen to strip to sports bras and panties in order to change outfits.
He said the investigation will continue before all sanctions are determined, adding that "everything is still on the table" as far as possible penalties for the players, the coaching staff and even the future of the season itself.
"Everything is still in play," Krebs said during a news conference at UNM on Wednesday. "Until we're comfortable we have all the details, we reserve the right to provide additional sanctions, disciplinary actions."
He said the players are being required to undergo hazing education and will skip a day of practice each of the next two weeks to perform community service.
Krebs and Lobo women's coach Kit Vela held the news conference a day after Krebs announced that two freshman players quit the team and he canceled the squad's season opener, which was scheduled for Friday at Texas Tech.
Krebs said he is still "assessing" what the coaching staff's responsibility was for the incident Sunday that led two players to being hospitalized after UNM police were called to their dorm. The police report said they were hospitalized "due to their level of intoxication," and the officer was told it was because of an "initiation" event with other members of the soccer team.
Krebs said there is plenty of blame to go around, and wasn't backing away from any of it.
"In this particular instance, involving our women's soccer program, we failed," he said. "There was no question there was hazing in this incident. Whether it's coach Vela, myself, as a department, we failed the young women in this program that they didn't understand, and they didn't know better that what they were doing was simply wrong and uncalled for and should have never happened."
Krebs said reasons for the news conference were to provide an update, even though the investigation continues, and to "dispel two critical rumors that are simply not factual."
On Monday and Tuesday, KOB-TV reported that, in addition to the players being forced to consume large amounts of alcohol, they were forced to strip naked and were sprayed with urine.
"There's no question alcohol was consumed," Krebs said. "There's no question in my mind that it was hazing. ... All of it is wrong; there is no way to sugar coat it. But based on every interview we have, I feel confident there was absolutely no nudity involved and the allegation of urine being sprayed on the team is simply not true."
He said the team gathered Sunday night, and then drove to a number of houses, including one he believed to be one of the player's, and ended up at a big party.
During the night, he did not believe anyone was forced to drink, but "there was alcohol consumed by everybody involved."
He said it is hazing even if no one is forced to drink, but if peer pressure causes players to drink to be part of the team.
He also said that investigators were told whoever was driving the team was not drinking.
Asked if the players were forced to strip to sports bras and panties, he answered, "Yes. I think at some point in the night, they were forced to change into some other attire. As part of that, to my understanding, they were there in bras and panties."
Also, at some point, water and another liquid that Krebs described as being similar to windshield wiper fluid was sprayed on the women.
"... There is no place for hazing at the University of New Mexico or anywhere in athletics," he said. "Anyone who thinks that it builds team, that there's value to it is sadly mistaken. All hazing does is humiliate, tear down. It's divisive."
The media were given copies of the athletic department's forms - of which each student-athlete is required to sign - that specifically outline what hazing is, how it will not be tolerated and how student-athletes should report it if observed.
"But we obviously need to ramp up our educational programs," Krebs said. "We have to do better."
Krebs also said he will push for the university to have an anti-hazing code for all students. Currently, hazing -while not specified - can fall under a number of rules in the Student Code of Conduct.
Krebs said Rob Burford, from the Dean of Students Office, and Breda Bova, the recently retired faculty representative and professor in the college of education, are the investigators who did the questioning.
He said the entire team participated in Sunday's incident, in which the team's freshmen were hazed.
Two of those freshmen, twin sisters Danielle and Devin Scelsi of Southern California, quit the team and withdrew from school on Monday. Danielle called police Sunday night to the dorm room regarding her sister, Devin, who had become ill and was having trouble breathing. Devin was one of two players taken to the hospital in the wee hours of Monday morning.
"We made it very clear to the women involved, we expected their full cooperation" during the investigation, Krebs said. "Kit made it very clear that honesty and openness was expected. As strongly as we could, we made it known that if we sensed there wasn't total cooperation, if we sensed there was any collusion, the consequences that were coming out of this action were going to be much more significant. We feel very comfortable the young women in the program were open and honest."
Krebs said one of the two sisters who quit was the only one to allege urine was sprayed on them. He said every other girl on the team categorically denied that.
Bova told the Journal that the other sister was interviewed and did not allege urine was sprayed on them.
Vela said, "I was incredibly disappointed and angry at the choices that were made" but she wants the women on the team to "learn a life lesson."
She said she has not been part of the interviewing process.
When asked if she had any knowledge about past hazing in her program, she said, "The last few days we've just been focusing on this situation."