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Copyright 2014 Albuquerque Journal
Albuquerque Journal (New Mexico)

The University of New Mexico has canceled its women's soccer season opener and is conducting an investigation into allegations of hazing in an incident that sent two players to the hospital Sunday night and caused two players to quit the team.

"This is serious," UNM athletic director Paul Krebs told the Journal on Tuesday. "There's no place for hazing in sports. There's no place for hazing at UNM or in college athletics. We take this matter very seriously."

Because of the investigation, Krebs said he canceled the Lobos' scheduled season-opener on Friday at Texas Tech. He said he couldn't speculate on any future scheduling changes.

"Right now, we're taking this one day at a time and won't speculate on what's going to happen tomorrow," he said.

UNM confirmed that freshmen twin sisters Danielle and Devin Scelsi quit the team on Tuesday following the Sunday incident, which involved several players becoming extremely intoxicated.

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 investigating.

"They are individuals not directly associated with the athletic department," Krebs said. "You're less likely to have a conflict of interest, you're getting a clear sense ... of getting to the bottom of what's actually happened."

Krebs said all players on the team have been interviewed, and he plans to receive further details today and hold a news conference.

Local television station KOB-TV reported that, in addition to the girls being forced to consume large amounts of alcohol, they were forced to strip naked and were sprayed with urine.

"Every player on the team has been inter- viewed," Krebs said, "and to my knowledge they categorically denied anybody being naked. There is no evidence of anybody being naked and there is no evidence of anybody throwing urine. ... Based upon the information at this time, I believe that (report) to be false and inaccurate."

According to a UNM police report, two officers were dispatched to the "Student Residence Center Dormitory on campus in reference to a female who was highly intoxicated" on Sunday night.

Reporting officer D.J. Romero said he met with 18-year-old Danielle Scelsi, who said her twin sister, Devin, was "having trouble breathing" and "appeared to be vomiting."

Romero's report said he also met with 18-year-old Alyssa B. Martinez in the same apartment, and she "appeared to be highly intoxicated and was having difficulty standing without assistance."

He said he immediately requested AFD Rescue and Albuquerque Ambulance to respond, and Devin Scelsi and Martinez were transported to the hospital.

Romero said he also met with 18-year-old Shelby L. Zellner in another room of the same apartment, and she "stated she was also drinking with the other girls and she did appear to be intoxicated."

Zellner, a 2014 Eldorado High graduate, was checked and released by emergency medical personnel.

The report said that Danielle told Romero "they were all members of the UNM women's soccer team, and they had participated in some kind of initiation event with other members of the soccer team that included alcohol."

The Scelsis, who are from southern California, and Zellner were listed as freshmen on the Lobo roster while Martinez, from Hatch, is listed as unknown. As of early Tuesday evening the Scelsis were removed from the roster, and Krebs said both withdrew from school.

Zellner's father did not immediately return a Face-book message from the Journal, nor did Danielle Scelsi or her mother.

Karen Willis, a manager of a team in the Southern California Developmental Soccer League, in which the Scelsis both played, told the Journal, "They are great girls, beautiful, great, athletic girls. They were very easy to coach. They were probably forced to do whatever happened. They come from a great family and were never a problem. Obviously, the program got out of control."

Krebs said that all student-athletes at the school must sign a form "that acknowledges what hazing is, that they don't participate in hazing, and they'll bring it to our attention if there is hazing."

Krebs said athletic department penalties for participating in hazing can vary.

Krebs said he sent a note to all student-athletes on Tuesday as a reminder of how serious the school addresses hazing.

UNM men's soccer coach Jeremy Fishbein, whose team plays an exhibition today at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, told the Journal that he did not know of any investigators speaking to any of his players about the alleged hazing.

The women's team is now scheduled to open its season on Sept. 5 against Marquette in the Colorado College Invitational in ColoradoSprings.

When asked if that game - or the entire season - could be canceled, Krebs said, "Right now, the priority is doing what's in the best interest of the program, and the safety and health and well-being of the student-athletes involved. That is paramount."

Dianne Anderson, UNM's director of communication, said there is no specific school policy against hazing, but it would be covered in a number of areas in the Student Code of Conduct.

The penalties for violating the code can range from a warning (verbal or written), disciplinary probation, suspension, expulsion, dismissal from university employment, or being barred from campus. Student sanctions imposed under this Code of Conduct shall be imposed pursuant to the Student Standards & Grievance Procedure, or its successor.

Anderson said a hazing could violate the following rules of the Code of Conduct:

2.1. Actions which have great potential for physically harming the person or property of others, including that of the University, or which actually result in physical harm, or which cause reasonable apprehension of physical harm.

2.5. Substantially interfering with the freedom of expression, movement or activity of others.

2.15. Violation of published or posted University regulations or policies, including but not limited to regulations prohibiting discriminatory activity.

 

August 20, 2014

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