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Dayton Denies Hazing Was Part of Football Team Party

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Copyright 2017 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

A lawsuit alleges hazing took place at campus parties.

In 2015, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that police at private universities are public agencies, so their records are public.

Numerous players on the 2014 University of Dayton football team told UD police that some players had their heads partially shaved and drank alcohol to excess at "Mad Caps" parties they were "encouraged" to attend by other team members, campus police records show.

The parties on Dec. 7, 2014, are the subject of a civil lawsuit filed in December 2016 by Max Engel-hart, a former football player who alleges he was forced to chug cans of Four Lokos beer as part of hazing that led him to suffer a severe concussion and brain injury that forced him to drop out of school.

In the lawsuit, he claims Mad Caps is a decades-old hazing tradition that UD has attempted to cover up.

Most of the football players involved in the 2014 incident denied it was part of a hazing activity or initiation to the team, according to the documents, which were obtained by this news organization following a public records request that was initially denied by the university.

Several players said Engelhartdranktoomuchandmay have also taken some sort of ADHD medication. He fell down and hit his head on the concrete as his friends helped him home, they said.

UD police in December said the underage drinking and hazing allegations were handled as a violation of the student code of conduct and denied a request for the records. The university reversed course this week and provided campus police reports after being contacted by Cox Media Group Ohio's attorney.

The lawsuit says none of the upperclassmen who oversaw the incident were disciplined for it. UD officials won't say whether anyone was disciplined. Police records show no one was charged criminally, though some students were referred to UD's Office of Community Standards and Civility.

The 27 pages of redacted police reports show UD police investigated multiple allegations of hazing during the Dec. 7, 2014, football team parties.

UD officials declined to comment Thursday, issuing a statement saying: "The University of Dayton does not comment on pending litigation. The university strives to maintain a safe campus environment that protects the dignity of all persons."

In UD's court response to the lawsuit, officials denied hazing took place, writing that the events of Dec. 7, 2014, had nothing to do with the player's "initiation into" the team. UD's football team started practice in the summer of 2014 and finished the season in November, posting an 8-3 record for second place in the Pioneer Football League.

Engelhart concussion

Engelhart, then a 6-foot-1, 270-pound offensive lineman from Cincinnati's Sycamore High School, said he woke up Dec. 8, 2014, covered in his own vomit, feces and urine and with a headache later diagnosed by UD's team physician as a concussion.

Engelhart said he quit football, left the university and has been prescribed a medicine typically given to Alzheimer's and dementia patients due to a brain injury.

In his amended complaint, Engelhart claims hazing violations, negligence, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress and civil conspiracy to cover up allegations of hazing.

According to the police reports, one football player said he was with Engelhart the whole evening and that Engelhart was intoxicated. The player said Engelhart texted him the next day to ask if he had fallen because he may have a concussion.

The player, who is not identified in the records, told police he had five to eight beers but wasn't drunk and remembered the whole night. The player said he talked to another player, Chris Hagan, who said Engelhart fell down and hit his head on the sidewalk while they were walking in the neighborhood. The player said he remembered Engelhart's fall after Hagan reminded him of it.

Hagan wrote an email to UD police saying that Engel-hart lost his balance and fell and hit his head on the concrete. "We (proceeded) to help him up, give him some water and put him to bed," he wrote. "There was absolutely no punch thrown."

The documents say Hagan and player James Vogel reported Engelhart had talked about taking ADHD medicine and drinking on previous occasions.

Student: 'I'm drunk'

Students acknowledged to police that here was heavy drinking at the parties. In a statement, one student said he drank "a little bit of everything," before blacking out. He said he remembers "bits and pieces" of helping a friend get back to his room. His statement concluded: "After that, everything is a blur."

Police wrote in their reports that they found an 18-year-old student with his head over a trash can who said he had been vomiting. The football player said there had been some football hazing. Asked if he had been forced to drink, the student said, "A little bit" but would not give any other details.

Other players told police that "Mad Dogs" or "Mad Caps" was an annual event that was an initiation to the football team. One player repeatedly refused to provide any names or information when told police were investigating hazing allegations, according to the reports.

A university housing staffer told UD police five members of the football team "were involved in a hazing incident," according to the reports. All were under age 21.

Officers wrote that they spoke with each of the players. One player, they said, had a freshly shaved head and a red mark on his abdomen. "I'm drunk," he said several times to police but refused to talk about the details of the evening, they wrote.

None of the five students would say where the incidents happened, according to the reports, "and each was evasive when asked who else might have been involved." Officers wrote that the incident was likely related to two other police calls that evening.

'Hazing gone wrong'

A check of UD's campus crime log from that evening indicates police responded to multiple reports of hazing.

One player said he felt "ostracized" from the group because he sat down due to a knee injury and people made fun of him. The report said the player thought about quitting the team because of this and other incidents. The player, though, said no hazing happened.

Another player denied hazing happened in a follow-up interview even though he told police on the night of the incident that it was "football hazing gone wrong."

An officer wrote that the player said he was "encouraged" to drink, but not forced, that he thought it would be funny to get his head shaved even though he doesn't know who did it, that he popped his knee out while wrestling a teammate and that the brown marking on his shirt was chocolate syrup from a drink that included peppermint schnapps. The player also said he was called derogatory names at the party.

Another player said he didn't remember making the statement to staff that "there might have been a little hazing going on." Police reported that one player said he had eight to 10 shots of alcohol while another player said he had nine to 10 beers and had his head shaved like "Friar Tuck."

One 18-year-old who attempted to flee from police said he ran because he already had a UD alcohol violation.

Due to slurred speech and other observed actions, UD police transported the player to the hospital. When he was taken back to Stuart Hall, police said the student told them he was on the football team and that there was "something going on" earlier but did not elaborate.

Police or disciplinary matter?

Prior to an Ohio Supreme Court ruling in 2015, private university police departments routinely refused to publicly release police records of allegations or investigations unless someone was criminally charged.

The Supreme Court in that case ruled that police at private universities are public agencies, so their records are public.

UD officials, however, say their police fill two roles, enforcing both the law and the university code of conduct. And while state law makes police records public, federal law prevents them from releasing student disciplinary records, they say.

Contact this reporter at 937-225-6951 or email Mark.Gokavi@coxinc.com

Contact this reporter at 937-328-0374 or email Josh.Sweigart@coxinc.com

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