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Post & Courier (Charleston, SC)
Coastal Carolina University will take no more action against its cheerleading squad after it suspended the team over anonymous allegations of prostitution, drug use and cheating, the Conway school said Friday.
A campus police investigation was formally closed Wednesday without any significant developments since officials in March took swift action against the team, preventing its members from participating in a national competition.
An investigator tracked down the anonymous accuser, but he would not provide more details to further the probe, the police said.
An attorney for some of the cheerleaders said earlier this spring the punishment was harsh and hasty, considering the limited evidence of illegal activity that left most of the claims unsubstantiated. The ordeal brought national notoriety to the young women and the college.
Coastal President David DeCenzo said Friday the school was obligated to take the action.
"The university has thoroughly investigated this matter, taking into consideration the mission of the institution and our No. 1 priority and obligation to protect the safety and well-being of our students," DeCenzo said in a statement. "As a public institution with a code of ethical conduct and as a public agency entrusted with public funds, we have a duty to investigate serious allegations. We had no choice."
The Chanticleers cheerleaders are expected to return for the upcoming sports season, with annual tryouts scheduled for late July. A coach will be hired before then, school spokesman William Plate said.
Beyond releasing a one-page supplement to an investigative report, Plate said the university had no further information on the episode and would not answer questions about it.
The accusations emerged through a letter to school officials from someone who considered himself a concerned parent. It alleged some cheerleaders were paying other students to do their homework, using phony identification to get alcohol, buying drinks for underage cheerleaders, posting half-naked pictures on social media, working at strip clubs and being paid for sex.
Investigators gathered text messages between current and former team members who spoke of being paid hundreds of dollars to go on dates with "sugar daddies." Several others also took part or knew about the escort service, but they insisted that it didn't involve sex.
Amy Lawrence, a Myrtle Beach attorney for five cheerleaders, said the university's handling of the episode showed poor treatment of women and a double standard for men facing misconduct allegations.
"Coastal Carolina has chosen again to make a knee-jerk reaction when faced with the fact that they have made the wrong decision," Lawrence said last month. "There has been no evidence or proof of hazing, prostitution, drug use, homework for pay or any other of the accusations made by a nameless coward."
In the brief document that the police filed Wednesday, an investigator spoke of interviewing all the cheerleaders and their coach, resulting in the identification of the letter writer. But the man "refused to be interviewed," the investigator said in the paperwork.
"Unless and until further information is obtained," the document stated, "this case will be administratively closed."
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