A Maine high school has reportedly canceled the rest of its football season and axed its coach following a probe into a hazing scandal in which a sex toy was shoved into a player’s mouth.
The student at Brunswick High School said the sex toy was forced into his mouth as he was held down during a preseason retreat in August at Thomas Point Beach, the Portland Press Herald reported.
Team coach Dan Cooper, who was on the trip, was fired after an investigation by the school’s lawyers, according to the report.
Schools Superintendent Phillip Potenziano notified the community Wednesday about the “regrettable news” about the football program.
“I wanted first to inform you that Daniel Cooper is no longer affiliated with our athletic department. His departure, the removal of some players from the team, and the number of ineligible or injured players on the team have caused the administration and I to seriously evaluate our ability to safely field a team for the remainder of the season,” he wrote.
“After very careful deliberation, we have concluded that we cannot safely field a team and continue playing contests for the remaining three games of the season,” Potenziano wrote.
“We understand that this decision will likely come as a blow to many of our student-athletes and their families, and we regret the circumstances that forced us into having to make this difficult decision. However, we must be guided by what is best for the safety and well-being of our students and the administration, and I believe that this is the right decision,” he added.
Citing a heavily redacted copy of the report, the Press Herald said the investigation was launched after school officials were informed Sept. 2 about the incident involving the player.
During the probe, 36 of 39 rostered players, Cooper and other coaches were interviewed as part of the investigation, the news outlet said, adding that four videos of the alleged incident captured on students’ phones also were obtained.
The schools chief did not answer direct questions about whether the report determined that hazing took place or whether the incident constituted assault, but he did provide more information in an email to the paper late Wednesday.
“The investigation revealed serious misbehavior that was out of step with our policies and expectations,” Potenziano wrote. “I also want to emphasize that the actions of a few should not be attributed to the entire team. I have been impressed by the number of student-athletes who stood up, came forward and assisted the school in taking a firm stand against unacceptable behavior.”
In an earlier email to the paper, he wrote: “Hazing is a ritual for becoming part of a group, and it is designed to cause another pain, embarrassment or ridicule, so talking about the details of the report is not valuable.
“In fact, talking about the report can and will most likely cause further harm to the victims. The bottom line is that the school district has a zero-tolerance policy for hazing, bullying behavior and harassment. By completing this investigation and taking the appropriate actions, we have demonstrated that,” he added.
Matt Barbour, the father of junior captain Gavin, expressed his disappointment about the cancellation of the rest of the season.
“My son worked his ass off as a junior to make a captain,” Barbour told the Press Herald. “And now he’s a captain of a team that never even got to finish the season – and with zero fault of his own. Because it was five kids get kicked off, now we decide to kick the coach off.”
Potenziano has not specified how many players were removed from the team.