Hazing News

Maine mortified by its softball team’s behavior: Coach and officials say

From the Bangor newspaper with link:

By Jessica Bloch

University of Maine officials are investigating an online photo album from March 2006 which apparently shows two then-freshmen members of the UMaine softball team allegedly drinking alcohol, dressed in outrageous costumes, and a group of then-seniors watching the freshmen “making fools of [themselves],” according to a caption.

Maine athletic director Blake James characterized the photos as a “potential hazing-type situation” — the album of photos is labeled on the Web site as a “rookie party” — but said the university is concerned and looking into the incident, and that there could be consequences for those involved.

“I have some real concerns with what’s happening in the photos having just seen the photos last [Thursday] night,” James said Friday. “We’ll be investigating what is going on in the photos and meeting with those involved to really determine what happened and why the situation occurred.”

The concerns are increased, James said, because the university was aware of photos that appear to be from a similar party in 2005. Photos from both parties were posted on, which is not affiliated with the NCAA, but tracks hazing incidents at universities across the country. Blake said the softball team was talked to about the 2005 photos, but the school was not aware of the more recent set until the BDN forwarded Maine officials the link to the photo album Web site.

UMaine softball head coach Stacey Sullivan, a 1999 UMaine graduate who was named America East Coach of the Year in 2006, said she was “shocked” and “embarrassed” when she saw the photos Friday morning.

“In terms of the acts depicted in the photos, it shows our students in a questionable manner that they should be embarrassed about,” Sullivan said from North Carolina, where she is on a recruiting trip. “We will take great strides in regaining our reputation and the integrity of our program. I will work very hard with our athletic director and our athletic department in looking into this matter to ensure it absolutely does not happen again in the future. It’s something I am taking very seriously and something I am very upset about.”

Sullivan declined to comment about whether she had been to such a party herself during her freshman year, or whether the more recent parties represented hazing incidents. She did say her players are told not to put any photos of themselves wearing University of Maine apparel on the Internet. That rule is in place as a safety precaution for the players, she added.

Although none of the women in the “rookie party” photos is wearing apparel that would identify her as being from the University of Maine, other albums by the same poster on the Web site include photos of the softball team on the road in Tennessee and Florida and candid shots of the team wearing their uniforms and other UMaine clothing.

The photos on, which put black bars over the eyes of the people in the photos, show scenes from two different parties — one apparently from 2005, the other from 2006. The latter set of photos is the group posted on the photo album, which does not have the black bars.

James said he didn’t think he had seen the newer photos until late Thursday night.

“It’s a concern to me this has gone on two years,” he said. “We’ll have to see where we’re at in the education process if this happened again after we did get the 2005 pictures within the last year. It’s important to continue to educate the athletes.”

James was in touch Friday with Sullivan and Robert Dana, the University of Maine’s dean of students.

“Any time we have a potential hazing-type issue we have a zero-tolerance policy, and so we always work with the dean of students office doing whatever we can to prevent these types of situations from occurring,” James said.

In its investigation into the photos, James said, the university will speak to current members of the softball team and could bring in former players who appear in the photos and are still living in the area.

There is no timeline for when the university will finish its investigation, James said. This will be at least the third such investigation of potential hazing James will have conducted since he became AD in May 2006.

The guidelines set down in the University of Maine Student-Athlete Code of Conduct and University of Maine Code of Conduct, which applies to all students in the UMaine system, will determine the punishment, if any, of those involved in the party, James said.

The Student-Athlete Code of Conduct does not specify penalties for hazing. The University of Maine Code of Conduct, however, lists hazing as a violation. In Section III, No. 24, hazing is defined as, “Any action taken or situation created recklessly or intentionally by an organization or with the knowledge or consent of the organization — to produce mental or physical discomfort, embarrassment, harassment, ridicule to any member or prospective member, or violation of law.”

Violations of the Student-Athlete Code of Conduct work on a points system with minor violations assigned one to four points and major violations assigned five or more points.

If a student-athlete accumulates five points, he or she is suspended for the next 10 percent of their actual competition dates. The length of the suspension increases if the student-athlete accrues more points.

“Obviously [the codes of conduct will] come into play as we get into the process of determining the situation and finalizing what our thoughts are as to what the consequences will be in line with the situation,” James said.

Disciplinary actions include an initial warning with “immediate corrective measures” and temporary or permanent suspension from intercollegiate competition or the team.

The Student-Athlete Code of Conduct also states violators risk having part or all of their financial aid revoked.

“They will be reprimanded for the rules they broke under the Code of Conduct as depicted in the pictures,” Sullivan said. “Other than that, they’re not breaking any other rules. However, the actions and the manners in which my players are conducting themselves will be addressed.”

An Internet link to the album was provided to the BDN in an e-mail. The 62 photos on the album were apparently uploaded March 22, 2006. In one, labeled “group photo,” there are 13 UMaine softball players, five of whom were seniors in 2006. Other seniors appear in other photos. It appears only three of the attendees are still in the program.

There are photos of cupcake fights and groups of players dancing. Other photos show players mugging for the camera. One of the players shows off a pair of bright pink shoes she was wearing.

There are also photos depicting then-freshmen apparently drinking mixed drinks, other players making lewd gestures, and a photo with a poster listing items including “Impersonate Coach.”

In a sequence of four photos, two freshmen clothed in dresses and with their faces smeared with what appears to be makeup are shown drinking a glass of a liquid. The first photo, titled “yeager bombs,” may be a reference to a popular drink called a Jaeger Bomb, which is typically made out of an energy drink with a shot of Jaegermeister liquor dropped inside and then consumed quickly.

The two players are drinking out of the glasses in the second photo, labeled “GO,” followed by a third photo titled, “she hated it,” which shows one of the girls apparently expressing disgust at the taste of the drink. The fourth in the series, titled “so I finished it for her…,” shows the other freshman holding an empty glass in one hand and drinking liquid out of another glass.

In another photo, one of the freshmen is drinking out of a glass bottle and the other is holding a can.

Another photo shows a group of then-seniors, dressed for the most part in jeans and shirts with cowboy hats, facing one way. The label is “watching us make fools of ourselves.” One of the women in the group is holding a video camera.

In several of the photos the seniors are holding silver cans or champagne glasses with ice and a liquid inside.

“In some of [the photos], you have people of legal drinking age,” James said. “That’s going to happen. If they’re of legal drinking age, that’s an option for them.”

In another photo of a group of women doing a line dance, a poster on the wall in the background has “Roll the Dice” written on it with a set of instructions. The first instruction says, “Take a Shot.” The second says, “Impersonate Coach.”

Sullivan declined to comment on the sign.

It is unknown whether the party occurred on or off campus.

The Web site was still accessible as of 6 p.m. Friday. According to the Web site statistics, there had been 892 views of the album, 505 this week.

The University of Maine is not the only school with potentially embarrassing photos or news stories on The posting of inappropriate photos to Internet Web sites, especially those posted to social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook, has become a national issue.

“As student-athletes we have a responsibility to promote ourselves to the campus community and our surrounding community as role models,” Sullivan said. “That’s something that all student-athletes should take seriously.”

James said the university speaks with its student-athletes about the importance of discretion when it comes to posting photos on the Internet.

“We talk with the coaches about it and address the issue with them,” he said. “It’s something that is definitely discussed. … I’m confident this is something that will not happen in the future.”