Hazing News

Remembering another sports initiation that went all wrong: from the Chronicle H.E.

U. of Northern Colorado Athlete Paralyzed in Hazing Incident

NOVEMBER 14, 1990  

A member of the University of Northern Colorado’s baseball team was paralyzed from the chest down in a hazing incident last month.

Kevin Wolitzky, an 18-year-old freshman, broke two bones in his neck and bruised his spinal cord when he slid head-first into a pool of mud.

According to Mr. Wolitzky and other team members, the injury occurred after the team’s coach, Terry Hensley, canceled practice because of wet conditions. The athletes said older members of the team told freshman players to report to the field, stand in line and sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” strip to their underwear, and then take turns sliding into a mud pool.

Before the practice, the team’s coaches and seniors had been summoned to a meeting with a university official who had heard rumors that hazing was being planned. Mr. Hensley, the team’s coach, then called a team meeting to tell players that the university did not permit hazing, and that penalties could include suspension.

After the incident, athletics-department officials suspended Marty Lamb, a student-assistant coach. The university said he had known about plans for the hazing ritual, but had failed to stop it.

Moderator: I read that Mr. Wolitzky wore a halo fto aid in rehabilitation of his broken neck but did eventually return to school. The question is why the season continued at all for the rest of the team.

By Hank Nuwer

Journalist Hank Nuwer is the Alaska author of Hazing: Destroying Young Lives; Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His current book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press. He is married to Malgorzata Wroblewska Nuwer of Warsaw, Poland and Fairbanks, Alaska. Nuwer is a former columnist for the Greenville (Ohio)Early Bird and former managing editor of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner in Alaska.
Nuwer was named the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists columnist of the year in 2021 for his “After Darke” column in the Early Bird. He also won third place for the column in 2022 from the Indiana chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He and his wife Gosia, recently of Union City, Ind., have owned 20 acres in Alaska for many years. “The move is a sort-of coming home for us,” said Nuwer. As a journalist, he’s written about the Alaskan Iditarod sled-dog race and other Alaska topics. Read his musings in his blog at Real Alaska Daily-- and in his weekly column "Far from Randolph" in the Winchester Star-Gazette of Randolph County, Indiana.

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