01:00 AM EDT on Wednesday, October 3, 2007
By Gina Macris
Journal Staff Writer
NEWPORT â€” The menâ€™s soccer team at Salve Regina University has forfeited five games as a result of a hazing incident that led to a confrontation and an assault on a sidewalk about 10 days ago.
â€œWe do believe a hazing incident did take place,â€ Kristine Hendrickson, Salveâ€™s director of communications, said yesterday.
She said the university has â€œan ongoing internal investigationâ€ concerning the actions of â€œa number of students,â€ not only in connection with the hazing on Sept. 23 but with regard to â€œa number of incidents at different times and different dates.â€
â€œItâ€™s not the soccer team as a whole,â€ Hendrickson said, but the forfeiture makes a â€œstrong statement about the menâ€™s soccer coach,â€ Brian Oâ€™Rourke II.
His â€œswift reactionâ€ emphasizes the â€œpoint that in Division III athletics, you win as a team, and, unfortunately, you also lose as a team,â€ Hendrickson said.
Apart from the five-game suspension, Hendrickson declined to discuss any sanctions which have been imposed against individual students or elaborate on the internal investigation.
Early in the morning of Sept. 23, witnesses at Jimmyâ€™s Saloon at 37 Memorial Blvd. told the police they had seen three Salve University students and several other people involved in a scuffle over a racial slur that had been written on the back of one studentâ€™s T-shirt.
The student wearing the shirt reported he hadnâ€™t known about the writing on the back, according to Police Lt. William Fitzgerald.
He believed the slur had been written on the shirt earlier in the evening while he and the other students were drinking at a party on Spring Street, Fitzgerald said.
When the epithet written on the shirt attracted attention, sophomore soccer player Patrick Romani, 19, of Frankfurt, Ill., came to the studentâ€™s aid.
Fitzgerald said Romani was punched in the face and then kicked in the head after he fell to the sidewalk, according to witnessesâ€™ accounts.
The police charged Luis Viruet, 19, of 20 Chapel St., with simple assault.
In a statement announcing the suspension of the menâ€™s soccer team, Salveâ€™s athletic director, Del Malloy, said earlier this week that â€œwe will not discuss the incident or talk about any individuals, but we feel confident this group has a better understanding of our department policies and goals.â€
The suspension began Sept. 27, when the Salve Regina Seahawks were scheduled to play at Western New England College. Competition will resume Oct. 13 at New England College.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Web site NCAAHazing.com said yesterday that the Sept. 23 incident marks the third time there have been hazing allegations at Salve Regina in the last two years.
NCAAHazing.com is dedicated to exposing hazing in college athletics, according to spokesman William Schut.
Schut said both of the earlier incidents at Salve reportedly occurred in 2005, when athletes on the menâ€™s soccer team and the womenâ€™s lacrosse team posted photos on the Internet depicting initiation parties.
One of the photo albums, still on the NCAAHazing.com Web site, appears to show womenâ€™s lacrosse players at a drinking party.
In one photo, a young woman â€” her face blacked out â€” is shown inside a dog cage, while another woman kneels to the side.
Schut said NCAAHazing.com notified Salve officials when it learned of both incidents, months after they occurred.
Yesterday, Hendrickson denied Schutâ€™s contention that the university took no action.
â€œWeâ€™ve dealt with the individuals involved with the photos on his Web site,â€ she said.
The students involved have already graduated, Hendrickson said.
The university holds educational programs about hazing with all student athletes, she said.
â€œThey are all aware they will suffer the consequences if they engage in that type of behavior,â€ she said.
The only incident of hazing that is part of the current ongoing investigation is the one that occurred Sept. 23, Hendrickson said.
She declined to release other details of the investigation or the number of students involved, citing federal privacy laws.