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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Details of women's soccer hazing incident emerge

Athletic director, coach address media

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By Sergio Jiménez / New Mexico Daily Lobo

New Mexico women’s soccer Head Coach Kit Vela awaits questions from the media at the Tow Diehm Athletic Center on Wednesday. UNM Athletic Director Paul Krebs confirmed at the press conference that the team did commit acts of hazing.

The New Mexico women’s soccer team did commit an act of hazing while attending several parties Sunday night, UNM Athletics Director Paul Krebs confirmed.

During a nearly 40-minute press conference Wednesday, Krebs and head coach Kit Vela discussed the incident, which allegedly involved underage drinking and freshman players being sprayed with “soap and water.”

Krebs said the incident involved the entire women’s soccer team, but that none of the players were forced to drink.

The Athletics Department cancelled the team’s season opener at Texas Tech due to the investigation. Krebs said the team is going through a hazing education program and that some of its upcoming practices will be repurposed for community service.

As for other sanctions, Krebs said everything is still on the table, including: canceling the season, suspensions or expulsion from the University. However, the Dean of Students Office would decide whether a student should be expelled from UNM.

“There is absolutely no place for hazing at the University of New Mexico or anywhere in athletics. It is wrong,” Krebs said. “I think anybody who thinks that it builds teams or [adds] any value to it is sadly mistaken.”

Krebs said he wanted to use Wednesday’s press conference, originally intended to be the women’s soccer media day, to give an update on the situation.

Rob Burford from the Dean of Students Office and Breda Bova, the recently retired faculty representative and professor in the college of education, are continuing their investigation, which began on Monday, Krebs said.

On Tuesday the team was confined to one area and met individually with Burford and Bova, who asked a series of questions to discover the details of what happened during the incident. Krebs said he briefed the women before the interviews and told them that if they weren’t cooperative and honest that the punishments they received would be more severe.

“I think at this point, I want to tell you that these are good young women in our program. They’ve made a mistake. They’ve made a big mistake,” Krebs said. “They’ve damaged the reputation of the University, they’ve damaged the reputation of the soccer program, they’ve damaged the reputation of the athletics department and they’ve damaged their own reputations.”

Local television station KOB-TV reported that, in addition to the women consuming copious amounts of alcohol, freshmen were forced to strip naked and were sprayed with urine. Krebs emphasized those reports were inaccurate.

“Based on every interview we’ve had, I feel confident, based on all the information that I’ve had, that there was no nudity involved,” Krebs said. “The allegation that there was urine sprayed on the women on the team is absolutely not true.”

However, Krebs said the women were sprayed with “a liquid that when you go to a gas station you clean your windshield with.” At one point during the night, the women did switch from street clothes to just undergarments, Krebs said. He added that no one on the team tried to intervene.

“I’m still trying to get my arms around (the situation) as well,” Vela said. “I’ve not been part of the process so far, and a lot of the details are not of my knowledge, but I do know it’s significant and that they’re as devastated as I am.”

Vela was first informed of the incident at around 2 a.m. Monday, after a parent of one of the players called the coach, Krebs said. Vela then called Janice Ruggiero, UNM’s senior associate administrator, to inform her of the situation. Krebs was notified when Ruggiero called him early Monday morning, he said.

Vela confirmed that two players, who are sisters, have withdrawn from the school because of the incident.

Media reports state that the sisters are Devin Scelsi and Danielle Scelsi. Devin Scelsi was the player sent to the hospital.

Krebs said he hasn’t contacted the Albuquerque Police Department about the incident, nor has APD contacted him.

The investigation is focusing on what happened on Sunday night and not whether there has been hazing in past years, he added.

No NCAA violations occurred because of the hazing incident, Krebs said.

“I would tell you in this particular instance involving our women’s soccer program, we failed. There was no question that there was hazing in this incident,” Krebs said. “Whether it’s coach Vela, myself; as a department, we failed the young women in this program in that they didn’t understand or know better, that what they were doing was simply wrong and uncalled for and should’ve never happened.”

Thomas Romero-Salas is the sports editor for the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at sports@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @ThomasRomeroS. Managing editor J.R. Oppenheim contributed to this report.