Women's soccer team, coach suspended for hazing
Updated 9:10 a.m., Aug. 25
The women’s soccer team issued the following statement Monday morning about last week’s hazing incident:
“We are deeply sorry that we disappointed the Albuquerque, University of New Mexico and Lobo Athletic communities. What you may have seen in the media coverage the last week is not who we are. As student-athletes, we will use this as a learning opportunity — not only for ourselves, but also for us to be of assistance to others. Going forward, we will do everything we can – both as a team and as individuals – to represent Lobo Athletics in the best possible light both on and off the field. We love our school, our community and our state. Thanks to our fans who have been faithful supporters. We earnestly hope that you will continue to support us as we work to earn your trust.”
Twenty-two Lobo women’s soccer players will serve a one-game suspension, and head coach Kit Vela will be suspended for one week without pay after last week’s hazing incident, New Mexico Athletics Director Paul Krebs announced Friday.
As punishment for the Aug. 17 incident involving all of the team’s athletes, Vela is not permitted to have any contact with her team beginning today. Assistant coaches Jorge Vela and Krista Foo have been issued letters of reprimand; the two assistants will run the team’s day-to-day operations until the head coach’s return.
“We believe the disciplinary measures we have taken today send a clear message about the gravity of the incident: that it is unacceptable and will not be tolerated,” Krebs said. “We feel we have a full understanding of what happened that night through the facts we received from the third-party investigation.”
Last Wednesday, Krebs said senior players on the team pressured seven freshman players into drinking while attending several parties. Later in the night, Krebs said, the freshmen were sprayed with “soap and water.” At one point during the night, the freshmen changed from their street clothes into only their undergarments, he said.
Even though none of the freshmen were forced to drink alcohol, peer pressure is still an act of hazing, Krebs said.
The suspensions will be staggered throughout the season to allow the Lobos to field a team, but are to occur as soon as possible. Vela, who makes $75,000 per year as head coach, will be suspended from Aug. 25 until Sept. 1.
UNM canceled Friday’s season opener at No. 17 Texas Tech because of the investigation. The team will start regular-season play in the Colorado College Invitational on Friday against Marquette.
The University is in the process of implementing an alcohol education program, in addition to the anti-hazing program the women’s soccer team is already in the process of completing. All UNM student-athletes will be assigned to take both courses. The women’s soccer team will be the first program to take the alcohol education course.
Krebs said the team will repurpose some of its practices for community service. The team has designed a community service program that has been approved.
The Dean of Students Office is still assessing the matter to determine whether further action against any student-athletes is warranted. Once that issue is resolved, UNM will consider the matter closed.
“As the leader of this program, I take full responsibility for the actions of the members of our team,” Vela said. “I accept the consequences of our team’s mistakes. We intend to learn from this and use our abilities and our resources to teach others.”