Bowdoin forfeits NESCAC championship

We are having a busy and bizarre off-season in the NESCAC.

Bowdoin College has decided to forfeit the Bowdoin men’s NESCAC championship this year due to post-season hazing of the freshmen players.  Glad to hear that no one was hurt but the stupidity is awe inspiring. It is not clear what type of hazing was done or what punishments were doled out to particular players but here’s what Bowdoin President Barry Mills says about the decision:

I write often in the Bowdoin Daily Sun about my appreciation for the accomplishments of Bowdoin students. But it is also important to admit that sometimes our students make mistakes. We are not perfect, and we must acknowledge the rare events when we fail to live up to our aspirations and sometimes fail to remember our core values. These values include clear social and honor codes, and at times throughout our history, the College has had to take stands in order to protect and advance these important principles.

We learned last week that members of our NESCAC champion men’s ice hockey team had recently conducted a post-season initiation of first-year members. After a full investigation, we determined that this initiation clearly violated Bowdoin’s Social Code and our very well articulated policy that prohibits hazing. This policy, which is published on the College website and reviewed each year as part of our team captains’ training, states in part that:

“A learning community has a distinctive set of values and qualities meant to support individual growth and development. At Bowdoin, we value traditions, rituals, and rites of passage because they remind community members of their connections to one another and to the past and future of the College; they can build important bonds between groups and individuals. Athletic team or student organization initiations or traditions, however, that attempt to build these bonds between members, must do so in an affirming way without coercion of any kind. In a learning community such as ours, we value lasting relationships grounded in mutual respect, not artificial connections created through shared humiliation.”

The discovery that members of our men’s ice hockey team had willfully disregarded this well-established policy was bad enough. Compounding the problem was the fact that team members were not forthcoming when confronted about the incident.

After a great deal of consideration and with genuine regret, the College decided to forfeit officially Bowdoin’s first-ever NESCAC championship in men’s ice hockey that was earned by the team in March. This action—supported by me, Dean of Student Affairs Tim Foster, Director of Athletics Jeff Ward, and Head Men’s Ice Hockey Coach Terry Meagher—is intended to send an unambiguous message that Bowdoin will not tolerate this sort of behavior, nor will we compromise the values of this institution when confronted with clear violations of College policy. In addition to vacating the NESCAC title, the College has imposed individual sanctions where appropriate, and there will likely be consequences within Athletics and educational programs to follow as a result of this incident.

I recognize that this is a tough consequence, particularly for our seniors. I personally celebrated with the team on the ice when they beat Williams for the title. These are good people who accomplished a great deal this year with the guidance of our truly legendary coach, Terry Meagher. They worked hard and they achieved their goal. But these players are all members of the larger Bowdoin community, and they are and must be held to the same high standards that have long defined this College. There is much more to celebrate at our College and in our athletic program than mere victory on the ice. We certainly celebrate victory and acknowledge loss, but only when conducted by participants who abide by and respect the College’s principles. With their recent actions, the team has lost the right to be recognized as champions.

I want to stress that no student was harmed physically in these events. But students were exposed to a situation in clear violation of the College’s hazing policy.

As Dean Foster wrote in a letter to each of the players, it is during periods of crisis that we have the opportunity to learn and to move forward as people and as citizens. We can all learn from success, but sometimes, we can learn even more from failure. Bowdoin and our players will survive and flourish without an extra championship banner hanging in Watson Arena. And as our seniors take the steps of the Walker Art Building next Saturday to receive their diplomas, it is my hope and expectation that Bowdoin will be an even stronger college because of this experience and the opportunities for learning and reflection that it presents.

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7 Responses

  1. ‘the stupidity is awe inspiring’….you’re living in a fantasy world if you don’t think this IS NOT happening at EVERY NESCAC school. Both men’s and women’s teams…so choose your word’s more carefully next time

    • Yes – this kind of activity is indeed totally commonplace. Putting aside the question whether or not it was smart to engage in these activities, it certainly wasn’t smart to get caught at them . .

  2. So polarbear1, what are you saying? That since it is happening at other schools, the forfeiture should not have occurred? Or is that incidental, and you are only commenting on the use of the term “awe inspiring?”

    • Why should this all fall on the kids while the College Administration is being praised for their decision? This isn’t the only team on campus engaging in this activity. In fact, I would argue the majority have some type of initiation for their freshman, if not ALL teams. You’re telling me no one in the administration knew this has been going on….for years?

    • The punishment of forfeiture was very much a blunt and crude instrument in that it punished the alleged victims of the hazing (the team’s many frosh players) as much as it did the perpetrators so a good argument can be made that it was an unfair and unjust punishment. After all, much of the Bowdoin success this past season was due to the play of the frosh during the regular season and especially in the play-offs, starting with the stellar goaltending of frosh Messina and including the GWG in the Colby semi-final game, the OT GWG in the Amherst quarterfinal game, and 6 of the 12 goals that Bowdoin scored in the play-offs. Sure, they will have three more chances but another championship is hardly guaranteed.

  3. It’s interesting to note that the NESCAC website has not posted this in its news section. Also, the decision to forfeit was Bowdoin’s, not NESCAC. This is an honorable decision, but was it the right one.

    The hazing occured after the season ended and appears to have had no effect on any players or results either before or during the season. Had it happened either before or during the season, then I would agree with the forfeiture.

    Also, it is clear punishment is in order for the offending players and the team on a going forward basis. ( I know the seniors are gone, but they could have been prevented from participating in graduation activities)

    Forfeiting the championship means nothing. Anyone ever involved (from Bowdoin or Williams) will know the Championship was rightfully won by Bowdoin.

    The decision by the College to voluntarily give up the Championship skews the record books and hurts innocent players. As an old administrator of mine once said – the motive is admirable (punishing the students), but the execution (taking away a championship) was wrong.

    Gee – Can NESCAC refuse to accept the forfeiture? Can Williams refuse to accept the Championship, since the team did not rightfully win the championship game. What is the honorable thing for Williams to do in this situation?

    Time to hire some good lawyers. Plenty available.

  4. A few more thoughts – it seems that since the new hazing rules have been put in place that there must have been several other hazing incidents. Have any other sports teams been punished – even retroactively – for this behaviour. It seems that every award that any Bowdoin team has ever won is now in serious jeopardy.

    The Bowdoin Web Site posted many comments on President Mills decision, all of which supported him 100% (is this possible?). In my minority opinion, the forfeiture due to activities after the end of the season does not fit the crime.

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