School Climate & Safety

Hazing Allegations Lead High School to Forfeit Two Football Games

By Bryan Toporek — August 26, 2016 2 min read
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With a majority of its varsity football team under investigation for alleged hazing, an Indiana high school was forced to forfeit its first two football games because it couldn’t field enough players, according to multiple reports.

According to Lucas Whitten of the Princeton Daily Clarion, only 11 of the 28 players on Wood Memorial High School’s football team in Oakland City, Indiana, were eligible to compete during their season opener due to “a violation of school policy and school rules.” Oakland City police chief Alec Hensley told the paper that the police have begun an investigation into hazing allegations that engulfed roughly 70 percent of the football team, noting it will take a few weeks to get through all of the interviews.

“From what we understand, it was hazing that went a little too far,” Hensley said. “It’s not just hazing, though. There is a game that they play called ‘What’s the Odds?’ It seems that’s where most of this stemmed from.”

In the game, one person challenges another to a dare, and the latter must give a proposed set of odds (10-1, for example). Both players then say a number on the count of three, and if they match, the player who originally received the dare must then go complete the task.

Television reporter Lauren Artino of 14 News shared additional details Wednesday after speaking with Hensley, noting the police are not yet releasing information on exactly what happened:

According to Artino, police are in the midst of interviewing upwards of 60 people connected to the high school’s football program, and the criminal investigation spans over two school years. The police are aiming to conclude their investigation by early September, at which point they will distribute their findings to the local prosecutor’s office.

In speaking with the Daily Clarion, Henlsey praised the district for not dragging its feet upon learning of the allegations: “I think that the school corporation immediately taking action, as soon as they heard about this, was a positive to this thing. They took quick action and got us involved as quick as they could.”

This is hardly the first hazing scandal that forced a high school to cancel sports games in recent years. In 2014, Sayreville War Memorial (N.J.) High School cancelled the remainder of its football season upon learning of “incidents of harassment, intimidation, and bullying that took place on a pervasive level,” as the district superintendent said at the time. The Central Bucks (Pa.) school district followed suit soon thereafter, cancelling the remainder of its high school varsity and junior varsity seasons due to “allegations of improper conduct.” Earlier this year, the Ooltewah (Tenn.) High School basketball team saw its season cut short after three players were charged with aggravated rape and aggravated assault in connection with a hazing incident that resulted in the hospitalization of one of their teammates. In all three cases, coaches connected with each team lost their coaching jobs and/or faced criminal charges in connection with their respective incidents.

Until the police conclude their investigation into the Wood Memorial allegations, it’s too early to say what will happen to the student-athletes involved. Based on precedence in other recent cases, though, lengthy suspensions or expulsion could be in their near future.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.