Bad Jocks or Bad Coach?

ByLeslie Yeransian via via logo

May 18, 2006 -- -- The pictures show girls gone wild -- but these are Catholic girls, freshmen from the Catholic University of America's women's lacrosse team, girls everyone expects to be "wholesome." But the initiation pictures posted on are anything but.

In one photo, a young woman with a frightened look on her face, seated on the shoulders of a stripper with her torso facing his mouth, holds on as if for dear life. Another picture shows a girl, fully clothed, but in a position for a sexual act with a thong-wearing stripper. Other pictures show the names of very "dirty" deeds -- deeds the Catholic Church deems sinful -- written all over the girls' bodies and shirts.

The man who runs said he got the project started to give people a chuckle, but with its focus on college sports team initiations and hazings, it has turned a spotlight on a practice that has resulted in more than 30 deaths over the past three decades. shows initiation photos from more than a dozen different colleges and universities. Next to the picture, the site links to the hazing policy of the school involved. One typical policy is from Kenyon College: "The College will not tolerate hazing on the part of any individual, organization or group."

Officials at the Catholic University of America said they're investigating this incident. In a statement released by the university, the school's athletics director Michael Allen said: "If the evidence demonstrates that any of our current students willingly participated in these activities, appropriate disciplinary action will be taken. The president and I will meet with all the coaches at the university to discuss additional measures and policies that we can implement to ensure that in the future this kind of deplorable situation does not occur."

Psychologist Susan Lipkins said hazing policies in general don't do much. "This should be a wake-up call to the coaches that they should change their curriculum, not their policies," she said. "It's the adults' responsibility to teach them, not punish them."

Washington-based trial lawyer Douglas Fierberg said he agreed that schools need to start educating students on hazing, because he's seen what kind of tragedies can result.

Fierberg said finally lets people actually see what has been happening for a long time. Fierberg has represented seven families throughout the United States who have lost their children to hazing. "Deaths don't even tell the whole story. There are a lot of women out there who wake up the next morning with a fragmented understanding of what happened to them the night before."

Looking at some of the pictures on reminded Fierberg of the circumstances that caused the death of one student whose family he represented. Over a period of nine hours, fraternity brothers at the University of Colorado wrote profanity all over his client Lynn Bailey Jr.'s body as the freshman pledge died of alcohol poisoning.

Lipkins calls Northwestern University's women's soccer team initiation a prime example of how everything ended up fine, but could have ended up deadly.

"Those girls were blindfolded, at the top of the stairs, going down to the basement," she said. "You never know how many heads will crack or when dangerous circumstances will arise. I'd like them to play soccer, just not have them hazed to be part of the team."

Getting schools and coaches to address hazings head-on is going to be difficult, said Michael Gunzburg, a New York attorney who specializes in hazing law.

"Schools turn a blind eye. They don't want to interfere because alumni and frat houses mean money to them," he said.

Dozens of parents call Gunzburg monthly, outraged when they find out what their kids have been doing, he said.

"I got a call from a parent saying her kid carried feces through the woods for miles. Parents feel like they can't get their kids out of these circumstances. Sometimes kids have scholarships attached, so the parents don't want to sue or take them out of the school for fear of losing the scholarship," Gunzburg said.

But the choice becomes easy when one weighs losing a scholarship against losing a life. Hank Nuwer, an author of numerous books on hazing, said that since 1970 there's been a death a year linked to hazing or pledging-related incidents on the college level.

When Bob Reno started, he never knew the weight of the topic. Hazing wasn't even really his initial concept for the site.

"I thought I'd be doing Mike Tyson and O.J. Simpson incidents, but now we're focusing on the small-town coach that gets into a fight with a parent story and these hazing incidents," Reno said. Now that he's incorporated hazing, maintaining the site is becoming a full-time job.

As far as the Duke University men's lacrosse team goes, Reno is just not interested in the alleged rape case.

"Originally, when I heard about the Duke lacrosse story, I posted it because it was a silly story, but now there's no humor in it," he said. "I like to give my readers a chuckle."

However, Reno clarified, to get a chuckle is not the reason those hazing photos are on

"Those hazing photos are a different scenario. I post those pictures to try to raise awareness about something no one talks about," he said.

Reno said he gets a lot of nasty e-mails and continues to rely heavily on legal advisers. Ironically, Reno said, no one -- no parent, no coach, no university dean -- has ever asked him to take down a photo.

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