Hazing results in 3-game forfeit for Hoffman Estates

Hoffman Estates High School officials: Coach not involved

The Hoffman Estates High School boys varsity basketball team is forfeiting three games as a result of an internal investigation by school district officials into hazing allegations.

The forfeits include Friday's canceled game against Schaumburg as well as Saturday's game against Hersey and Tuesday's game against Streamwood, according to Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 spokesman Tom Petersen.

“As part of the disciplinary action, the team also will receive further training in hazing awareness and prevention and its impact on others,” Petersen said.

The district has not provided any details regarding the nature of the hazing. A parent of one of the 14 members of the team said Saturday two hazing incidents occurred, one of them at the home of a parent. She said the principal asked parents not to talk about it.

It's unclear if individual team members will face further disciplinary action.

District officials learned of the hazing Friday afternoon. Petersen said the district conducted an “immediate” investigation involving all 14 members of the team and the coaching staff. Petersen said Head Coach Luke Yanule had no knowledge of the hazing and was not involved in it.

Yanule declined to comment on the matter when contacted by phone.

District officials have contacted the state's Department of Child and Family Services as well as the Hoffman Estates Police Department. Police officials said Saturday they are conducting an investigation “in conjunction” with district officials. No charges have been filed.

Other coaches in the district said they are unsure what impact the incident will have on their teams in terms of additional anti-hazing training. They have not received any guidance from the district yet.

Elsewhere, coaches were surprised to learn of the forfeitures. Hersey head coach Steve Messer said his varsity squad would work with freshman and sophomore teams in lieu of Saturday's game. He said he hasn't spoken to his team about the Hoffman Estates issue.

“Rather than just talk about it specifically, we talk about what we're doing as a team and how the decisions we make can affect more than just the person making them,” Messer said. “The biggest thing that we want to have come across is that you're representing more than just yourself. In the end, you can only control so much as a high-school coach. You're not with them 24/7.”

After Prospect played Barrington to overtime Saturday night, Prospect coach John Camardella offered his support to Yanule.

“Coach Yanule is a great coach who I've known for a long time,” Camardella said. “He has that program going in the right direction. He's energetic, and I see them bouncing back from that. I hope everyone's OK.

“Most coaches that I've talked to are still sort of blindsided. It sounds like it could happen to any one of us.”

Anthony Como, a first-year varsity coach at Wheeling High School, says there's an increased awareness of the hazing issue in general.

“I know with our program, we've addressed it in light of what has gone on,” he said. “I really think here we have a group of kids who are pulling for each other whether they are freshmen, sophomores or varsity kids. You try to build a culture from within that is like a family so that none of that goes on. So that in a way it sort of polices itself over the years. From all of what I see, there is an awareness.”

The Hoffman Estates case comes in the wake of another high profile high school athletics team hazing case. An investigation is ongoing at Maine West High School in Des Plaines into allegations of hazing of younger soccer players by members of the boys varsity team. Six of the players are also facing criminal charges. Two coaches who also teach have been placed on paid leave and aren't allowed on school grounds pending the outcome of the investigation. Four families have filed lawsuits against the district and its staff.

Some Maine West students and alumni have come out in support of Michael Divincenzo, a soccer and baseball coach alleged to have witnessed and sanctioned some of the hazing, and coach Emilio Rodriguez.

A Facebook page called “Support for Divo and Coach Rodriguez” was created Thursday as a place to post positive messages about Divincenzo's character. Many among the 228 who had “liked” the page by Saturday afternoon posted comments that they could not believe the coach would have allowed such abuse to occur.

Ÿ Daily Herald staff writer Christopher Placek contributed to this report.

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