'We are investigating': London, Ont. high school football team cancels opener after hazing incident
Staff and coaches at Sir Wilfrid Laurier Secondary School (SWLSS) in London are investigating a "hazing incident" involving the Rams senior football team.
On Sept. 21, 2023 — a night prior to the Rams’ season opener — a concerned community member notified the school of something happening on the football field.
"Upon being notified of the incident, we investigated the matter," said Matt Bradacs, principal of SWLSS.
He added, "We have concluded that some members of our football team were involved in hazing-like behaviour. I want to stress that our school and our school board do not tolerate any behaviours that humiliate, degrade or demean any student or student athlete. We immediately began an investigation and addressed the issue.”
At 9:30 a.m. on Friday, just 90 minutes before their United Way game in front of 800 student, Bradacs and coaches met with the entire team and canceled their game against Catholic Central High School (CCH).
Pieces of egg shell remain in the west end zone at Sir Wilfrid Laurier Secondary School in London, Ont. on Sept. 25, 2023 following a hazing incident. (Brent Lale/CTV News London)
"The players took full responsibility and were extremely remorseful," said Bradacs. "Our coaches had no knowledge of the situation nor did they promote it.”
CTV News London has learned the incidents involved throwing eggs at defenceless players in the end zone. On Monday afternoon, egg shell pieces could still be seen on the field.
"We are sad and devastated by what happened Thursday evening," said John Kublinskas, Rams’ senior head football coach. "It's something we discussed Friday and really it's about how do we get better?"
The Rams are the defending OFSAA football champions and are ranked sixth in the country by Canada Football Chat entering the season.
Their first game was canceled resulting in a 35-0 forfeit.
Coaches met with players and staff after school Monday to discuss the next steps forward and when they will next play football.
CTV London doesn’t know the contents of those conversations, but the players were practicing on Monday.
The Sir Wilfrid Laurier Rams senior football team prepares for this week's game while under investigation by the school and Thames Valley District School Board for a "hazing incident" which took place on Sept. 21, 2023, prior to their season opener. (Brent Lale/CTV News London)
"I'm focused on this team and making them the best people they can be, and best program we can be,” said Kublinskas.
This is the second time in as many seasons a London high school football team has had their opener forfeited due to hazing.
CCH lost 35-0 in 2022 when they had 25 players suspended prior to their opener. The senior CCH players made the rookies dress up in costumes, took photos of them, and posted them on social media.
Kublinskas said after last year's incident, he addressed the players about the repercussions of hazing.
"The message was clear that that type of behaviour shouldn't have happened," said Kublinskas.
"We make sure our kids aren't treated that way in practice. We don't make rookies do extra jobs or extra things. I didn't think we'd be here as the message was clear. I guess it wasn't loud enough.”
The Sir Wilfrid Laurier Rams senior football team prepares for this week's game while under investigation by the school and Thames Valley District School Board for a "hazing incident" which took place on Sept. 21, 2023, prior to their season opener. (Brent Lale/CTV News London)Bradacs said they are continuing the investigation into the incident and have not come to a conclusion about any punishment for individuals or the program. He is in consultation with the school board.
"We're going to focus on education so our players can grow and learn from this opportunity. We will be working with the board and community partners, and coaches to do mandatory training- for the team," said Bradacs.
He added, "We hope and know our players will learn from this situation and learn why it's unacceptable. We hope it's restorative in nature.”
TVRA Athletics Coordinator Michelle Lange said they are working towards a plan to move forward.
"We're working together with system staff experts within our safe schools at TVDSB, as well as community partners to coordinate a plan moving forward with this team,” she said.
The Rams’ next game is scheduled to be Friday at 11 a.m. at South Secondary School.
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