April 27, 2012

F&M Cancels Season, Former Coach Speaks Out

by Clare Lochary | LaxMagazine.com | Statement from Coaches

"Every day we talk about respect, and in my opinion hazing falls into that category," former Franklin & Marshall women's lacrosse coach Lauren Paul told Lacrosse Magazine on Friday. "Obviously my goal is to put this behind me and clear my name and be able to move forward in a positive direction."

© Kevin P. Tucker

The Franklin & Marshall women's lacrosse team has cancelled the remainder of its season, including this weekend's Centennial Conference tournament, a spokesperson for the college confirmed Friday. The decision comes in the wake of a hazing scandal that resulted in the firing of former head coach Lauren Paul and the suspension of 11 players on April 17.

Franklin & Marshall recently offered the suspended players a chance to return to the team. They all declined. The Diplomats are currently 13-3 (8-1 in the Centennial Conference) and ranked No. 10 in the latest IWLCA Division III poll. The Diplomats were scheduled to play Washington College in a conference semifinal Saturday. The game will be recorded as a no contest.

"The team was assessing participation on a game-by-game basis, and they essentially let us know that in advance of the Gettysburg game. They had another vote before Dickinson. And they made the decision today not to take part in the remaining games," said Cass Cliatt, Franklin & Marshall's vice president of communications. "We are withdrawing from consideration from the NCAA tournament and our athletic director contacted the Centennial Conference and withdrew from the tournament."

Concurrent with the players' decision to end the season, Paul and assistant coaches Caitlin Powderly and Lidia Sanza released a statement to the media through John A. Gallagher, an employment attorney based in Paoli, Pa. (Powderly and Sanza are still employed by the college.)

"The recent decision to reinstate the suspended players to the team demonstrates to Ms. Paul and I that, in fact, as we believed all along, no hazing took place and that she was fired in advance of the completion of the investigation of the school into this matter," Gallagher said. "We are contemplating seeking reinstatement through legal channels."

The statement, available in its entirety here, contends that neither Paul nor the assistant coaches "had knowledge or involvement in the March 11, 2011 incident giving rise to their present circumstances," that the investigation began when the parent of a former student-athlete who had been cut from the team registered a complaint in February 2012, and that the investigation had not yet concluded when the firing and suspensions went into effect.

Paul also spoke with Lacrosse Magazine, saying that she made respect the cornerstone of her program.

"Every year we actually turn in our team rules to the athletic department, which they approve, and they take the reins of talking to the student-athletes about hazing. In my team rules, the biggest thing we stress is respect — each other, opponents and the game," she said. "Every day we talk about respect, and in my opinion hazing falls into that category. Obviously my goal is to put this behind me and clear my name and be able to move forward in a positive direction."

Cliatt refuted many components of the statement issued by Gallagher. She said the investigation began with a tip to the Lancaster police department on Feb. 23, 2012, which said only that there had been a hazing incident at Franklin & Marshall with no indication of the time frame or even the team involved.

Additionally, Cliatt said, the college conducted three separate investigations, including a personnel process that led to Paul's dismissal prior to the conclusion of student disciplinary and student-athlete code of conduct processes.

"We had several rounds of inquiry before we were able to move forward with a formal investigation," Cliatt said. "At the point where we were able to move forward, we had information from multiple sources."

Cliatt also noted that while Gallagher's statement says the school "zealously published the news of such firing," the only official statement on Paul's dismissal was an internal communication from Dean Kent Trachte that was made available to the media upon request.

Paul, a Franklin & Marshall alum who led the Diplomats to the 2009 NCAA championship, said she would always consider the school a special place despite her disappointment in the current administration's actions.

"As a coach, my biggest strength is caring about the student-athletes' well-being. Every single parent and the girls on my team would be the first ones to tell anyone that," she said. "It's a shame that's not being shown, and that's something that was huge about F&M — caring about people first, and players second."

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