CANTON, N.Y--A lie to the Vermont State District Attorney sent the Harvard men's hockey team plummeting from first place all the way to seventh on Monday.
After getting routed in the North Country by Clarkson and St. Lawrence, the Crimson still shared first place with the Saints at 13 points. It was a sham of a claim that surely would've dissipated over the exam break as the rest of the ECAC played the up to four games in hand each team had on Harvard.
The league, however, removed the suspense in adjudicating the cancellation of the University of Vermont's season after allegations of hazing and subsequent perjury. For this year, winning percentage, not points will rank teams, and Harvard stands at .500--good for a seventh-place tie with Cornell.
The accusations have festered all semester since the story broke in the fall.
The details of what actually occurred at a Catamount "initiation party" last September are a little sketchy. The freshmen were reportedly made to eat seafood pie until they puked, forced to consume large quantities of alcohol and perform the old "elephant walk."
For those unfamiliar with hazing practices, that's where the players line up naked and parade around the room holding the genitals of the person in front of them.
After robbing the frosh of their dignity, the captain of the team, Kevin Karlander, allegedly outright robbed them. He ordered one wannabee to hand over his credit card and made about $900 in purchases. This freshman blew the whistle on all of the criminal behavior when he sued to get his money back--after he was cut from the team.
Yet, the Catamounts would probably be preparing for this weekend's games if the players, once caught, would've fessed up. But they followed the example of Richard Nixon and tried to cover their tracks. They lied to everyone from the university president to the NCAA to the District Attorney.
Once Judith Ramaley, UVM's president, saw through the lies, she declared that she had seen enough. Goodbye season.
The stupidity of the whole scandal goes without saying. Like it or not, hazing is a rite of passage for many college organizations. Those Vermont seniors who were getting their jollies watching their naked rookies, probably assumed the Dumbo position in their first season.
Within reason, hazing does serve a purpose. Messing with the new guys does build up some organizational spirit. Even The Crimson has a little fun with its frosh on Grand Election Night.
But no theft. No involuntary drinking. And--for Pete's sake--no fondling.
The scary part is that this is not an isolated incident. Vermont just happened to be dumb enough to haze someone not yet on the team. It occurs elsewhere and is much, much worse at larger schools with less oversight over their athletes.
Don't be fooled into thinking it doesn't happen here. Go ask your friend in the Owl. Ask why the men's rugby team was suspended two years ago--someone will show you a bloody carcass of a goat.
That type of behavior simply crosses the line from initiation to pure mean-spiritedness. A whole conference now feels the effects.
Harvard will lose its game against UVM on Feb. 11, one of the few "easy" games left on its schedule. Dartmouth, Vermont's travel partner, had its schedule completely rearranged so it didn't have to play back-to-back games against a rested opponent.
Most likely, Brown will now face the disgrace of being the only team to miss the ECAC playoffs.
Mike Gilligan, Vermont's longtime coach, will probably be fired. The school will have to live with the ignominy of what ECAC Commissioner Paul Buttafuoco called, "unprecedented punishment"
As for Harvard's hard fall from first place? Well, when the team defense allows last season's ECAC Rookie of the Year, Brandon Dietrich of St. Lawrence to park himself in the slot, and nobody so much as breathes on him, then forget about first place.
But for the moment, I'll be thankful captain Trevor Allman has the basic decency to keep his hands out of freshman Brett Nowak's wallet--or worse.