Footballer Gets the Boot

Skit by wide receiver not well-received by coach; suspended player appeals

Harvard wide receiver Keegan Toci ’07 was dismissed from the football team by head coach Tim Murphy over a sketch he performed at the team’s annual Skit Night on Sept. 7, a player confirmed last night.

The Crimson first reported the dismissal on Sept. 14. At the time, Murphy said only that the senior from Tuscon, Ariz. was dismissed for a “team matter.”

Last night, however, a player on the team, who answered an e-mail on the condition of anonymity, confirmed that the decision was linked to the team’s skit night.

Toci could not be reached for comment last night.

In the skit, Toci cited 20 reasons why Harvard football will never rise from the Division I-AA ranks to Division I-A, the highest designation in college football.

A player who attended the dinner said he could not determine what elements of the skit specifically bothered Murphy, but suggested that its “bluntness” might have offended the coach. According to a report published by The Boston Globe on Saturday, a different skit that some players considered more offensive, implying that star running back Clifton Dawson ’07 had performed oral sex on Murphy, provoked no such retribution.

Toci’s dismissal makes him the fifth football player—including former captain Matthew C. Thomas ’06-’07 and starting quarterback Liam O’Hagan ’08 —either suspended or dismissed from the team since April 29. Unlike those two star players, however, Toci saw action in only one game last season, a 24-17 win against Lafayette.

At a team meeting the day after Toci was dismissed, the Globe reported, Murphy asked the 110-member team whether they believed the punishment was justified.

Approximately 20 players stood up in protest, with others also about to stand, before Murphy left the room, according to one witness.

Another witness told the Globe that Murphy left only after he had determined that the majority of the players supported the dismissal.

When contacted last night, one player told The Crimson that teammates expressed a “wide range of of feelings” about Toci’s dismissal—“very supportive and unsupportive.”

In a press conference after the team’s 38-21 victory over Brown on Saturday, Murphy addressed the controversy.

“I’ve been a head coach for 20 years and I’ve never been through anything remotely like this,” he said. “I know this: 99 percent of the kids we’ve had at Harvard have been world-class human beings, the kind that you’d literally be proud for your daughter to marry, and that’s how I feel about the players on this team.”

According to the Harvard University Student-Athlete Handbook, which outlines Athletics Department standards for disciplinary action, the Department “has established grievance procedures to guide the athlete and ensure a fair and clear process for the involved parties.”

The Handbook states only that where such procedures are necessary, athletes should consult their team’s Athletics Department administrative liaison.

The other four players dismissed from the team since the end of April include cornerback James Velissaris ’07 and tight end Dan Lane ’07, who were suspended for the team’s season opener against Holy Cross after a scuffle with a shuttle driver in front of Currier House in April. Velissaris returned to action this week against Brown, and Lane quit the team before the season began.

In June, Thomas (no relation to linebacker Matthew D. Thomas ’08) was suspended, stripped of his captaincy, and then dismissed from the team after allegedly assaulting his ex-girlfriend in Currier House.

Charges are still pending in the case, which is set to enter the jury phase on Sept. 29. O’Hagan was suspended for the team’s first five games in early August, the last incident prior to Toci’s dismissal.

—Alex McPhillips contributed to the reporting of this story.

Staff writer Brad Hinshelwood can be reached at bhinshel@fas.harvard.edu..