University of New Mexico women’s soccer head coach Kit Vela has been suspended for one week without pay and every member of the team – excluding the seven true freshman who were hazed in a team initiation stunt Sunday – will be suspended for one game, athletic director Paul Krebs said Friday.
University policy dictates that Vela has 10 days to appeal. Krebs said Vela would not, “as of now.”
The school released a statement that said beginning Monday, Vela cannot have contact with her team.
“As the leader of this program, I take full responsibility for the actions of the members of our team,” Vela said. “I accept the consequences of our team’s mistakes. We intend to learn from this and use our abilities and our resources to teach others.”
Krebs said assistant coaches Jorge Vela, Kit’s husband, and Krista Foo will receive letters of reprimand from the school.
“We’re trying to make closure to the discipline,” Krebs said. “Obviously, you don’t make a statement and everything heals. … All the players have already missed a game, but we’re going to require all the players, except the true freshman, to sit out another game.
“We’ll do it much like professional soccer, where they sit five, six or seven at a time. But they have to do it in the next two weeks. It will have to be staggered so we can field a team.”
Sunday’s hazing resulted in two players being taken to the hospital because of excessive alcohol consumption. On Monday, twin sisters Danielle and Devin Scelsi quit the team, withdrew from school and returned to their home in Orange County, Calif.
Krebs said the freshman players were taken to a number of locations and ended up at a big party Sunday. He said they weren’t forced to consume alcohol, but did so because of “peer pressure.”
He said they were also sprayed with water and a substance he compared to windshield washer fluid, and the girls were forced to changes outfits, leaving them in just their bras and panties at some time in the evening.
A UNM investigation started on Monday. On Tuesday, Krebs announced the team’s season opener at Texas Tech – which was scheduled for Friday – was canceled.
The Lobos are now scheduled to open the season Sept. 5 against Marquette in the Colorado College Invitational in Colorado Springs. UNM’s home opener is Sept. 12 against Loyola-Chicago.
Rob Burford, from the Dean of Students Office, and Breda Bova, the recently retired faculty representative and professor in the college of education, conducted the investigation and interviewed every member of the team by Wednesday, a number of them twice.
“One of the mitigating things to me is I’ve talked to five parents of true freshmen to get their perspective of the situation,” Krebs said on Friday. “That is carrying some weight with me. I’m not going to divulge what we said.”
Krebs says that there are 22 players on the roster who will be suspended. The Lobos had nine true freshmen before the Scelsi sisters quit.
The Scelsis and their mother Dawn Scelsi have not returned messages from the Journal seeking comment.
On Thursday, Angela Rubio and Wayne Zellner, parents of two of the freshmen who were victims of the hazing, told the Journal they didn’t believe anything was done maliciously to their daughters by other team members.
Rubio, whose daughter Isabella Jimenez was a roommate of the Scelsi twins, stayed with Devin and teammate Alyssa Martinez in the hospital from midnight until they were released at 6 a.m. on Monday.
She said she received a phone call from Dawn Scelsi, who asked her to check on her daughters at their apartment, fearing one was extremely ill from alcohol consumption.
On Sunday night, according to a UNM police report, two officers were dispatched to the “Student Residence Center Dormitory on campus in reference to a female who was highly intoxicated.”
Reporting officer D.J. Romero said he met with 18-year-old Danielle Scelsi, who said her sister Devin was “having trouble breathing” and “appeared to be vomiting.”
Romero’s report said he also met with 18-year-old Martinez in the same apartment, and she “appeared to be highly intoxicated and was having difficulty standing without assistance.”
Romero said he immediately requested AFD Rescue and Albuquerque Ambulance to respond, and Devin and Martinez were transported to the hospital.
Danielle reported that all girls “were all members of the UNM women’s soccer team, and they had participated in some kind of initiation event with other members of the soccer team that included alcohol,” per the police report.
On Monday and Tuesday, KOB-TV reported that, in addition to the girls being forced to consume large amounts of alcohol, they were forced to strip naked and were sprayed with urine.
Krebs says reports of nudity and urine being thrown on the players were false, and every girl interviewed on the team – with the exception of one of the Scelsi twins – “categorically” denied the report.
Krebs met with four team captains and an additional player Friday, and one of the results was, “They presented very interesting program about hazing. It really intrigued me. I think they’re really on to something, and they’re going to get back to me on what they’re going to do.”
Vela signed a two-year contract in July 2013 for $75,750 annually. It expires next June.
It is the second major embarrassment for Lobo women’s soccer in her tenure, which began in 2001. In 2009, Lobo Elizabeth Lambert was suspended indefinitely after rough play that included pulling an opposing player down by her ponytail in a Mountain West Conference tournament loss to BYU.
Lambert, a junior in 2009, was reinstated after serving a two-game suspension to begin the 2010 season.