McGill University has cancelled the remainder of its football season after an internal investigation confirmed that rookies on the team were subjected to a nude hazing ritual in which they were gagged, placed in a "degrading" position, and prodded with a broomstick.
In a toughly worded and far-reaching report released yesterday, McGill says it will mete out disciplinary sanctions and impose two years of community service on all staff and players with the McGill Redmen in response to the hazing.
The university's forceful reaction underscored the damage left by the scandal on one of Canada's top universities, which prides itself on an Ivy League-style reputation that lures students from the United States and around the world.
The scandal also gave a black eye to a storied team, the oldest university football team in Canada and one of the oldest in North America.
"This behaviour of the football team has stained the reputation of the McGill Redmen, McGill athletics, and the university," according to the report.
"Positive actions will be taken to repair that damage."
The university's investigation largely corroborates details of a complaint filed by an 18-year-old football rookie from Toronto, who refused to take part in the initiation and complained. The student quit McGill and returned to Toronto.
The university says that on Aug. 27, the Redmen's Rookie Night, a hazing ritual was organized by veteran players that involved a large majority of team members.
The 18-year-old says recruits were taken to a darkened squash court on campus. There, the recruit says he was forced on his hands and knees, had a dog chew toy put in his mouth, then was anally prodded with a broomstick. In an interview with The Globe and Mail, the rookie was clear that he insisted on keeping on his boxer shorts and the broomstick did not cause penetration. That fact was confirmed by McGill, which said that no player was sodomized.
But the university did say that the "serious hazing" incident involved nudity, threats, and "touching in inappropriate manners with a broomstick." Hazing violated McGill policies and its code of student conduct, it said.
"It was puerile behaviour," interim provost Anthony Masi said in an interview.
"Hazing is based on the humiliation and disrespect of others. It has no place at McGill. It will not be tolerated in any form. No excuses. No exceptions."
In tone and reach, McGill's response differed from its first reaction to the hazing scandal. Initially, the 18-year-old complainant's family said the team coaching staff didn't address his grievances. Head coach Chuck McMann suspended one Redmen player indefinitely and five others for a single game.
In its response yesterday, McGill said that because so many team members took part in the hazing, the whole team was being held responsible. And it says that any team that takes part in hazing in the future will be automatically suspended for the entire season, and an individual player would be stripped of his athletic awards.
The university did not name those who faced disciplinary sanctions, but Prof. Masi said they included both players and team staff.
The university commended the 18-year-old's courage for going public with his complaint. The teenager's father, a former CFL player, said yesterday that the family has decided not to comment on McGill's findings.
The university's cancellation of the Redmen's season will have a more symbolic than real impact. The Redmen have performed poorly this season and have already been eliminated from the Quebec University Football League playoffs. They have only two games left in their regular season, the next one this Saturday.
Mr. McMann, the head coach, acknowledged yesterday that his players' hazing went too far, but he was disappointed with the university's punishment.
"I feel very upset for the players," he said when reached at his office. "I understand where the university is coming from. They need to make a strong statement. But I don't like it. I think the players have been punished enough."
Team quarterback Matt Connell also expressed anger over the findings, saying the hazing ritual dates back years, and all the rookies except the complainant went along with it.
"It happened to me. It's a quick part of initiation," he said, scoffing at the revelations of nudity.
"It's football. You're naked together 24-7 in the locker room," Mr. Connell said. "Everyone's naked together all day."
Football has deep roots at McGill. The Redmen football club was created in 1872, and is often recognized for a groundbreaking match against Harvard in 1874, which was the first game to bring North American-style rules to football.