Four football players at Oklahoma Union High School were expelled last week amid allegations of hazing, according to Tulsa’s KOTV.
This is at least the third school this month to dole out strict punishment over inappropriate conduct between football teammates. A Pennsylvania school also suspended soccer players and a coach over alleged hazing.
Oklahoma Union Public Schools Superintendent Kevin Stacy did not give any details beyond saying that the alleged hazing took place in the locker room, no one was physically injured and that the police are investigating.
When Stacy spoke with head coach Rich Giesen, the coach said he did not witness anything inappropriate or hear of hazing. This is the second time in five years that Giesen has been involved in this type of situation, leaving questions over how much he supervises his players.
Giesen has been coaching since 1984, taking his first head coaching role at Field Kindley High School in Coffeyville, Kan., located about eight miles from Oklahoma Union, in 2000. He also coached track and field there.
In November 2009, a group of players on the FKHS team were accused of inappropriate conduct in the locker room. Giesen suspended five of the players from a playoff game, and he and an assistant coach were later fired.
Two years later, he was hired by a school in Colorado Springs, Colo., but fired less than 72 hours later because the school learned of the 2009 incident. At that point, Giesen told a newspaper that the situation had been misunderstood and poorly reported, that it was just “some guys horsing around in the locker room” and that juniors and seniors told him they were “mooning each other, grabbing each other.” He said reports that players put their butts in each others faces were false, that “no parents ever complained,” and that no younger players were targeted. He added that he believed he was caught in the crossfire of district politics.
Superintendent Stacy says he heard about the earlier incident only last week, as he was hearing about the alleged hazing at Oklahoma Union. Whether Giesen is negligent or allows inappropriate conduct is something only players on his teams can know. More than 100 parents came out to support him at a board meeting before he was fired in Kansas.
The scene sounds similar to what took place in Sayreville, N.J., over the past few weeks, as parents and players supported the football coaches even after seven players were arrested in connection to alleged hazing. The supporters argued that the coaches were not at fault.
But by indefinitely suspending the Sayreville coaches and asking Giesen to resign, administrators at both schools are making a clear statement that coaches are responsible for creating and maintaining a safe atmosphere for all players; what was once seen as "horsing around" is no longer acceptable behavior.
“I'm not saying he should have known it was going on, but maybe had protocols in place that it wouldn't have happened,” Stacy said.
Though he will no longer be coaching, Giesen will continue teaching math in the district.