Mater Dei must make changes amid hazing football culture

Plaster on a wall of the Mater Dei High School football locker rooms are the words “Pride Poise Courage”.

What is happening under this sign is shameful, brutal and cowardly.

Two players prepare to fight. The biggest player weighs 235 pounds. He is smiling. The smallest player weighs 175 pounds. He frowns.

The smaller player clearly doesn’t want to be here, but he has no choice. He is new to the nationally renowned Monarch football team and needs to prove himself. The smaller player must engage the larger player in a hazing drill called “Bodies”, in which two players hit each other in the torso until one of them falls.

Their February 4 fight was captured in two spooky videos watched by the Los Angeles Times, the disturbing footage being the centerpiece of a lawsuit brought by the smaller player’s family last week against Mater Dei and the Roman Catholic Diocese of ‘Orange.

“Ready… three, two, one… go for it!” A voice shouts, and they start to fight.

This is Mater Dei’s version of “Fight Club”, only it is not a fair fight.

The smaller player, shirtless and wearing a cross around his neck, splits, misses and slips. The bigger player starts charging and hammering.

About halfway through the nearly one-minute fight, the bigger player throws the smaller one to the ground. The smaller player bounces and the bigger player moves to finish him off.

The bigger player hits the smaller one with a forehand to the face in a blow so hard you can hear it. Slap! Then he hits him with a left in the face. Slap!

The smaller player stops fighting and stays still, holding his head as blood trickles around his eyes and…Slap! …the bigger player lands a scarier one up to the head. A punch.

“Chill, chill, chill,” shouts a voice.

“Alright, it’s over,” shouts another voice.

“Oh my God,” shouts a third voice.

The smaller player faces his executioner with blood on his face and a sway in his step. The unwritten rules of the hazing drill had been broken, punches had been thrown over the shoulder and the smaller player couldn’t understand.

In addition to the gashes on both eyes, he would eventually be diagnosed with traumatic brain injury and a broken nose which required surgery.

” What are you doing ? The smaller player yells at the bigger player. “They were bodies! “

It is indeed such a common ritual with rules so well understood, among the handful of players in the locker room during the fight, two of them lazily look at their phones, and others sit quietly. What’s going on in the middle of the room is the kind of unattached violence that would cause a crowd of boxers to stomp, but until that last punch there was no noise, no reaction, and certainly no one. ‘was trying to break it.

This is not a schoolyard showdown after class at the back of a dark playground. It is a sanctioned fight in the middle of a midday school in a room adjacent to the office of longtime football coach Bruce Rollinson.

According to the lawsuit, which refers to the smaller player as player one, it is about the culture of Mater Dei football.

Watching the videos, it’s hard to disagree. They only last 55 seconds, but it feels like an eternity. They are shocking in their raw reality. They are disturbing in their wild images and sickening sounds. They are painful to watch, hard to digest, the harshest of hard evidence.

Reading the trial evidence as well as the documented facts of the incident, it’s hard to understand how Rollinson and longtime principal Frances Clare still have their jobs.

Player one has not only been beaten, but he has also suffered from an obvious cover-up attempt that makes Mater Dei’s football look like a gang of second-rate bullies.

“Mater Dei has a culture of victory at all costs and a culture of cover-up at all costs,” said Michael Reck, one of the attorneys for Player One. “They treat their children like commodities.”

The teammates initially told player one not to “snitch”, but when school officials figured out what had happened, they apparently refused to openly acknowledge the reason for the injuries, and their consequences. parents were not called for 90 minutes.

When his father finally spoke to Rollinson the next day, the coach called the incident a snap, saying, “If I had $ 100 every time these kids played, ‘Bodies’ or ‘Slappies’, I would be a millionaire.

Rollinson is also accused of telling player one’s father that he couldn’t discipline player two because his father was an influential junior football coach who had worked with several players at Mater Dei.

But the school administered a punishment. In a move as outrageous as any punching, the school actually suspended player one for fighting, a suspension that was ultimately rescinded.

Meanwhile, Player One’s father’s efforts to meet Clare have been stalled.

“To date, Principal Clare has never responded to the concerns raised by the plaintiff’s parents, choosing instead to be evasive and sidetracked,” according to the complaint.

Player One’s family were also told by Mater Dei officials that there was no video of the fight, which turned out to be false and represented yet another cover-up attempt.

Mater Dei also initially refused to cooperate with a local police investigation into the brawl, and, according to the Southern California News Group, did not meet with the Santa Ana Police Department until nearly three months after the incident. Even then, he did not admit any knowledge of the fight and, despite what he initially told Player One’s father, Rollinson told police he had “no knowledge of the bodies, nor any form of hazing ”.

While the Santa Ana Police Department recommended filing a battery complaint against player two, according to the Southern California News Group, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office chose not to press charges because they viewed the fight as a mutual fight.

Mater Dei’s players pose for photos after defeating Servite in the CIF South Section Division 1 Championship game on Friday.

(Kyusung Gong / For the Times)

Player 1 was transferred shortly after the fight but, as a final insult, Mater Dei imposed a disciplinary restriction on his record so he could not play sports at his new school. The situation was eventually resolved, but the message was clear.

You are not kidding with Mater Dei football.

When you recognize that you are the victim of Monarch hazing, the hazing is just beginning.

The program’s inability to protect its players is reprehensible, but even worse, its apparent refusal to take responsibility when a player’s safety is compromised.

“They didn’t do the right thing, even after the fact,” said Brian L. Williams, another lawyer for the plaintiff. “They surrounded the cars and they protected the brand.”

The school’s motto is Honor, Glory and Love, but when it comes to the football team, it’s apparently Glory, Glory and Glory. Those eight CIF titles and four domestic titles in Rollinson’s 33-year-old apparently don’t come cheap.

Player 1 and his family allege negligence, a violation of the California Criminal Code on hazing, failure to properly protect the player and emotional distress. They seek damages that will be determined during a trial as well as medical, legal, interest and any other relief the court deems appropriate.

But there is a bigger picture here.

You have to wonder, over the past three decades, how many other Mater Dei athletes have been injured in sanctioned locker room fights, but never reported it because they didn’t want to “snitch?” “

You also have to ask yourself, if Rollinson is ignoring such dangerous activities just steps from his desk, what else is he ignoring? What other hazing activities are taking place? As a result of the trial, this newspaper has already received different types of Mater Dei hazing videos. How many more are there?

Finally, you must be wondering if the school goes to so much trouble to hide a fight in the locker room between two anonymous children, what else are they hiding? What other rules do they break?

These are questions for the Diocese of Orange, which should immediately order an independent investigation into an institution that so famously represents 1.6 million Catholics in 57 parishes and centers. The Catholic Church doesn’t have a great history to look inward, sure, but this stain has just become very public and will only get bigger.

Rollinson must be held responsible for hazing, a tradition that usually results in the dismissal of a coach. Clare must be held responsible for the cover-up, which, as usual, is just as serious as the incident.

Mater Dei has said little since the complaint was filed.

“We are not commenting on the story because it is about minors and there is an ongoing litigation,” said Allison Bergeron, executive director of communications for Mater Dei.

Father Walter E. Jenkins, President of Mater Dei, wrote an open letter to the Mater Dei community asking, “Faith and trust as we move through the process. “

At the present time, it is difficult to have faith or confidence in an institution that has strayed so far from its intended mission.

Perhaps Mater Dei’s most compelling comment came from Rollinson himself when asked, as the monarchs beat Servite on Friday night, to put the recent storm clouds caused by prosecution.

“I just won a CIF championship,” he said. “It doesn’t get any better than that.”

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