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Air Force Academy athletes suspended from team amid widening probe

October 25, 2017 Updated: October 26, 2017 at 6:13 am
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The Air Force Academy chapel Wednesday, March 22, 2017 (Mark Reis, The Gazette)

A widening probe into misconduct by the Air Force Academy's conference champion lacrosse team has led to the suspension of players and coaches, the school announced Tuesday.

What the team members did wrong hasn't been disclosed, but the academy's rare announcement of the suspensions shows it is a matter that leaders view seriously.

"Some members of the team and coaches have been put into an inactive status and will not participate in group lacrosse activities or intercollegiate competition, until further notice," academy spokesman Lt. Col. Allen Herritage said. "These actions are effective today and may be revisited as the investigation progresses."

The colonel said the academy has no timetable for when it will wrap up its investigation into the team or when it would announce what the athletes may have done.

Several sources have said the probe was the result of hazing, but specifics of what occurred haven't been available.

"Because that investigation is ongoing, I cannot disclose any further information," Herritage said.

With more than 50 members, the lacrosse squad is one of the academy's larger teams. It has a record that other academy teams would envy, with two straight appearances in the NCAA tournament.

The 2017 squad was knocked out of tournament play by the University of Denver, finishing with a 12-6 record. The team also earned its second-straight conference title.

The investigation into the team comes after academy leaders heaped praise on the school's athletic department for changing its ways after years of scandals involving athletes.

A 2014 Gazette investigation revealed misconduct by academy athletes, including drug use, binge drinking and sexual assault. The school launched an internal investigation and redoubled efforts to ensure it was recruiting players who would avoid trouble.

The school also began training programs to help athletes avoid strife.

Last summer, then-Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson said the academy had put its athlete-conduct woes behind it. "Now they are our shining stars," she said in July.

The investigation also comes after the school's 4,000 cadets heard a stern speech from new superintendent Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria last month after racist graffiti was found on note boards at the academy's preparatory school.

"If you demean someone in any way, you need to get out," he told the cadets.

Herritage sounded a similar tone.

"What I can say is that the Air Force Academy holds its cadets, staff and faculty to the highest standards of conduct, because our nation demands it of us and it's the right thing to do," he said. "Taking care of each other is one of our top priorities, and we go to great lengths to provide a culture rooted in the core principles of human dignity and respect."

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Contact Tom Roeder: 636-0240

Twitter: @xroederx

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