Sunday, November 27, 2011

Andover High Needs To Act Now

I sent this Op/Ed to my hometown paper - The Lawrence Eagle-Tribune after reading a story that came out yesterday: 

The incident involving the Andover High School basketball team was brought to my attention on Thanksgiving by my brother who is a junior at the school. He asked me if I had heard about the “Ookie Cookie situation” involving the basketball team and what I thought of it.

After hearing the details for the first time, I didn’t know what to think. Older basketball players forcing fellow younger players to eat a semen covered Oreo cookie in a Stonehill College dorm room was enough to make me (want to) vomit up my turkey.

There is no justification for such behavior and there should be zero tolerance of it. Those committing hazing incidents, while unfortunately common these days, have to be handled swiftly and harshly.

Sadly, that has not happen at AHS.

My family has a long history with Andover High including graduating myself, father, mother, stepfather, 2 of my brothers and 11 of my aunts and uncles. I was a varsity athlete as was my stepfather and 2 of my brothers.

I’ve been in those AHS locker rooms and played briefly for AHS head coach David Fazio’s program. As a sports media and broadcasting professional for the past 15 years covering sports at every level (including high school sports for, I have seen this story before.

I’m just sorry to see it happening in my hometown.

The argument being made in defense of Coach David Fazio is that since the crime (and yes, I’m calling it a crime) occurred off school grounds and not at a school sponsored event that, according to a statement from his attorney “Mr. Fazio did everything possible to deal with this 4-month-old situation. This is not a school-related issue."
While that might resolve Coach Fazio from any legal responsibility, it does not excuse the conduct by the student-athletes and does not explain why none of them have been suspended from the basketball team by the school as of yet.
Athletic Director Chris Bergeron needs to explain when exactly he was made aware of the incident and why the players have yet to be suspended from the team. The Easton Police Department opened an investigation but so far, AHS hasn’t done anything besides issue a statement on their website claiming they are investigating the accusations.   
According to the story in the Eagle Tribune, Coach Fazio was made aware of his players’ behavior on November 11th, four months after the fact, but it’s the end of the month and we haven’t heard from AHS officials yet. Why wasn’t there something sent out to parents as soon as the victim came forward?
My mother is the parent of a current student. She has received nothing from AHS on the matter.
The student-athlete who had the courage to come forward has since transferred from Andover High due to the attack, which shows how serious this was. If accounts of Fazio informing the parents of the victim immediately are true, then I believe Coach Fazio did what needed to be done in his position. This did happen during the summer and he did not witness it obviously.
My issue is with the young men who perpetrated the act. There should be an immediate suspension of anyone suspected of being present during the hazing event. Reportedly, 9 AHS basketball players were there. All should be placed on indefinite suspension until an independent investigation can be carried out into what actually happened in that door room. 
If that causes AHS to forfeit the basketball season, so be it. If the Penn State sex abuse scandal has taught us anything is that allowing a sports program to investigate itself is just plain stupid. There is money and power involved in AHS basketball and losing an entire season could hurt the school’s bottom line.
As an alum, I don’t care.
The fact that AD Bergeron hasn’t suspended the players suspected of that attack is extremely troubling. I’m not calling for anyone to lose his or her job … yet. However, an INDEPENDENT investigation must be conducted to find out when the AD and head coach really knew about the incident and what was done with that information.
If it was handled correctly, then we move on to the players themselves.
Any player found to have participated in the hazing of the young men on the campus of Stonehill College should be off the basketball team for no less than one year. It is conduct unbecoming of a student-athlete at Andover High School. It is gross, lewd, and completely unacceptable and cannot be tolerated.
Sports are a privilege, not a right. Even though we are taught to believe that they are bigger than life, in particular at AHS, behavior such of this must be handled with an iron fist. No excuses. 
There is no grey when you are abusing a fellow student. You commit acts like ones being reported, and you lose the privilege to wear the AHS uniform. The integrity of the program is at stake.
I sincerely hope AD Bergeron does what is right and suspends the suspected athletes immediately until an independent body can investigate the accusations against its basketball players.
Right now, the lack of action makes it look like AHS has been caught trying to bury an awful story.  
Matt Perrault is a 1995 AHS graduate and former AHS student-athlete and host of “The Home Team with Matt Perrault” on WGAM “The Game” 900 AM in Nashua, NH and 1250 AM Manchester, NH

EDIT: The camp has been kicked off Stonehill College's campus for lack of protection of young people. The latest: Story is here

EDIT 2: Sadly, Chris Bergeron refused to talk to 

EDIT 3: This is from a dear friend of mine who works in college athletics. His thoughts on this story speak to exactly what AHS is failing to see:
"We often say "there is no 'I' in team."  But this is not accurate--when the team (or protection of the team, or school, or "brand") becomes more important than protecting the rights of the individual, then there should be no team.  A great team is often not comprised of the most talented individuals, but more often comprised of individuals with talent who recognize the value of each member of the team and use those talents--they understand that by improving the conditions of one, they improve the conditions of all.  When you have a team that does not recognize the values of each member (and it appears that this is the case at Andover HS) then you have a severe breakdown of the team concept."


tmn4fun said...

With all the comments on the Tribune about lawyers getting involved these kids will get nothing more then a slap on the hand. They may have to sit out a game or 2 (if that) and more then likely Andover will have them sit the Xmas tourney that won't count towards the MVC title (what life lesson is that teaching them).

I agree with you that they should all be off the team for a year and they should move the JV up to varsity etc. Anything less is shameful.

Anonymous said...

AHS, much like Penn State, it's all about image. As hard as it is to swallow, it should have been presented much sooner. Such as, the kids themselves saying no and standing up for themselves. That said, the outcome should be harsh and swift since the kids should be made and example of knowing this goes on but WILL NOT be tolerated. This is coming from a AHS student's parent myself. Do not stop pushing this issue. During my duration at AHS, I've seen many occurrences of unacceptable behavior. Due to the image and family names being tarnished, it always turned out to be swept under the carpet. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

already did. why won't you show it

Anonymous said...

This article is filled with errors/misconceptions.

1) Who/what is the "money and power" involved with AHS basketball? Andover is affluent, true, but it's a relatively small program at a PUBLIC HIGH SCHOOL school. We aren't talking Penn State or UNLV here bringing in millions of dollars. The money the program makes the school is negligible (it may even lose money).

2) You didn't literally vomit up your turkey. You meant you felt like vomiting, or wanted to vomit.

3) You really think AHS needs to send home a letter to EVERY student about something that happened far off campus, at a private camp, during the summer? Maybe they should also send a letter home to every student about kids that have an eating disorder, gets a detention, gets in a fist fight, etc.

Matt Perrault said...

) Thanks for being the grammar police.

2) I grew up in Andover. I played basketball in Andover. I played Varsity sports in Andover. My brother is a scholarship athlete OUT of Andover just last year. The town has power and money and sports matter a tremendous amount.

3)And yes - I do think every parent should receive an email when something this evil takes places between students. IT IS A CRIME.

Sorry you are too blind to see that.

Anonymous said...

Keep up the good work Matt. It's a shame more residents won't be vocal. The parents never speak up and if they do, often it's anonymous. What does that tell us about the school culture? Fear and oppression rules the town. Concern for reliation against our children keeps people mute. You are to be patted on the back for speaking up.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Bergeron will once again try to protect the athletes. My child experienced directly with an incident where my child was wrong but there were athletes all around the same situation and nothing was done to them. Fazio makes all his money on hooptown at Andover High every year. He has a lot of influence.

Anonymous said...

Matt, Everyone wants swift justice, but verifying facts can't always be done swiftly. Due process is absolutely critical in our country, but no one wants to accept that it takes time. The school can't keep kids out of tryouts on suspicion that they participated in something like this. Maybe the "perps" are denying it. What is the school to do in this case?
We try to teach kids that our country gives due process to everyone--we can't turn around and convict without process. Due process can be time-consuming and frustrating...but it's the right thing. If they're found to have done this, they'll pay a penalty. If they don't, THEN, condemn AHS's reaction.

Anonymous said...

Good one, Fazio.

Anonymous said...


I am also from Andover. I know you (you did not play varsity b-ball and Fazio would not be able to pick you out of a line-up). AHS basketball is small fry. People in the town have money, true, but the sport is not a money-maker and claiming there is some kind of intimidation/undue influence in that regard is simply untrue. Where is your evidence?

You can use ad hominem attacks and call me blind, but you fail to understand the legal/moral complexities here.

The kids involved have gone through no legal process and committed the act off the Andover campus. There would be legal implications for AHS if the students were suspended right now with no due process.

There are cases where accusers are inaccurate, etc. (Duke Lacrosse).

Also, are you advocating a morality code for HS sports for all events that happen off school grounds? Where would the line be drawn? Would it include the summer time?

The letter home comment is silly. Again, this happened off campus. If a student smokes weed in the summer, does AHS have a responsibility to send a letter to every student?

You are rushing to moralize without really thinking about the consequences of swift action. Deliberation is in order here. To be clear, if things happened as reported, the kids should go through a legal process. That hasn't happened yet.

Would a student who gets arrested during the summer be kicked off the AHS chess team?

Anonymous said...

"Due process can be time-consuming and frustrating...but it's the right thing." - Anonymous

But Anonymous, taking such a reasoned, mature approach is foreign to Matt because it doesn't fly on talk radio/op-eds, where the ears/eyeballs/clicks go to the person who can be the most bombastic and incite the mob.

Who needs legal process, or to consider complex issues like the fact that this happened off of Andover's campus away from school, etc.'

Let's fire Fazio and the AD and give the kids involved life sentences...

Anonymous said...


Was a letter sent home to every student when you and fellow student Tom Clarke got in a violent fist fight on school premises?

Was any administer fired? Were the police involved? Did you get a permanent record?

Anonymous said...

"When you have a team that does not recognize the values of each member (and it appears that this is the case at Andover HS) then you have a severe breakdown of the team concept."

AHS is responsible for the moral caliber of its athletes during the summer when they are off campus?

And this one incident defines the entire team?

The real problem is that for some odd reason people often conflate morality and athletics because of the myth we have constructed that our favorite sports stars are also great people.

These are HS kids. Being on the hoops team doesn't make them any better or any worse morally than kids on the chess team.

Fazio isn't instilling morals in them (just as the chess coach isn't), and nor should he (do you want him lecturing public school kids on abortion, economic inequality and the right to bear arms?). He is trying to teach them how to be good at b-ball. Let's keep perspective and get off our soapboxes.

If the kids did what they are accused of, by all means, they should go through the justice system. Making sweeping statements about AHS basketball for something that happened far away from the team's practice court is not logical.

Matt Perrault said...

Whoever said I didn't play for Fazio's program... ummm, I did. I played JV my sophomore year and practiced with the varsity before I quit basketball. I went to his camps and played summer league with him for 2 years.

I appreciate you following my sports career but I think I know it better than you.

Anonymous said...

Wow.. reading through these comments, I get the sense that these perpetrators will make out pretty okay. I mean just look at the intelligent level of their parents who post here. And, NO, I'm not being sarcastic. You guys are really smart.

Just one question..

If the AHS has very strong suspicion that a couple of their players are serial rapists who are still going the "legal process" but not yet have been convicted. And if this took place off school properties, based on your reasoning, these rapists should be allowed to participate in all school activities with no restrictions?
I have no legal background whatsoever but I would expect that the school would take the precaution and remove these individuals from all EXTRA-curricular activities until the legal process is complete. Unless, of course, it is AHS criminal students with smart, rich parents..

Matt Perrault said...

Here's what I was just told ... multiple suspensions coming with up to 2 expulsions ....

If true, AHS did the right thing. It was slow but they got it right in the end.

logicalmind said...

I had an interesting thought - Last week there was a fire set in at an Andover Middle School by a student. This week we have this hazing incident. The fire starting incident could have killed or injured many people if it had not been caught early on. Heres the point I want to get across this story about hazing blows up all over the local and national news people going crazy about it. But last week the incident that occurred may have affected far more people and may have been far more damaging but as I remember it there was hardly any coverage on that story.

What does this tell me - I think it tells me that a lot of people around here must have been bullied as kids and are using this story as their ticket to act as vigilantes for this cause. While I agree that hazing and bullying are not acceptable I think some have their priorities way out of whack here.

I know not all the details are out but the way I hear it is the victim was a willing participant in this game. I wonder if he might have reconsidered his decision to come forward with all of the fallout he will undoubtedly experience.

Andover77 said...

Matt, like you I am too a graduate of Andover and have four siblings still in the school system, two at AHS. I'm currently a NCAA athlete in college. I've witnessed and/or participated in "hazing" incidents surrounding athletics and frats. I'm not trying to underscore what happened here, but in comparison to a lot of other stuff that goes on. This doesn't come anywhere near the level that the media has made it out to be.
With that said, I understand your current profession isn't one where you normally look at facts and then make an objective decision. Instead, you jump to conclusions based on assumptions. I thought our schools in Andover would have taught you better. Carrying out due process in the United States can some times be a lengthy process, however, it is designed so that evidence can be gathered and evaluated before a verdict is rendered. The thought that this would be swept under the rug was also ludicrous. While, Andover, like many towns throughout the United States has looked the other way before; this investigation was carried swiftly and the guilty is going to be punished. I personally think that expulsion is an overreaction. While the victim will never be able to forget what happened, partly because of media fixation, punishments should be constructive and serve to rebuild a person. Expulsion is just an easy way to toss aside the problem and an attempt by the School Board to distance itself from the perpetrators.
I also want to address those who are attempting to compare this to Penn State. Really? Do you people have any idea how moronic you sound when you try to compare a hazing incident, to an adult, a pillar of the community raping boys in a shower. Come on, get real!

Anonymous said...

"If the AHS has very strong suspicion that a couple of their players are serial rapists who are still going the 'legal process' but not yet have been convicted. And if this took place off school properties, based on your reasoning, these rapists should be allowed to participate in all school activities with no restrictions?"

A) No one has been accused, let alone convicted of, rape.

B) No one said this was "serial" or repeated.

C) Yes, I would say it is legally problematic to restrict students from school activities before giving them due process for something that happened in the summer off campus.

Matt Perrault said...

Proud of my town. They did exactly what I said they should and went a step farther. Expelling 2 students is a bold, but necessary move.

Glad to see them take action, even if it was slower than what I would have liked.

jm186 said...

Matt, I'm gonna dissect your original post. First you're either a liar or just plain ignorant "I sent this Op/Ed to my hometown paper - The Lawrence Eagle-Tribune". For a person claiming to be from Andover, you would know that your hometown news paper was the Andover Townsman. Next, did you really want to vomit up your turkey? I highly doubt it. Now it starts to get good, "I’ve been in those AHS locker rooms and played briefly for AHS head coach David Fazio’s program." Well if you graduated in 1995 and only played JV your sophomore year you haven't been in the lockerrooms for over 17 years. Also, you probably never walked into the varsity lockerroom, don't try to play it off as if you were buddy buddy with Fazio or anyone else. We all know that, that is a lie.

Your arrogance begins to show when you question why the administration hadn't taken action against the student athletes. You articulate that the process was not carried out "swiftly". The Eagle Tribune reports that the school was notified on Nov. 11, and a decision was made some 19 days later. Instead of attacking the school for its slow response...I'll attack you and the rest of the media. Its the medias job to find a story, getting the scoop. Furthermore, it appears that you believe that Fazio had knowledge of the "crime" before the 11th. If he knew, I find it hard to believe that no one in the media knew. Andover isn't a very tight lipped community after-all.

Your ego got to you at with your last reply "Proud of my town. They did exactly what I said they should". Actually, you said "All should be placed on indefinite suspension until an independent investigation can be carried out into what actually happened in that door room". APS acted based on an internal investigation so don't try to claim credit.

I'll end on this note. It is apparent your hostility is reflected directly based on your own experiences at AHS, not on facts of this case or the law. It's sad when the media attempts to assert its own opinions into a story. It makes it difficult to tell fact from mere conjecture.

One last, last thought, I'm going to add just one more thought. Matt as a member of the "media" your a disgrace to all those who work everyday to tell the whole story. Objective journalism is the key to a well informed society.

Anonymous said...

"A) No one has been accused, let alone convicted of, rape.

B) No one said this was "serial" or repeated.

C) Yes, I would say it is legally problematic to restrict students from school activities before giving them due process for something that happened in the summer off campus."
A. I believe you are wrong here. If no one has been accused then why was the school and police involved? I admit I do not know all the facts but what you said here does not make sense.

B. That was a example. I imagine this incident can potentially affect the psychology of a male in a similar fashion to a female getting rape. Maybe not to that exactly degree but can be pretty close. If you have a relatively psychologically weak son (not his own fault as children develop at different pace) who is being forced to eat this cookie, wouldn't you think this could have a profoundly negative impact on his psychological development?

C. I never said to kick the perpetrators out of school. I said to restrict them from EXTRA-curicular activities. I think it is totally reasonable measure to take in preventing potential escalations of various different type. Most importantly, to protect the kids on the team who have not yet develop as strong a personality as we hope.

judith hilton coburn said...

i don't care if there are worse incidents, and what recourse has or has not been taken in other areas. this is a sex crime and should be treated accordingly. don't care about suspensions, expulsions, or playtime. it's a form of sexual assault to those forced to act. time to get rid of the problem. this is my alma mater, my father's alma mater and to have these young adults subjected to this crime at school sports camps? Inexcusable. protect the victims, not the perpetrators.

Anonymous said...

Charges ay be filed in the Cincy-Xavier fight. Were charges filed when Matt P. got in a violet fight on school premises in HS? Always easier to moralize about others' misdeeds.

jm186 said...

Don't think any charges were filed in that case anon. Definitely should have been....but, well, you know this is Andover, justice can never be attained.