Maine to probe softball team photos

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BANGOR (AP) – The University of Maine is investigating online photos taken last year showing members of the Maine softball team apparently drinking alcohol and making lewd gestures while dressed in outrageous costumes.

Athletic Director Black James characterized the photos as a “potential hazing-type situation.” The online photo album is labeled on a Web site as a “rookie party” and shows then-freshmen players participating in some of the photos with seniors looking on.

“We’ll be investigating what is going on in the photos and meeting with those involved to really determine what happened and why the situation occurred,” James said.

The photos came to light after the Bangor Daily News was provided an Internet link to photos that appear on the Web site www.ncaahazing.com, which is not affiliated with the NCAA. The newspaper reported that the photos, which were uploaded in March 2006, show team members apparently drinking alcohol, engaged in cupcake fights, dancing, mugging for the camera and making lewd gestures.

James said he is particularly concerned because other photos from a similar party were posted in 2005 to the same Web site, which tracks hazing incidents at universities and colleges nationwide.

Stacey Sullivan, the softball head coach and a 1999 Maine graduate, said she was “shocked” and “embarrassed” when she saw the photos Friday morning.

“In terms of the acts depicted in the photos, it shows our students in a questionable manner that they should be embarrassed about,” Sullivan told the newspaper from North Carolina, where she was on a recruiting trip. “We will take great strides in regaining our reputation and the integrity of our program.”

There is no timeline for when the university will finish its investigation, James said. This will be at least the third such investigation of potential hazing James will have conducted since he became athletic director in May 2006.

The guidelines set down in the University of Maine Student-Athlete Code of Conduct and University of Maine Code of Conduct will determine the punishment, if any, of those involved in the party, James said.

Information from: Bangor Daily News, http://www.bangornews.com

AP-ES-07-21-07 1231EDT

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