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'It was Hazing,' Says Fired Coach

An assistant football coach at Milford High says he was unjustly terminated for reporting an incident of what he called 'hazing' among football players in the boys' locker room.

An assistant football coach who was fired this month after reporting what he described as hazing among players in the locker room is accusing of making him a scapegoat.

Pat Cornelius said Thursday he was told he was being fired as an assistant coach on Oct. 14, the same day he said he saw a senior player physically intimidating a freshman player, in a bathroom stall in the boys' locker room at the high school.

What he witnessed was not “rough-housing,” he said, referring to the term used by Superintendent of Schools Robert Tremblay.

“Honestly, it was hazing,” Cornelius said.

Cornelius, who said he to the athletic director, said he saw perhaps 25 or 30 freshmen players, all lined up, when he entered the locker room. The boys were all facing a stall. When Cornelius approached, and said “What’s going on?” the stall door opened and a freshman player emerged.

"He had a stunned look on his face," Cornelius said.

Inside the stall was a senior member of the football team, sitting on the toilet, Cornelius said. The assistant coach said the freshman was fully clothed, but the other player had “his pants down.” The activity did not appear sexual, he said, but instead it looked as if the freshman had been forced to watch the other player go to the bathroom.

“I didn’t know what it was. I lost it,” said Cornelius, an assistant coach for the past four years.

"You imagine the kid that was in there, how humiliated he was. . . . being kept against his will."

Cornelius said he yelled at all of the team members, and swore as well. By that point, all of the boys were near their lockers. “I said, I can’t believe this went on. Forget about football. Forget the game. You big tough guys picking on these little freshmen kids.”

At one point, he said, he kicked over a trash can. "I was just so angry."

After he started yelling, another assistant coach came into the area. Cornelius said he was fired later in the practice, after school officials spoke with the two students who initiated the incident. At the time, Cornelius said, he had only seen one senior involved.

The school administration would later punish two of the varsity football players who allegedly participated in the incident; the players were temporarily suspended from game play.

The Milford Schools superintendent, Robert Tremblay, has described the incident as inappropriate “rough-housing.”

Tremblay would not identify the students involved, citing student privacy law. The student who was the object of the two players' actions was not injured, he said Wednesday night.

"It is not believed to be a matter of hazing," he said. "There was some rough-housing in a locker room." The Oct. 14 incident was investigated by the school administration, Tremblay said, and is not a police matter. He would not elaborate on the nature of the incident.

Milford Police Chief Thomas O'Loughlin said Thursday information about the incident was referred to his department by school officials, but after he reviewed the state law on hazing, he determined the incident at the high school did not rise to that level.

As a criminal act, hazing means a "conduct or method of initiation" into a student organization that "willfully or recklessly endangers the physical or mental health of any student or other person," he said. Examples of such conduct can include "whipping, beating, branding, forced calisthenics, exposure to the weather" and other such treatment that endangers health or safety.

The boys were all members of a team, O'Loughlin said. As freshmen, the younger players were assigned to a different team, one that shared a locker room with the varsity players.

"Doing stupid things doesn't necessarily equate to hazing," O'Loughlin said. "Is it stupid? Is it gross? Yes. Is it brutal treatment" . . . from the standpoint of something that "could lead to death? I don't think it rises to that level."

Tremblay acknowledged the assistant coach who witnessed the incident was dismissed from his at-will position, but said it was because he reacted inappropriately in the manner in which he "yelled" at the players. The superintendent did not offer details about what the assistant coach did or said, other than to say: "It was out of line."

Jim Wittorf, an attorney who is advising Cornelius, said beyond being "a little passionate" in his language, the assistant coach did nothing wrong. He never touched or threatened any of the students, Wittorf said. "If they fired every coach in Massachusetts for using the F-word, there would be a lot of positions open."

The two players who initiated the incident were disciplined in terms of their athletic play. But Tremblay said he was not certain whether the students also were disciplined at school, including through a suspension. That decision was made by Principal Mike Tempesta, who referred questions on the issue Wednesday to the superintendent.

The two players were prevented from playing in several games, Tremblay said, and could not dress for the games.

Cornelius, who said he plans to hire an attorney, said the players should have been prevented from playing for the rest of the year. He also would not identify the players.

Cornelius feels he was unjustly fired. "They're making me out to be the scapegoat for something they want to cover up."

Cornelius also is the head coach of track, a position he assumes he's also lost. The principal, he said, told him he could stay on as assistant coach if he would agree to attend counseling. But in offering that, Cornelius said, the system was trying to say he was at fault in the incident. He said he was told, 'The kids are afraid to be around me.'

"Who? The kids who I told what they did?"

Ray Fellows October 30, 2011 at 04:21 PM
Something is missing from this story because it doesnt make any sense. Both of my boys played track and football for Pat and he is a great coach AND a good guy. Does anybody remember the tirades Charlie, Goose and Richie have want off on? I remember the incident on the hockey team but he put his hands on a kid! I am wondering who the senior was. That might shine a light on this incident. I believe that all punishment should be equal, REGARDLESS of who their family is. That being said, I wasn't their but knowing the coach, this doesn't make sense to me.
David Nolta October 30, 2011 at 05:02 PM
I think it is fascinating to follow this non-story. A bunch of kids (remember, they are underage, they play football together, they are in a locker room) are up to what, from the closest I have seen to a credible account, amounts at worst to foolish and reckless behavior of the sort that young people often perpetrate--it is in fact part of the learning experience, like it or not--and they are yelled at by their coach--a coach who, from the posts on this blog, clearly has his admirers and his detractors--and then the students accused of causing the situation are punished as the authorities, TO WHOM THEY ARE ANSWERABLE at the school, see fit. No criminal activity took place. The coach was fired--I still don't get that--and the saddest thing of all is that everybody seems to blame the kids, generically, who, by association, are made to feel responsible for all the silliness (the rumors, the accusations against the police and against local officials who may or may not be related to team players past and present, etc.) still being generated by "adults". It's time to let this go, for the sake of the young people. And let the coach return, or explain why he can't.
Ray Fellows October 30, 2011 at 05:56 PM
I have now talked to three kids who were actually their because I want to know what happened. All three independently told me the same story. The kid did not get "pushed" into the stall. The younger kids were told they had to wipe the butts of the seniors. Juvenile behavior but it doesnt qualify as hazing. I do think it violates the no bullying policy the state instituted and it seems the students were disciplined appropriately. I assume the school was covering themselves legally with asking coach to do counseling but I understand why he would refuse. I think the firing was a little excessive but that's what lawyers are for.
MilfordMomof3 October 30, 2011 at 07:48 PM
I'm curious to know how the freshman boy that was in the stall with the senior feels? Does he feel that what he was subjected to was rough housing or bullying, was he happy to be in that stall or feeling pressured to be there? Do you think he was first in line of all the freshman that were lined up excited to participate in this playful fun and coach came in and ruined it? Does anyone know how he feels today and how those that didn’t get to go into that stall feel? Just curious.
fed up October 30, 2011 at 09:10 PM
Chief, were the reports administered independently by officers or were they administered to the players by coaches, AD or school admins? How long after the 14th? Did all coaches (including Cornelius) submit their statements? Did freshmen complete statements? How many student statements do you have and how many were from freshmen?
Thomas OLoughlin October 30, 2011 at 09:47 PM
I must say, I'm exhausted by the independent investigations, rumors, innuendo, past recollection, past grievances with others and so-called wrongdoings (alleged "bullying", eintercom many years ago, that people want to introduce into the present situation and allegations despite the fact that these allegations were not presented to the Police Departmdnt contemporaneous with the present event. So, respectfully, I am done with any commentary on this issue and I will leave you to speculate and elaborate as you choose. All the best. Tom OLoughlin, Chief of Police
Concerned parent October 30, 2011 at 10:05 PM
If these rumors are true these boys need to come forward and report it so the proper actions can be taken. It's quite the imagination if these "rumors" are just that!!
steve October 30, 2011 at 10:17 PM
Why are the issues of hazing and wrongful termination being inappropriately linked? Whether or not the kids involved were punished sufficiently is a distinct matter from the reaction of the coach. Hazing would not provide him greater license to go "over the top". Did he act in a way that an educator should act in taking corrective action? All indications would say- He didn't. What possible motive would the administration have for a cover-up? These conspiracy theories seem, on the surface, ridiculous. Why are we slandering the only people in this story who did nothing wrong that day?
Thomas OLoughlin October 30, 2011 at 10:46 PM
Fed Up, I received your message after my last post so I will respond by saying that appropriate to the circumstances the AdmInistration of the School Department conducted an inquiry and received numerous reports from a variety of students (based upon graduating class) and several coaches. I received a pdf file totaling 16 pages of statements. We evaluated this information and applied it to the law and made our determination. Respectfully, I believe that the answers to the remainder of your questions are within the purview of the School Department. Tom OLoughlin, Chief of Police
Pat Smith October 30, 2011 at 11:12 PM
Chief O'Loughlin - First, I find it commendable that you are responding to people on this thread. I have heard good things about you but have never met you in person - I think we are lucky to have you as a chief. That being said....I have to wonder...you have repeated several times here what are NOT the facts. That still does not tell me what ARE the facts. I do not want to rush to judgment but there are some things I cannot reconcile. Some have nothing to do with you, chief, but as your comments are the ones that interest me the most, I'm directing my comments to you. First, you told The Patch reporter the incident in question was "stupid" and "gross." But why? Maybe you just weren't asked that follow up question, or, maybe you were and you just cannot say for reasons that are unclear to me. What was "gross?" And if you can't elaborate, why say anything at all? Unrelated to your comments, chief, is a thought I've had for a couple of days now while reading all of these comments. I'm just surprised that none of the students involved have come forward to post, even anonymously. Hey, maybe they have and they're pretending to be someone else. But I would think that if I were one of the kids in the know, one of the kids there, and people were blowing this all out of proportion, I would come on here and say something. Seems there were enough kids involved that I could still be anonymous. Similarly I would feel compelled to confirm the facts. BUt maybe thats because I'm an adult.
Pat Smith October 30, 2011 at 11:17 PM
I got cutoff. Anyhoo, I'm finding this subject all very interesting, regardless of whether freshies were forced to wipe seniors' behinds or not. Everyone in the community is talking about it. It can't be as complicated as some are making it, can it? I don't really buy the whole "cover-up" angle because that never works out for anyone. I'm babbling now, and I probably lost my chance for you to respond chief, as you said you were done. So, anyone else here is welcome to share if they've been thinking the same things in regard to what has or has not been said here. If everything truly has been blown out of proportion, it seems that a few comments from people directly involved could clear it right up.
SomeoneOrSomething October 30, 2011 at 11:34 PM
I hope these discussions remain peaceful. :)
SomeoneOrSomething October 30, 2011 at 11:38 PM
Hi Jim, I appreciate your new ways of discussion. :)
Thomas OLoughlin October 30, 2011 at 11:52 PM
Pat, I really have to enc this because the discussion simply continues to swirl in circles with the latest rumor being introduced. To clarify, my comments that this was "gross" is related to the facts of a young person being pushed into a bathroom stall while it is being urtilized by another person, nothing more and nothing less. As to the "stupidity" of the reported circumstances, I think the last statement rxplaims that as well. That is the full explanation of my comments as stated within this article. Tom OLoughlin, Chief of Police
Varsity fbdad October 31, 2011 at 12:03 AM
Why dont you ask any of the kids about Cornelius, they unanimously dislike him. and due to his recent actions and making this a bigger deal than it is the boys tore up a petition to get him reinstated as asst. because they are all disgraced at what he has done and how childish and self centered he is acting
SomeoneOrSomething October 31, 2011 at 12:12 AM
Shouldn't you request an investigation? Demands do not accomplish much.
David Nolta October 31, 2011 at 12:28 AM
It's time to let it go... Massachusetts is notorious for witch hunts. These are kids. Even the most innocent are at risk of being hurt at this point. No one has been accused of criminal behavior. Let it go.
Varsity fbdad October 31, 2011 at 02:08 AM
I agree with (David) it is time to let this one go. Gone on long enough.
Varsity fbdad October 31, 2011 at 02:10 AM
Thank You Chied O'loughlin for all your input and help with this.
SomeoneOrSomething October 31, 2011 at 02:16 AM
John Larrabee "they should change the name of the football team to the Milford Rumpswabs. What do you think?" -_-
fed up October 31, 2011 at 03:22 AM
Thank you for asking them... it's good to know there is validity in Cornelius' version. @Steve, Cornelius has been with the athletic dept. for 4 years and with this incident, I learn of him now. As Piergustavo said, the jobs are yearly at-will positions. So for 3+ years he was A-OK and re-hired. There is support for what he did. Yeah he dropped some colorful language, kicked over a trash can or two for effect or out of frustration... so be it. Given what he saw and was told, I'm glad he didn't take the PC route. The 2 Seniors did a disgusting thing... they got off easy.
fed up October 31, 2011 at 01:55 PM
Oh Varsity fbdad, you crack me up! If the players unanimously dislike him, there wouldn't have been a petition for reinstatement in the first place! Keep trying!
John Bitna October 31, 2011 at 09:59 PM
He acted like a football coach. Tune in to any NFL game and see for yourself. I'm glad Cornelius acted like a football coach and stood up for the little guy.
fed up November 01, 2011 at 03:50 AM
I appreciate the information. Thank you.
Tracy November 01, 2011 at 12:03 PM
I can't believe that the Chief of Police in Milford would go into this banter back and forth on a public forum with people! I thought your job was tough and time consuming but it seems you have loads of free time to read and address these issues instead of leading the police department.. I really can't believe I am reading all this....Just let it go
Thomas OLoughlin November 01, 2011 at 12:27 PM
Tracy, I make time to inform the community of information that I can legally release and to clarify misinformation. You may find it interesting and you may be surprised that I also believe that I have the same First Amendment rights that you enjoy in posting comments here and elsewhere. Tracy, in my comment two days ago I indicated that I was not going to comment further on this blog about the hazing incident. Unfortunately you found the free time in your schedule to imply that you believe public officials enjoy lesser rights than you, so I had to take the time from my personal schedule to let you know that you are wrong. Tom OLoughlin
David Nolta November 01, 2011 at 03:18 PM
Why on earth would anyone DISCOURAGE the local police chief from using this or any other forum to disseminate a more credible version of recent stories than are usually available from the media? I for one hope that Mr. O'Loughlin WILL INDEED continue to take the time to participate in keeping people informed! How dare anyone infer from a post that the person writing it has too much "free time"! Astounding!!!
Pat Warner November 01, 2011 at 04:34 PM
My son played football for Milford High a few years ago. I and many other parents watched the coach back then scream, cuss, throw, kick, get in the players faces etc both in the locker room and on the sidelines during practices and during games. No one complained about that behavior. Not the parents or the kids because that is what coaches do. That behavior has been excepted and watched for many years from hundreds of parents and students. Please explain why this behavior is now being used to fire a coach that has done nothing but showed the same behavior that I and hundreds have watched All coaches at Milford High School use!!
SomeoneOrSomething November 02, 2011 at 02:36 AM
So, you were #44 on the MHS football team in 1992? Why don't you help stick up for those whom it happens to rather than standing by and criticizing... if you didn't like what happened to you, don't do it to others.
SomeoneOrSomething November 03, 2011 at 06:07 AM
Maybe the problem on this patch is too many of the "adults" say everything and listening to nothing. I wonder what the "kids" of this patch have to say...

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