TIFFIN - Tiffin University is investigating allegations that freshman members of its men's soccer team were the victims of hazing last fall, but the team's coach, one of the players involved, and a parent of another player said the event was harmless fun among teammates.
Several university officials and area media outlets, including The Blade, received an e-mail message Thursday alleging that the 11 freshmen on the team were hazed.
The message included attached photographs of bare-chested men clad in boxer shorts wearing signs around their necks with their names and derogatory remarks about them written in marker. In the photos, some of the men also have derogatory writings and pictures drawn on them in marker, and several are attached to each other with "handcuffs" that appear to be fashioned from duct tape.
The e-mail included an address for a Web site where 20 photos of partially dressed young people were posted, including six photographs believed to be of the Tiffin soccer players. Most of the men thought to be soccer players are smiling and holding plastic beverage cups. One photo shows three shirtless people, including a female wearing a bra, standing with their backs to the camera, revealing marker writings on their back.
The sender of the e-mail, Dale Terry, wrote in an e-mail interview with The Blade yesterday that he lives in Georgia and "stumbled upon the pix while looking for hazing incidents" online.
"I'm against athletic, fraternity, club, etc. hazing," he wrote. "It has resulted in deaths almost every year."
Ian Day, the soccer team's coach and Tiffin's athletic director, said he received an e-mail about the matter Thursday, "and at that point I turned it over immediately to the dean of students, and she's conducting an investigation."
Tony Iyayi, one of the freshmen soccer players in the photographs, said the incidents depicted in the images occurred at a team social event in early September.
Mr. Iyayi, 19, of Lagos, Nigeria, said not all of the freshmen participated in the event - contrary to the e-mail allegations by Mr. Terry - and everyone who took part did so voluntarily. No one was harmed, he added.
"We just decided to have a laugh," Mr. Iyayi said. "I just think it's funny that we're getting all this publicity and everybody's calling and making noise about this incident. ... I don't see how this can be called hazing."
Mr. Day, who has coached soccer at Tiffin since 1983, also said he thought publicity about the event had been overblown.
"The players were given an option whether they wanted to participate or not," he said. "Some did, some didn't. And it happened five, six months ago, and I'm finding out now."
Asked if he considered the incident hazing, the coach replied, "I'd call it guys thinking it was team spirit."
Mr. Iyayi said the team is a close-knit group. "I'm having the time of my life," he said. "Everybody here is like brothers."
Bill Rager of Perrysburg, whose son Jason is one of the freshman soccer players, viewed the photos online yesterday and said he saw no reason for concern.
"This is old news as far as we're concerned," he said. "These pictures document nothing more than what our son had already told us. It was basically a party that was attended by some of the freshman kids. ... As far as I can understand, there was nothing mandatory or physical about it."
Lisa Williams, a university spokesman, said school officials had no knowledge of the allegations before getting the e-mail. She said some of the Web site photos are not of Tiffin students.
The school's dean of students, Lisa Kirchner, plans to speak with the photographed students as part of an investigation into the matter, Ms. Williams added.
The university's student handbook includes a statement on hazing: "Tiffin University maintains autonomy over all campus organizations. Any activities that may be construed as hazing are specifically and unequivocally prohibited."
Contact Steve Murphy at: