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An Iowa State University investigation into its men’s hockey club uncovered that underage drinking, alcohol abuse, personal humiliation and financial penalties were tied to admission, ongoing membership and status — prompting the university to suspend the club from competition for the next academic year.
The hazing that ISU’s Office of Student Conduct uncovered in its investigation of the Men’s Cyclone Hockey Club targeted new or rookie members dating back to at least 2018, according to a news release.
Additionally, Iowa State’s internal audit and human resources divisions conducted separate investigations of ISU Recreation Services staff and club coaches and found “a lack of understanding and appropriate oversight of student complaints and club finances.”
The team’s head coach and general manager Jason Fairman — who had been with the program six years and head coach for four, making a salary of $62,373 in 2021 — no longer is listed as an Iowa State employee. An ISU spokesman said his separation date was May 29 — three weeks after ISU announced it was investigating his program.
As a result of the Student Code of Conduct violations and improprieties, Iowa State suspended the men’s hockey club from all competition for the 2022-23 academic year — expanding the interim suspension imposed in May when allegations first came to light.
In addition to the yearlong suspension, the men’s team must develop and submit a plan outlining new and continued team education and policies aimed at eliminated hazing and addressing alcohol and drug abuse.
The Cyclone men players, parents and alumni issued a statement on social media Thursday afternoon, slamming the ISU report and sanctions as inaccurate, damaging and using the term “hazing” to further an agenda.
“Cyclone Men’s Hockey steadfastly denies any actions in violation of the university’s student Code of Conduct,” according to the statement. ”At no time was there any ‘requirement,’ implied or otherwise, of alcohol use in affiliation with the program.”
Players were never "required to perform acts of personal humiliation, and at no time were any rookies or new members of the program intentionally targeted.”
“The program was, and is, built on hard work, a team-first mentality, leadership and respect,” according to the statement. “It is a shame the administration at Iowa State University does not share those same characteristics.”
The letter vows to explore “all available avenues in responding to the university’s sanctions.”
ISU said the men’s hockey program must restructure as a “traditional, student-led sports club” — funded and managed like the Women’s Hockey Club, which has a roster of 17 and a student president, treasurer and secretary, along with a coach.
Under its new structure, the men’s club must choose student leaders, draft a constitution and submit to biannual program reviews.
“Necessary adjustments to the size and the activity level of the club will likely need to occur,” according to the investigative summary.
If restructuring and training is complete by Dec. 16, 2022, the team can resume practices and intersquad scrimmages in spring 2023. The team, however, won’t be allowed to travel or compete in league games in the spring.
Full activities can resume in summer 2023 if the club complies with the mandates and doesn’t commit more violations. Failure to do so will extend the suspension.
A summary of the investigation shows ISU received two complaints about the men’s hockey club on April 4 and 7 — although details weren’t made public.
The ensuing investigation found:
- Club members attended “rookie parties” at which they were required to drink — compelling underage drinking and alcohol abuse — and were humiliated.
- Members participated in “kangaroo court” during which financial penalties were assessed for activities involving personal humiliation of new club members.
- New members participated in “rookie run” events involving personal humiliation.
Three events, specifically, offered rookies admission, continued membership or elevated status in the club, according to the investigative summary.
“The events created circumstances endangering the mental or physical health or safety of the targeted students, involved acts based solely on the classification status of the targeted student-members, involved acts of potential personal humiliation and involved acts in violation of applicable law and other university policies,” according to the summary.
Although ISU’s Recreation Services oversaw the club, division staff and coaches failed to understand their role or exercise proper oversight, including the handling of complaints about hazing, financial matters and communication.
A year ago, before allegations of hazing and financial mismanagement came to light, the Men’s Cyclone Hockey Club had a roster of three divisions of 24 players each — 72 total athletes led by head coach and general manager Fairman.
Last year, according to the hockey club’s website, Fairman led the team to one of its most successful seasons in 15 years — securing the Central States Collegiate Hockey League’s regular season championship.
Fairman’s coaching background includes an assistant position at Marquette University, time in the U.S. Hockey League, stints with NCAA Division I and Division III hockey, and a head coaching gig with a high school team in Buffalo, Minn.
“After four years at Iowa State, Fairman has established himself as one of the top tactitioners in the (American Collegiate Hockey Association), but this is not surprising, given the extensive and varied coaching resume he brought to Cyclone Hockey,” according to his ISU bio.
“Fairman oversees all of the organization’s hockey and business operations.”
In their letter of response, members with the program said Iowa State — with its investigation and subsequent report and sanctions — “has no doubt stained the reputation of Cyclone Men’s Hockey, but more importantly, its student athletes, coaches and alumni.”
Vanessa Miller covers higher education for The Gazette.
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