USMMA’s men’s soccer season canceled for the fall due to investigation

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U.S. Merchant Marine Academy students march away from a Fleet Week ceremony. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy’s men’s soccer season has been canceled for this fall due to a federal Department of Transportation investigation into alleged sexual misconduct by players, according to federal officials.

“Since team activities remain suspended, the USMMA has notified the NCAA that it will not participate in the 2017 NCAA men’s soccer season,” Rear Adm. James Helis, superintendent of the academy, who suspended the team in June, said in a statement.

The investigation, conducted by the Department of Transportation’s inspector general’s office, involves seven students on the soccer team who are accused of sexual misconduct.

Their degrees, licenses and certificates are currently being held. All of the students have denied any wrongdoing.

The seven athletes were deferred from graduation on June 8 before USMMA’s commencement. This prompted the students to sue the school, the Transportation Department and Helis in federal court.

While the students ultimately participated in commencement, they were not allowed to formally graduate.

Capt. James Tobin, the president of the USMMA Alumni Association and Foundation, said that while the organization does not have all details of the investigation, any sexual misconduct is unacceptable at USMMA.

“The AAF is not privy to the details of the investigation or the decision to suspend the 2017 soccer season, nor should we be,” Tobin said in a statement. “However, the actions alleged, which include sexual assault, bullying and hazing, have no place on college campuses; this should be especially so at the five federal service academies – including the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy – that prepare young men and women of utmost character to serve our country.”

Last month, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi, whose district includes Kings Point, each introduced legislation to try making the academy comply with federal gender equality rules.

The bill would also direct the Department of Transportation to provide more training, materials and resources for sexual assault prevention and response, and train inspector general agents who investigate sexual assault cases.

Currently, the academy is exempt from Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, a gender equity law applying to all American colleges where students can receive federal aid.

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