Eleven players from Ryerson’s men’s volleyball team returned to the court yesterday after serving one-week suspensions for violating a key statute of the university’s athletic code: drinking alcohol on a team road trip.
According to a member of Ryerson Athletics, who wished to remain anonymous, the 11 suspended players visited a bar after their final exhibition game in Winnipeg against the University of Regina on Dec. 30.
Players from Western University’s volleyball team were also present but were not suspended by their athletics department.
When asked if the suspensions were the result of an altercation with Western’s players, fifth-year Rams setter Adam Anagnostopoulos told the Ryersonian the team had only been out for celebratory drinks.
“Legitimately that is all that happened. There was no fight, no nothing,” he wrote via Facebook. “In fact, we are actually great friends with the Western team.
“It was just that the university has a zero tolerance policy for drinking on ‘Ryerson time,’” he wrote.
The Ryersonian discovered the information after it was alleged by multiple sources and confirmed by Anagnostopoulos, who was part of the suspended group.
Ryerson Athletics denied repeated requests for information from the Ryersonian about the circumstances of the suspensions.
“I can neither confirm nor deny that. We don’t speak to what happened when we suspend them,” said athletics director Ivan Joseph when asked for comment about the Winnipeg incident. “I can only say they were suspended because of the violation of the student-athlete code of conduct.”
According to Ryerson’s Student-Athlete Handbook, which outlines rules and expected behaviours for Ryerson athletes, “alcohol may not be consumed by Rams athletes or staff for the duration of road trips (from the time of departure until the time of arrival back in Toronto).”
However, Anagnostopoulos said he supported Joseph’s decision to issue the suspensions, even though the strict policy is exclusive to Ryerson’s code of conduct, not the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) or USports, the national governing body for university sports.
“So, this is Ivan holding (the) Ryerson organization to the level that he believes is necessary to breed good teams and attract quality players. Which I stand by,” he wrote.
Ryerson Athletics ended the suspensions last night, including that of associate coach Adam Simac.
Joseph told the Ryersonian that Simac had been suspended for an issue separate from the incident in Winnipeg, but was unable to comment further, citing human-resource-related privacy issues.
“Let me just say Adam did not violate the student-athlete code of conduct, or the coaches’ code of conduct,” he said.
Originally, the suspension was to be served between Jan. 10 and Jan. 24 but Ryerson Athletics lifted it on Jan. 18, allowing the players and Simac to resume official athletics activities.
“What we said was, ‘you’re suspended for up to two weeks,’” said Joseph. Following his investigation of the team, Joseph said they felt the current length of the suspension – eight days – was appropriate.
The players will be required to complete community service hours by running volleyball clinics for minors, or volunteering at shelters like Covenant House.
The suspensions likely contributed to last week’s loss of six straight sets over two games on Jan. 12 and Jan. 13 against Western and Toronto respectively, as half of the team’s active roster was unavailable due to the suspensions.
Most of the active players were the team’s rookies, with very little play-time.
This is not the first time the Rams have been affected by this type of controversy. In 2013, the Ryersonian reported the school’s entire men’s hockey team had been suspended for one week for drinking alcohol in their hotel rooms during a road trip in New Jersey.
The suspensions resulted in the team forfeiting two of its games, and were accompanied by the immediate firing of then-assistant-coach Lawrence Smith and an additional four-game suspension for former head coach Graham Wise.
In 2009, the women’s volleyball team also forfeited two games and received a week-long suspension for drinking alcohol in their team dressing room.
When asked if he felt the school’s policy surrounding alcohol consumption was tougher than other universities, Joseph said he wasn’t aware of other school’s policies, but that Ryerson’s policy was modelled to create a professional environment.
“Our code of conduct was to hold our athletes accountable, to create a safe environment, to create a professional environment and to create an environment that was conducive to athletic excellence,” he said.