By EDDIE PELLS
AP National Writer
The chancellor at New Mexico State says players on the basketball team were interviewed by school personnel Saturday about an alleged hazing incident that led to the program’s suspension.
In a letter to the school community, chancellor Dan Arvizu said he was “heartbroken and sickened to hear about these hazing allegations.”
“Hazing is a despicable act,” he wrote. “It humiliates and degrades someone and has the potential to cause physical and emotional harm, or even death. Sadly, hazing can become part of an organization’s culture, if left unchecked.”
He said the team, which arrived back in Las Cruces after its game at California Baptist was canceled, would remain under suspension until further notice.
The letter came out a few hours after the school announced it would hold a closed meeting Tuesday night to “discuss limited personnel matters concerning individual employees.” It did not name the employees who were to be discussed.
In announcing the virtually unheard-of midseason suspension of a Division I basketball program, the university put coach Greg Heiar and his staff on administrative leave pending an investigation into an alleged violation of university policy.
“NMSU policy strictly prohibits hazing, in all forms, and it’s something we simply will not tolerate,” Arvizu wrote in the letter.
A few hours before the letter came out, two Aggies, Shahar Lazar and Kent Olewiler, announced on social media that they were leaving the team.
Neither player had played this season. This was shaping up as a redshirt year for Lazar, a freshman who came to Las Cruces from Israel. Olewiler also took a roundabout path to Las Cruces; he was a preferred walk-on who was not listed on the Aggies official roster
Lazar said he was leaving because, “I don’t think the program that I originally committed to aligns with my beliefs and core values.”
Olewiler said, simply, “my recruitment is 100% open.”
The hazing allegations come nearly three months after the Nov. 19 fatal shooting in Albuquerque of Brandon Travis, a 19-year-old student from rival school, University of New Mexico. Aggies forward Mike Peake was suspended early in December while an outside investigator looked into his involvement in Travis’ killing. In the moments before the shooting, Peake suffered a leg injury and was later taken to the hospital by three of his teammates.
Peake has not been charged in the case, which is also under investigation by the district attorney in Albuquerque.
Associated Press reporter Jacques Billeaud contributed to this report.
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