Towson University officials say they've suspended the school's national championship-winning cheerleading team for the academic year for violating the school's hazing policies.
Deb Moriarty, vice president for student affairs, says the school launched an investigation earlier this month after receiving an anonymous tip.
"Hazing in any form will not be tolerated at Towson University. We hold high expectations for all of our students and their conduct as leaders, both on and off campus," said Moriarty, in a statement. "Out of concern for students' privacy and their rights to due process that includes their right to appeal the suspension, it would be inappropriate for the university to comment further."
The sanction means the team, which took first place at the National Cheerleaders Association's collegiate championship in April, won't be able to practice or perform at competitions or university sporting events. The team has until next week to appeal the suspension, which was first reported by campus newspaper The Towerlight.
"I have never heard of a whole team getting suspended," Jim Lord, executive director of the American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators told the Baltimore Sun. "That is pretty rare, maybe unheard of." He said most suspensions involve one or two students or a coach and are for infractions of university rules.
If the suspension is upheld, Moriarty says the athletic department will work with its fan development program to do what they can to maintain spirit at events.
Since the death of a drum major in a hazing incident at Florida A&M in 2011, many schools have adopted a zero-tolerance policy toward hazing.
Towson University defines hazing as: "any action taken or situation created intentionally, whether on or off campus, to produce mental or physical discomfort, embarrassment, harassment or ridicule. Any mental or physical requirement, request or obligation placed upon any person that could cause pain, disgrace or injury, or is personally degrading or violates any federal, state, local statute or university policy is also considered hazing.
Such activities and situations include but are not limited to: paddling in any form; creation of excessive fatigue; road trips; scavenger hunts; publicly wearing apparel which is conspicuous and not normally in good taste; engaging in public stunts and humiliating games and activities; late night sessions that interfere with scholastic and occupational activities; calisthenics (push-ups, sit-ups, runs, etc.); line-ups (lining people up and harassing them verbally); running personal errands for the members; forced consumption of alcohol, illegal substances or food; and any other activities not consistent with the academic mission of the university."
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.