Before transferring to Augustana, senior Bruce Manz took a bite of a recently slaughtered pig’s heart as part of his football team’s freshman initiation. This time-honored tradition, known as the “Freshman Chug,” was one he was proud to be a part of.
“I didn’t really think twice about it,” Manz, a business administration major, said.
With locker room bullying and hazing subject to media attention recently, freshman initiations in college athletics have been under close scrutiny. Although South Dakota is one of only six states that does not have hazing laws, and Augustana’s athletic handbook mentions it only briefly, Manz said he has never witnessed similar rites in Vikings football.
Shortly after Miami Dolphins player Richie Incognito was suspended for bullying another player, freshman Mitch Glade said head football coach Jerry Olszewski told his players what he expects from them.
“He basically said, ‘Would you do that to your brother?’” Glade said. “He’s big on changing the culture around here.”
Calling the team brothers is not a stretch of the imagination, according to Glade. He said Olszewski reminds them of this fact often, describing the locker room as a “family atmosphere.” Manz, who transferred to Augustana in 2011, said Olszewski gave them three F’s to remember: family, faith and football, with family always coming first.
Junior Riley McManus describes a similar community on the wrestling team.
“You don’t practice three hours a day together, bleed together, break together and not get just ridiculously close,” McManus said.
Any initiation that the freshman wrestlers go through, he said, the rest of the team endures as well; namely, a series of uphill sprints during which several team members, freshman or not, always throw up.
“Wrestling is rough enough in itself. The entire process is a haze,” McManus said. “You just make it through and that’s enough.”
Although head coach Jason Reitmeier has no bullying policy, McManus said he has “certain behavioral expectations” for how the team should conduct itself during the season. McManus credits these expectations with the lack of issues the wrestling team has had.
“[Reitmeier] takes it upon himself to take the group of us and turn us into a productive group of men when we’re done,” McManus said.
Women’s basketball, coached by Dave Krauth for over 20 years, also has no policy on hazing or bullying. He does hold an annual meeting with the team to go over his rules, although junior Rhianna Gullickson said the team’s collective expectations are the same as his.
“We want to be successful on the court and to do that we have to come together off the court,” Gullickson said. “Hazing and bullying prevents that.”
Freshman Logan O’Farrell agreed, adding that coaches should not have to get involved if there is an issue within the team.
“My teammates and I are at the age now where we can address a problem ourselves if needed,” O’Farrell said.
Looking back on the night he ate the pig’s heart, Manz said it was not a bad experience. In fact, he said he looks back on it as a good memory. Though he admitted particular kinds of initiation can be harmful, he said making the freshmen have a dance-off with the volleyball team is nothing compared to past events, such as taping freshmen to a field goal post overnight.
“For me it was like an icebreaker for everyone to get to know the freshmen,” Manz said. “That way we got to know who they were, and they weren’t just another person.”
Gullickson agreed, saying initiation on the basketball team is simply a rite of passage for new team members.
“Every freshman has to go through being the underclassmen that have to do the ‘dirty work’ of the team,” Gullickson said.