Plaschke: Mater Dei deposition highlights shameful and callous football hazing response
“I don’t have time to do that s—.”
According to a sworn statement by former Mater Dei athletic director Amanda Waters, that was the response of football coach Bruce Rollinson when she asked him to monitor the school’s locker room.
She asked him because she was worried about reports of hazing. She asked him because inside the locker room she had seen a broken mirror and a sink ripped off the wall. She asked him because she was concerned about the safety of the students.
She asked him at least 10 times.
She said his response was always the same.
“I don’t have time to do that s—.”
Once again, sadly, predictably, it is clear that Rollinson, Mater Dei and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange just don’t have time to do the right thing.
Once again, the famed Monarchs football program appears to be a cesspool of arrogance, entitlement and callousness.
The latest revelations appeared in a transcript of portions of Waters’ deposition contained in lawsuit filed against Mater Dei and the Diocese of Orange on behalf of the family of a player who suffered serious head injuries during a locker room fight in February 2021.
In videos viewed by The Times, the injured player was repeatedly punched in the face by a much larger player as part of a team ritual known as, “Bodies.” The fight, which began with a challenge the injured player said he felt he could not refuse, was accompanied by teammates encouraging the blows while chanting racial epithets. The lawsuit claims the school attempted to cover up the beating, which left the player with a traumatic brain injury, a broken nose and gashes over both eyes.
When the lawsuit became public in November, Mater Dei president Father Walter Jenkins hired an outside law firm to investigate the school’s safety practices. But a month later, Jenkins resigned and was replaced by Michael Brennan, who promptly clarified the probe, saying in a statement, “This is an assessment of Mater Dei’s culture and not a further investigation of the incident.”
The assessment in the deposition given last month by Waters is that Mater Dei will aggressively sacrifice student safety for the sake of its image.
Reading excerpts from the disturbing transcript only reinforces the amazement that Mater Dei principal Frances Clare and Rollinson have not yet been fired, this perhaps being a testament to this season’s mythical national championship and three state championships in the last five years.
The Catholic school has turned a cliché into its gospel; it’s a place where winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.
“This type of misconduct will only change if Mater Dei puts the interests of its students first,” said Brian Williams of Greenberg Gross, the firm representing the injured player. “An institution is only as good as the people running it. This family, who entrusted Mater Dei with the safety of their child, deserved better.”
Mater Dei defiantly responded to Waters’ deposition in an open letter Wednesday, attacking the former athletic director’s statements delivered under oath.
“Much of her testimony is without merit,” the letter read. “Incidents and scenarios she relayed are fabricated and contradicted by objective evidence, including security footage, cell phone records, text messages and e-mails. Some of her testimony is even contradicted by the sworn testimony given by the plaintiff himself.”
The statement included a vote of confidence for Rollinson, saying, “Coach Bruce Rollinson has faithfully served thousands of Mater Dei students and families for decades, exemplifying the principles of honor, glory and love.”
The statement also supported former vice principal Geri Campeau, who is mentioned often in the deposition, stating, “Geri Campeau brought tremendous value to Mater Dei over the past 30 years as an educator, administrator, mentor, friend and catalyst for change.”
The deposition, however, tells a different story.
Waters, a well-respected administrator with a reputation for consistently enforcing rules, was athletic director for less than a year before leaving the school a month after the incident in part because of the school’s handling of the altercation.
“Everything from … when [the beaten player] walked out of the locker room to the silence after was handled wrong,” Waters said.
She said after becoming athletic director, Campeau informed her that she would not oversee the football program, which allegedly operates under a special set of rules.
“I had to drink the Kool-Aid first,” she said.
During two chilling winter days in 2021, drinking that Kool-Aid meant ignoring the plight of a student badly wounded by a potentially deadly game.
On the afternoon of Feb. 4, Waters testified she saw the injured player shortly after the fight and suggested to Campeau that they check with trainer Kevin Anderson and call an “ambulance.”
“He walked down the steps and he had two gashes over his eyes … he’s got a clear head injury … can we talk to Kevin and see what Kevin says?” she testified about her conversation with Campeau.
She said Campeau had words with Anderson, who then stopped treating the injured student. Campeau then ordered Waters to leave.
“She told me to stop talking about it and get to my office,” Waters testified.
The morning after the incident, she said she visited Rollinson’s office to discuss the fight. He confirmed he was aware of the hazing ritual, using the same words the injured player’s father recounted in the lawsuit.
“He said, ‘If I had a dollar for every time these kids played “Bodies,” I’d be a millionaire,’ ” Waters said. .
She said Rollinson was “agitated” that she wanted to talk about the fight and made it clear the conversation was over.
“He didn’t like to be challenged,” she said. “When he says what he says and he’s done talking about it, he will make it very clear he’s done talking about it.”
Waters testified that after she returned to her office that morning, she was visited by Campeau, who was “very heated” and warned her to keep her mouth shut.
“She shut the door and started yelling at me about how I need to stop asking questions … I need not to go down and talk to Bruce about this anymore, ever again,” Waters testified.
She said Campeau told her, “They were handling it on their end and to not touch it.”
That same morning Waters testified she asked Anderson, the trainer, why he did not call 911 to tend to the injured player.
“He told me that Geri [Campeau] told him not to call 911,” she said.
Waters is now athletic director at St. Andrew’s School in Savannah, Ga. Campeau has left Mater Dei for a job at Apple and was unavailable for comment.
The hazing incident ended as awfully as it began, as Mater Dei seemed to eventually blame the injured student, allegedly attempting to block him from playing football for another school.
Waters testified that after she had filled out all the California Interscholastic Federation paperwork shortly after the fight, she was scolded for approving his transfer.
“They were very upset that I hadn’t brought to their attention that this transfer had come through because there was disciplinary action against the student and I filled out the paperwork wrong and they had to go into CIF and change it because people just don’t leave Mater Dei that easy,” she testified.
People just don’t leave Mater Dei that easy.
Sounds more like a gang than a Catholic high school.
Acts like one, too.
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