ORONO — A March 25 altercation between about two dozen University of Maine and Husson University football players at a local pub has not resulted in any formal charges or disciplinary action, but both programs’ head coaches have put their players on notice.
“We both identified the fact that this isn’t the kind of incident that we consider a major event, but it’s definitely a major lesson learned,” said Sean Murphy, former Husson assistant coach now in his first year as head coach.
The March 25 incident was caught via cell phone video and two different videos have been posted on Youtube, both of which have been reviewed by Orono Police Department, UMaine, and Husson administrative officials.
How things started is unclear, but an argument between players from both teams ensued, escalating to a shouting and shoving match around the dance floor area at the Bear Brew Pub in Orono.
“It’s usually over women, but I don’t know what this was all about,” said Jim Bence, who has owned and operated the Bear Brew for the last year. “It only lasted about five minutes and it was basically just some shouting and pushing and shoving. From what I hear, this isn’t the first time the two teams have clashed.”
Orono Police Department Capt. Josh Ewing, who responded to a call notifying police of the fight, said he’s unaware of any recent incidents besides this one.
“This year, we have not responded to any issues between the two teams,” Ewing said. “It’s been at least two or three years since we’ve had to deal with anything like that.”
Bence said he had eight employees working security that night with a half-dozen in the dance floor area. In all, he estimated about 200 total customers were present at the time of the incident.
“I told them if they didn’t get out, they were going to be arrested and when you have kids on scholarship, that usually sends a strong message,” Bence said. “If it ever happens again, somebody will be arrested and charges will be pressed.”
Ewing was already in the area to respond to a separate complaint and arrived at the Bear Brew parking lot just as one group of players was exiting the pub.
“Before I got inside, a fairly large group came out and said there was no problem and they were leaving,” Ewing recalled. “A couple minutes later, another group came out another door and the two groups kind of faced off against each other again and started yelling at each other.”
Ewing and his fellow officers ordered the players to shut up and leave.
“We probably could have made some arrests for disorderly conduct based on the yelling, but that would have just exacerbated the problem and there weren’t a lot of officers on hand to deal with that if things got out of hand,” said Ewing.
Neither UMaine nor Husson athletic department officials elected to discipline any of the unnamed players involved after reviewing video and accounts of the incident.
“All University of Maine student-athletes fall under three codes of conduct: The student code, the student-athlete code, and their respective team rules,” said UMaine athletic director Steve Abbott. “I, along with the University Dean of Students (Robert Dana), looked into the incident and did not believe that any disciplinary action was necessary under our various codes.”
Both university and police officials said the quality of the video showing the incident makes it impossible to identify any of the participants.
UMaine football coach Jack Cosgrove conferred with Murphy about the incident after each coach looked into the matter.
“There were a lot of different accounts and perspectives. What I was able to extract as far as the meat and potatoes of it, and I’m not underplaying it, is a situation that got blown out of proportion to some extent,” said Murphy. “If there was a police report, this would be a very different situation.
“I did talk to Coach Cosgrove and we had a great and very open dialogue. I don’t see anything following up or trickling down from this thing.”
Cosgrove echoed the feeling that this is a one-time occurrence in a published report earlier this week.
“I talked to our entire team after this and we couldn’t be more clear with our expectations,” Murphy said. “They’re representing themselves, their team, the athletic department and the entire Husson community, and if you’re a high-profile athlete, or involved with any athletic team, you’re under a microscope.”