Aside from graduating seven starters, the Shoremen faced a different kind of adversity before the season even began.
Several players were involved in a hazing incident reportedly occurring on Jan. 13. No details regarding the identities of the players or the specifics of the incident have been divulged, but athletic director Bryan Matthews confirmed the incident when he released a written statement to faculty and staff members on Jan. 20, saying in part, "Following an incident that occurred off campus last week, we are conducting an investigation of alleged misconduct by a group of Washington College students. In this, as in all matters, the safety and well being of our students is our paramount concern."
Coach J.B. Clarke declined to discuss details, but he said he has used the incident as a teaching tool with his players.
"The NCAA reports that 80 percent of college student-athletes are hazed. For any coach at any level in any athletic department to assume that it’s not happening to their kids is playing with failure," he said. "We’re educators, and we are educating our young men. Even more than we have in the past, we’re finding new ways to educate them. Simply showing them videos and having speakers come in and whatnot that we do here at Washington College and certainly within my program isn’t always enough. We have to find new ways to educate these guys. My team is closer than it’s probably ever been having gone through this incident. The good news is, what everyone’s reading is not what happened. It’s not a we’re-going-to-lose-our-season thing. We’re going to be disciplined, and we’re going to come out of this stronger than we were a month ago. We already are."
Clarke said as punishment, the team's first scrimmage was canceled and the players involved have been suspended for varied periods of time. Inside Lacrosse reported that the entire team would participate in educational programs and community service.
The Shoremen went 9-7 last season and missed the NCAA Tournament for the third time in the last five years. Clarke said the cancellation and suspensions haven't impacted the team's preseason preparations.
"The weather’s affected us a lot more," he said. "The good news is, we have young guys, and they were going to have to be out there anyway. More guys are getting reps than maybe they would have in the first week of practice if none of this had happened."