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BU task force faults hockey team’s star culture

A Boston University task force has concluded that the men’s hockey team is detached from the general campus and that a “culture of sexual entitlement” exists among some players, a sense of privilege officials say contributed to two alleged sexual assaults on campus during the past season.

That culture of entitlement stems “in part from their elevated social status on campus,” and is marked by heavy use of alcohol and casual sexual encounters with female students, according to the 11-page report, which was released Wednesday.

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The report acknowledged that the university, from administrators to the coaching staff, has not adequately overseen the team.

“It ran away from us,” said Jean Morrison, the university’s provost, who cochaired the panel. “We should have been providing greater oversight and education around their sense of entitlement.”

The report called for a range of changes to tighten oversight of the team and bring its members into the fold of campus life, such as having the athletic department review its code of conduct and define sanctions that will be imposed on violators.

“It’s clear we need to do a better job of educating players about sexual assault,” said Morrison. “They are stars, and they feel they are different.”

University president Robert Brown called for the review of the high-profile program in March after two players were chargedwith sexual assault in a three-month span, accusations that caused outrage on campus and raised concerns that the team was out of control. The panel was asked to determine whether the team’s star culture contributed to the actions of the accused players.

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One player, Corey Trivino, later pleaded guilty to assault, while rape charges against the second player, Max Nicastro, were dropped. Both players were removed from school.

Brown said a “celebrity culture” around the team had fueled a “permissive attitude of sexual entitlement” among players. He said he was surprised by the scope of the problem and said the university needed to “punch holes in the walls” around the team, to reduce a “culture of isolation.”

Supervision of the players too often fell to the coaching staff rather than university administrators, officials said. Coached by athletic director Jack Parker, the hockey team often ranks among the nation’s best and has won five national championships.

“The coaches became their own keepers,” Brown said. “These should be university issues.”

Morrison said there was no indication that coaches were hiding student behavior from administrators, but that they routinely handled problems internally.

For example, coaches dealt on their own with players who had been caught drinking, rather than referring them to substance abuse specialists at the university, Morrison said.

University officials did not blame the coaching staff, saying the guidelines were “not sufficiently clear.”

“There’s no sense they were covering up,” Morrison said. The review found that players were disciplined generally at the same rate as undergraduates as a whole.

While the task force was at times critical of Parker and the coaching staff, it did not recommend that they be disciplined. Parker, who was interviewed by the panel, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

In response to a panel recommendation, the university has eliminated Parker’s position as executive athletic director, but he will stay on as coach. The change will not affect his salary, which the university would not disclose.

Morrison said the status that hockey players enjoy on campus is similar to that of athletes in other high-profile programs, but the entitled culture had probably deepened over time. The team’s star culture is “actively supported by a small subset” of undergraduates, including women who pursue players romantically.

The report also found that a number of team members were admitted to the university despite grades and test scores that were considerably below average. With some exceptions, those athletes’ college grades also lag.

“While there are not clear systemic problems, the academic performance of the men’s ice hockey team members should continue to be monitored to ensure that they meet university standards,” the report stated.

Many hockey players arrive at school having already been drafted by a professional team, officials said, leading some to treat college like a stop on the way to the National Hockey League. The panel found this created a situation where players “may not be fully engaged” in campus life.

“Their view of the world is that ‘I’ve been drafted. I’m chosen. I’m one of the 5 percent,’ ” Brown said. “We’ve got to break open that culture and bring them back into the university.”

The panel interviewed current and former players and coaches, and held meetings on campus to solicit opinions and ideas.

It recommended that team members annually undergo sex-assault prevention training and that the athletic department take steps to integrate players into general campus life, potentially by restricting their ability to live in the same dorms.

“They become clannish over time,” Brown said.

Last week, the university opened an office that counsels victims of sexual assault and harassment and offers sexual assault prevention classes.

It also banned hockey players from taking evening courses with older students.

Brown called the recommendations “spot on” and said he plans to implement them.

Peter Schworm can be reached at schworm@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globepete.

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