Fired Maine West soccer coach: ‘I have done nothing wrong’
BY JON SEIDEL Staff Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org April 2, 2013 10:08AM
Former Maine West soccer coach Michael Divincenzo
Updated: May 4, 2013 6:20AM
The soccer coach who lost his job at Maine West High School in a hazing scandal denied guilt “of any kind” Tuesday in his first public statement about claims that he sanctioned the sexual assault of student athletes in the northwest suburbs.
Tony Romanucci, the attorney suing former varsity soccer coach Michael Divincenzo and Maine Township High School District 207, also released a statement blasting what he called a “comfortable relationship” that led to an agreement between the district and the coach.
The school district, in turn, called Romanucci’s statement “inaccurate and self-serving.”
It all happened the day after the Maine Township school board approved the agreement, in which Divincenzo promised not to challenge the board’s December vote to fire him. The deal ends his employment with the school.
“I know that I have done nothing wrong and intend to vigorously contest the allegations in the pending civil case,” Divincenzo said in a written statement attached to the agreement.
He called his decision not to appeal his firing “a difficult decision that was made in the best interest of my family.”
Under the terms of the deal, Divincenzo will receive health insurance from the district until Jan. 31, and he’ll cooperate with the district in the defense of the lawsuit filed over the hazing claims.
The school board will provide Divincenzo with an attorney, but the board is conceding no “wrongdoing or improper conduct” on the part of the district.
“The best years of my life were being a part of the Maine West family,” Divincenzo said. “I would like to thank all my colleagues, students, athletes and alumni who have reached out to me and shown your unconditional support and friendship. You will always be in my thoughts and I truly appreciate and value your ongoing support and friendship.”
Romanucci, whose clients claim they were victims of hazing at the school, said the deal means continued benefits for a coach “who allowed victims to be sexually assaulted.”
He accused the school district of cutting a deal “to save itself” while it and Maine West’s principal “stood by letting young boys become victims of sexual assault and doing nothing about it.”
“This whole deal stinks,” Romanucci said.
Divincenzo and freshman soccer coach Emilio Rodriguez denied to police any knowledge of hazing claims at the district, police reports show. Rodriguez also is facing dismissal and has asked for a hearing. He also is named in Romanucci’s lawsuit, along with Maine West Principal Audrey Haugan.
The Maine Township School Board’s vote to fire Divincenzo came after multiple soccer players said they had been sexually assaulted by teammates in a hazing ritual.
The Cook County State’s Attorney’s office is conducting an ongoing review of the hazing scandal. So far six teens have been charged with misdemeanors.