Maine West soccer coach fired over hazing allegations gives up fight for his job
By Jon Seidel Staff Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org April 1, 2013 9:45PM
Former Maine West soccer coach Michael Divincenzo
Updated: May 3, 2013 6:41AM
The man soccer players at Maine West High School came to know as “Divo” has given up his fight for the job he lost in a hazing scandal at the northwest suburban school district.
The Maine Township High School District 207 school board approved an agreement Monday night with Michael Divincenzo to “conclude the dismissal proceeding and end Mr. Divincenzo’s employment by the school district.”
Under the terms of the deal, Divincenzo will withdraw his request for a hearing, where he was expected to fight for his job, but he’ll continue to receive health insurance coverage until Jan. 31. He will cooperate in the defense of a lawsuit filed against the school district over the hazing allegations and waive all claims against the district. The school board will provide him with an attorney.
Finally, the school board is conceding no “wrongdoing or improper conduct.”
“There is no payment or other consideration,” school board President Sean Sullivan said at Monday night’s meeting, “except as stated in the agreement.”
Neither Divincenzo nor his attorney could be reached for comment Monday night. Tony Romanucci, the lawyer suing the district, said “it’s interesting that [Divincenzo] finally faced the wall of insurmountable evidence.”
But he also said it’s “disconcerting” that Divincenzo and the school district, represented in the lawsuit by separate attorneys, are now cooperating.
“To me, that smells,” Romanucci said.
The school board voted in December to fire Divincenzo, stunning a room full of his former students and players who pleaded with the board to let him keep his job.
Divincenzo, a 1994 Maine West graduate, reacted a few weeks later by asking for a hearing. His career at the district fell apart suddenly last fall when multiple soccer players came forward to say they had been sexually assaulted by teammates under the guise of hazing. They said their teammates pulled down their underwear and sodomized them with finger and sticks.
Des Plaines Police also were told that Divincenzo watched an assault in July, congratulated the victim, welcomed him to the team “and asked him if it was all good.”
Romanucci filed a lawsuit against the school district on behalf of two alleged victims who said they had been assaulted by soccer teammates in September and a third soccer player who said he was attacked by teammates in a similar way in 2007. A fourth plaintiff claims his pants were pulled down in a locker room by teammates on a baseball team coached by Divincenzo.
When it voted to fire Divincenzo, the board also cited an allegation that he let varsity soccer players dunk “less senior” players’ heads and grab their genitals in a hot tub at a training camp in Wisconsin.
Prosecutors charged six teenagers with misdemeanors after the scandal broke. But Des Plaines Police told the Chicago Sun-Times they originally sought felonies in the case, and Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez’s office announced her sex-crimes division would conduct a “top-to-bottom” review. It is still ongoing.
Since then, a Department of Children and Family Services spokesman said the agency found that multiple claims of abuse and neglect at Maine West were substantiated. A source said the perpetrators involved were Divincenzo and freshman soccer coach Emilio Rodriguez, who also is named in Romanucci’s lawsuit.
Both men have told police they didn’t know about the hazing, according to Des Plaines Police reports. The board voted to fire Rodriguez in January, and he also has asked for a hearing to contest his pending dismissal.