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CCU: Investigation into cheer team is over and 'no further action' will be taken

(WPDE file image)

The conduct investigation into Coastal Carolina University's cheer team has ended and no further action will be taken by the university, according to a statement from William M. Plate, Jr., Vice President of University Communication.

"The conduct investigation of the team has concluded. No further action is being taken by the University regarding the 2016-2017 CCU cheerleading team," Plate said in the release.

That investigation started on March 13 after an anonymous letter was sent to school officials claiming the cheerleaders were involved in an escort service and providing alcohol to underage members.

The cheer team was suspended after, on March 28, investigators "received notice that a group text message from a team member had been sent to all members of the cheerleading team that referenced the investigation and warned about the possible repercussions of certain conduct violations," the release said.

The release goes on to say that "based on credible information gathered up to that time, all cheerleading activities were suspended indefinitely on March 29 pending the results of the final investigation."

CCU investigators interviewed the cheerleaders, current coach and the former coach and found out the identity of the person who mailed the anonymous letter, according to a supplement report.

Investigators said they tried to interview the sender of the letter to determine if he could provide additional information that could prove to be “pertinent” to the investigation, but the man refused to be interviewed.

"Unless, and until, further information is obtained, this case was administratively closed," the report said.

But Attorney Amy Lawrence, who is representing five members of the cheerleading team, implied that while the university considers the matter closed, she does not.

In an emailed statement she said:

While Coastal Carolina University may consider this matter closed, I believe that the university's rush to judgment and use of a broad brush has damaged the many young women on the cheerleading team who had no involvement with this website. I look forward to their stories being told in due course.

The letter sent to several university officials alleged that CCU cheerleaders were operating an escort service and were working in strip clubs and prostituting themselves and that the cheerleaders were trying to entice younger cheerleaders to do the same.

It also stated that the older cheerleaders were providing alcohol at parties and forcing younger, underage, cheerleaders to drink. The report also cites cheerleaders paying others to do their school work for them and, if the younger cheerleaders didn’t oblige, they were harassed and not “accepted” on the team.

The author of the letter threatened to go public with the information in an attempt to humiliate and discredit the university. The letter was signed, “A concerned parent.”

CCU President David A. DeCenzo said the university"had no choice" but to thoroughly investigate the allegations.

“As a public institution with a code of ethical conduct and as a public agency entrusted with public funds, we have a duty to investigate serious allegations. We had no choice,” DeCenzo said in the release.

Related: CCU cheerleading contract gives insight into terms of suspension

Earlier, Lawrence called the suspension of the entire team "unprecedented."

Coastal Carolina University took unprecedented measures against the entire cheerleading team, based solely on unsubstantiated accusations. I am shocked and saddened to see these girls become victims of these baseless claims from an anonymous source. Even more disheartening is that these girls were not permitted due process in their own defense to show just how outlandish and ridiculous these allegations truly are. The Coastal Carolina Cheerleading team is full of bright, athletic, good, teal bleeding women and men who genuinely love their school. I look forward to working on behalf of these girls to defend and uphold their integrity and bring the truth to light.

She also criticized the university for releasing the incident report that discussed the allegations.

I am disgusted and angered that Coastal Carolina University has released an incomplete investigation to the media that paints the women of the Cheerleading Team as prostitutes with the broadest of strokes. This goes to the heart of what is wrong with the University and its inadequate treatment of women, not only in sports but on campus.

She went on to question if this would have happened to another team.

Would this ever happen to a Male Sports Team? We have all read about male athletes at Coastal Carolina being accused of drugs, domestic violence and rape. Yet, most of those men are still playing the sport and not one team was suspended in retribution for the actual crimes of their teammates.
Coastal Carolina needs to take a very long hard look at how they inappropriately treat women across the board.

Related: ABC15 Investigates: CCU emails show troubles with cheer team before suspension

The university said annual tryouts for the 2017-2018 co-ed cheerleading team will be held July 23-24 with plans for the finalized team to compete in preseason camp and complete the normal process required to qualify for national competition.

"Any enrolled student at CCU is eligible to try out for the team, but members of the CCU cheerleading team must meet and maintain specific academic, athletic and conduct requirements to remain a member of the team," the release said. "The cheerleading team coach position will be filled prior to tryouts. Though cheerleading is not an NCAA-sanctioned sport, the CCU cheerleading team will continue to function as a part of the CCU Department of Athletics, and all competitive and game-day aspects of the team will continue to function as they have in past years."

Related: CCU dance, cheer coach speaks out following release of university emails

This is a developing story and we will update this story as more information comes in.

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