By Ben Waldman
After giving 11 members of Ryerson’s men’s volleyball team a two-week suspension initially said to end on Jan. 24, Ryerson athletic director Ivan Joseph ended the suspension one week early, allowing the players and their coach Adam Simac to return to team activities on Wednesday.
Despite The Eyeopener’s repeated requests for elaboration, Joseph wouldn’t give any specific explanation for the suspensions. “The volleyball team broke unspecified rules that are in our student-athlete code of conduct,” Joseph told The Eyeopener Monday morning, three days after the team played short-handed against the Western Mustangs.
“We don’t say what rules people break,” he added. “We just need to know they broke the rules.”
Joseph told The Eye that the initial terms of the suspension could have lasted “up to two weeks,” however, after taking “further time to reflect,” he decided to end it early. Now, Joseph says, the suspended players are preparing proposals for community service, including running workshops and volunteering at organizations like Covenant House. “They have until, I think, reading week to get it done.”
According to Joseph, the suspended players were “remorseful” for violating the code of conduct—a 29-page document outlining proper behaviour of Ryerson athletes— on “a recent road trip,” although he wouldn’t say which one.
Joseph said Simac had been suspended for a separate issue, the nature of which was related to a human resources matter and that the department couldn’t comment any further.
In the past, Ryerson Athletics has been forthcoming with details regarding large-scale suspensions of athletes who’d violated the student-athlete code of conduct. In 2013, the entire men’s hockey team was suspended for seven days after consuming alcohol during a preseason road trip to New Jersey; the code states that no alcohol should be consumed by Ryerson athletes from the time they leave for a road trip to the time they return to Toronto. “Long story short, they were in the hotel room, they were drinking alcohol,” Joseph told The Eye at the time.
And in 2009, when eight members of the women’s volleyball team were suspended for drinking in their dressing room, both Joseph and the team’s coach were open about that suspension’s reasoning as well.
While Joseph and Ryerson Athletics reserve the right to decide which information is released about the suspensions, some Ryerson volleyball alumni have been critical of the department’s handling of the situation. Ryan Vandenburg, a two-time OUA MVP during his five-year stint as a Ram, told The Eye that he’s frustrated with the lack of transparency, even after the suspensions have ended.
“I am disappointed in how this has been handled as I am a very big believer in this group of guys,” he wrote in a text message Monday, three days after The Eye first reported on the suspensions.
After Joseph shortened the suspension, Vandenburg was still miffed. “And still no clarity,” he wrote in another text after the announcement. “We know past suspensions and why they took place in Ryerson athletics. Why the secrecy now?”
Mark Roe, a TSN host who served as a captain of the Ryerson volleyball team from 2003-2007, echoed Vandenburg’s feelings.
“As a proud alumnus who makes a point to mention my affiliation with the school on TSN and TSN Radio, you instantly want to know the details when a story like this breaks,” Roe wrote in a Twitter message. “Hopefully I’ll know the whole story at some point,” he later added.
Ryerson Athletics has yet to release any information regarding the volleyball suspensions, however in 2013, when the men’s hockey team was suspended, the athletics department published a statement online. According to an email from Andrea Elliott, Ryerson’s sports information specialist, the department isn’t planning on making a formal announcement or release regarding the suspensions.
Every Ryerson athlete is aware of the code of conduct and signs off on it before the season begins, Joseph said. “The students were aware of the rules. They knew the consequences. They took responsibility for it, and we’re moving forward.”
Joseph doesn’t appear to be considering releasing more information, either.
“Are you ever going to go into detail about what these players did?” The Eye asked Joseph Monday.
“I don’t believe so,” he said.