SAUGUS — Saugus head football coach Anthony Nalen was cleared Tuesday afternoon of all allegations related to a potential hazing incident that took place in August during a preseason practice. Nalen’s attorney, Mike Castano, confirmed the news Tuesday evening.
“We were confident all along that my client had done nothing wrong,” Castano said. “Coach Nalen’s all about the kids. He would never do anything to hurt the kids. We were waiting for him to be cleared so he could go back to coaching football.”
Castano said the alleged incident took place Aug. 17, just a few days into Saugus’ preseason. Notice of police investigation was received by Nalen Aug. 28, and Castano said Nalen immediately went to the police station and provided a recorded statement.
Multiple reports said the hazing allegation stemmed from a player practicing in his underwear. Nalen denied all allegations in a statement released via email Tuesday night.
“The last week or so have been very difficult for myself, my family and the Saugus High football team,” Nalen wrote. “I was falsely accused of ordering a player to practice in his underwear as some form of hazing. I adamantly and completely deny any and all accusations made against me relating to this matter. My players are my first and only priority and I would never do anything to hurt or embarrass any one of them.”
In Nalen’s statement, he explained the team has a policy in which players must wear white, black or red shorts during practice. Those who don’t are asked to return to the locker room and change into the appropriate colors or football pants supplied by the school.
“Apparently an allegation was made that one player had worn boxer shorts back on the field after being asked to change into the appropriate colored shorts during a practice that took place on Aug. 17 approximately 11 days before the allegation was made known to me,” Nalen wrote. “On the day in question that player returned to the field wearing what appeared to be appropriate colored shorts that did not cause any of the coaching staff to notice any problem. That student participated in practice for the rest of the day without incident.”
Castano said he received news from Saugus Police Department Tuesday at 2:20 p.m. that Nalen was cleared of all charges. After receiving the news from the police, Castano said he proceeded to contact Saugus School Administration attorney Howard Greenspan in regard to whether Nalen had been reinstated by the administration. According to Castano, the administration informed him that Nalen would be reinstated if all allegations were dropped. Castano said Nalen expects to be reinstated, but he has yet to receive notice as to whether that has happened.
“The Saugus police have cleared my good name and I thank them for doing a thorough investigation,” Nalen wrote. “I would like everyone to go back to focusing on the kids like we should have been doing for the last four weeks. I promise that my staff will continue striving to make this a successful and enjoyable football season.”
Lt. Ronald Giorgetti, Saugus’ acting police chief, said that while the investigation into the allegations against Nalen and his staff has been closed, he had yet to examine the report and would not do so until today.
Once he views the report, he said, he would make it available in accordance to public records laws.
Nalen’s statement said he was suspended by Saugus Superintendent David DeRuosi Jr. on Aug. 30 and that his assistants ran the next 15 practices leading up to last Friday’s game.
“The coaches completed those practices and then told the administration they would not continue until I was reinstated because the allegations were demonstrably false and the kids wanted me back,” he wrote.
Neither Nalen, nor any of his assistant coaches, were present for last Friday’s season opener at Amesbury. Town youth football coaches, along with interim head coach Mike Mabee, stepped up and coached the team in the 30-12 loss.
The team, along with parents, met with DeRuosi for 15 minutes Monday afternoon. Players skipped practice and opted to hold a protest outside town hall instead, which lasted from about 2:30 in the afternoon to 5:30 in the evening.
DeRuosi couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.