News, Sports

Police report clears Saugus football coach of allegations

Anthony Nalen was dismissed as head football coach at Saugus High. (Item File Photo)

SAUGUS — A five-page police report released Wednesday outlines in detail the allegations that led to an investigation of Saugus football coach Anthony Nalen, and concludes no crimes were committed.

However, despite being cleared of any crimes and the school department having been apprised of the police report, parents of players said Nalen had not been reinstated as of Wednesday afternoon. The parents sent a letter Wednesday to the school department, selectmen, school committee and Town Manager Scott Crabtree seeking Nalen’s reinstatement.

Also, the school has advertised for an assistant coach.

Saugus School Superintendent Dr. David DeRuosi was unavailable for comment through the department’s administrative offices Wednesday and also has not returned numerous phone calls from The Item.

According to Saugus Police Sgt. Paul Vansteensburg, police first became aware of the issue on Aug. 29 when “I was assigned to investigate a report of an alleged hazing incident on a Saugus High football player.”

The high school is a mandated reporter, meaning that once it is notified of any allegation involving minors, the district is obligated to report it.

The incident alleged that on Aug. 17, the first day of preseason workouts, a player practiced in his underwear because he didn’t have the required red, gray, or white shorts. The report stated that the player told his mother at the end of practice that he had been told to leave the field and put on right colored pair of shorts. According to the report, if players don’t have the right color shorts on, they are asked to change. Instead, however, the boy practiced in a pair of boxer shorts.

Sgt. Vansteensburg also said in the report that the boy told his mother he’d heard of two instances last year when boys practiced in their boxers because they weren’t wearing the proper-colored shorts.

Sgt. Vansteensberg said he made inquiries at both the Belmonte Middle School (practices are held there because of construction at the high school field) and the adjacent World Series Park about whether surveillance cameras captured any evidence of the allegations. None did, however.

Other parents besides the ones who initiated the allegation said similar things happened to their sons. However, the boys asked their parents not to pursue it, the report said.

Nalen, the report said, cooperated with police fully, coming to the station with attorney Michael Castano on Thursday, Sept. 6, the night before the Sachems’ scheduled season-opener at Amesbury.

St. Vansteensburg quoted Nalen as saying, “It was made abundantly clear to each and every player that we request that they wear colored shorts that are appropriate in line with our team.

“We believe in team unity and camaraderie and being as one, so we offer the children to bring in black, red or white shorts. If the child at some point is out there on the football field and they do not have their colored shorts, we ask them to go in and change. They can either borrow one of the friends’ shorts or wear the practice pants that were supplied by the football program for them.”

Nalen told police that to his knowledge, he’d never seen a player practicing in his underwear and would have told anyone who was to go back into the locker room and change.

Nalen also told police about the Huddle website where coaches post practice films. Sgt. Vansteensburg was able to see images of the player concerned, noticed that he was wearing red shorts, and that they rode high on his thighs. However, Nalen told him other players also wore shorts that rode high, and that some players hiked them up.

Nalen also told Sgt. Vansteensburg that players who did not have the requisite practice shorts would not be kicked out of practice, but allowed to stay, and that he didn’t believe in ritualistic punishment. According to the report, two players were wearing incorrect-colored shorts during the segment of the practice police could see on film.

The investigation was hampered by the fact that the players declined to be interviewed, the report states.

“At this point in the investigation, I do not believe the elements of any criminal offense has been met,” the report concludes. “Hazing is spelled out in the Massachusetts General Laws as when a suspect conducts a method of initiation into any student organization while willfully or recklessly endangering the physical or mental health of any person.

“Coach Nalen adamantly denied knowledge that any player has practiced in their underwear. All other interviews were hearsay statements from concerned parents. The players involved appeared in no way to have been endangered physically nor did any one of them wish to come forward to speak with us.”

The report concluded that while the player appeared on the field in short shorts, “he did not appear to be treated any different than the others on the field. It does not appear the child was singled out … pending further evidence, the current information gathered in this investigation does not amount to a crime.”

More Stories From Saugus