Mater Dei announces independent investigation, other changes after hazing allegations

Mater Dei coach Bruce Rollinson holds up an award on the field after a game
Mater Dei coach Bruce Rollinson celebrates after his team defeated Servite to win a Division 1 title.
(Nick Koza)

Mater Dei announced it will ask an outside firm to conduct an independent investigation into student safety and make other changes following a lawsuit that accused the school of endorsing hazing within the football program.

Father Walter Jenkins, Mater Dei’s president, released a letter Tuesday to the Mater Dei community outlining changes in the response to the allegation a former football player sustained a traumatic brain injury following a February locker room fight.

In addition to the investigation, Jenkins wrote he would establish a task force of industry athletic leaders to review the way the school’s athletic programs are structured.


Jenkins said Santa Ana police will conduct a review of campus safety.

And he planned to provide forums where alumni, parents and current students can provide feedback about player safety.

The letter was released the same day the California Interscholastic Federation released a statement condemning hazing but also stating it’s up to schools to investigate misconduct.

“The CIF condemns hazing and maintains that such conduct has no place in the educational setting,” the statement read. “Hazing can be both physically and emotionally harmful, and schools should take the necessary steps to prevent and eliminate it from their school environment.

“On-campus student misconduct involving a violation of a school’s code of conduct and/or State law falls within the responsibility of the school’s administration to investigate and address. The CIF will not comment further on the allegations of hazing regarding Mater Dei High School.”

It’s difficult to understand why Mater Dei coach Bruce Rollinson and principal Frances Clare still have jobs after video exposes hazing within team.

Nov. 28, 2021

Mater Dei’s football team has advanced to the CIF state championship Open Division bowl game Dec. 11 against San Mateo Serra. Coach Bruce Rollinson has declined to comment on a February fight highlighted in the lawsuit and captured by two videos. The lawsuit states a first-year football player was urged to participate in “bodies,” a fight among teammates during which blows are supposed to be limited to the torso. The player agreed and was struck repeatedly in the head by a bigger player, according to video viewed by The Times, leading to a traumatic brain injury. The lawsuit states Rollinson acknowledged the players participated in “bodies” frequently, the staff delayed medical treatment for the injured player, the staff declined to assist with a law enforcement investigation into the fight and the school tried to block the student from participating in CIF sports after transferring to another school.

Orange County Dist. Atty. Todd Spitzer issued a statement Tuesday explaining why his office declined to file charges regarding the fight.


“Neither player involved in this fight was made to participate against their will,” the statement read. “Other players in the locker room were seen milling around, playing on their phones and largely uninterested in the punches being thrown by two of their teammates. The participants knew they were being filmed and they started throwing punches. Some punches landed; others did not, but it is unequivocally clear that both participants attempted to land as many punches as possible.

“There is not a single shred of evidence to show that this was anything other than a mutual combat situation with two willing participants who traded blow for blow, including repeated punches to each other’s heads.

“That does not make it acceptable. But it is not a crime.”

The statement added: “What happened in the Mater Dei locker room on February 4, 2021 is nothing anyone should be proud of and it falls short of the kind of character any of us should wish for our children. This incident has been thoroughly investigated by law enforcement and reviewed blow by blow by the most experienced prosecutors in my office to see if we could prove a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. We cannot.”

The lawsuit backs up its hazing accusation by stating the injured player “acquiesced to Teammate 1’s goading” and participated in the fight “in an effort to fit in and show he was tough enough to be part of his new team.”

A former Mater Dei football player filed a lawsuit against the high school alleging the school has condoned a culture of hazing that puts students in danger.

Nov. 23, 2021