University of Delaware officials announced Monday that the UD Mens Rugby Football Club has been suspended for five years.
Skip Homiak, executive director of campus and public safety, said at Monday’s city council meeting that the decision follows the Sept. 9 “I’m Shmacked” incident, which began at a party that night at “the rugby house.”
According to Cpl. James Spadola, a spokesman for the Newark Police Department, the incident began at a house party in the 400 block of South College Avenue. Officers called to the party saw approximately 3,000 people in and around the house’s backyard, where a DJ was set up.
Once police arrived, the partygoers dispersed and moved through the city, finally gathering on Main Street where some blocked traffic and walked on the hoods of cars. Some property damage was reported, Spadola said, including several damaged cars, tipped-over trashcans and damaged signs.
The incident was fueled, many witnesses said, by the presence of cameramen from the video company I’m Shmacked, which travels to college campuses to film and post online videos of large parties.
Police charged two UD students who live at the South College Avenue house with underage drinking, disorderly premises, failure to obtain a special event permit and a noise violation. According to Homiak, many of the residents of the home, including those charged, were members of the UD rugby team, and the university took action shortly after the incident to suspend the entire team.
University spokewoman Meredith Chapman said the rugby team was notified of its suspension through spring semester 2018 on Sept. 18 by the Office of Student Conduct.
“While the club is suspended, it may not gather as a group on the campus, including at practice sessions and in competition,” Chapman said.
Prior to its suspension, the team of about 90 students competed in the US Rugby national level in Division 1A and finished last season ranked 10th in the nation.
University Police Chief Patrick Ogden said that in order to thwart the efforts of partygoers, university and Newark police typically look on Twitter and other social media sites for certain keywords and hashtags. In the case of the Sept. 9 incident, he said police were unaware of the I’m Shmacked hashtag and the company itself.
Homiak said he thought police worked well to diffuse the party and control the crowds with a total of 75 officers and several K-9 units from four agencies; however, they failed in identifying the incident ahead of time.
“We’re constantly having our fingers on the pulse for those kinds of things,” he said. “This is one of those that slipped between the cracks.”
Since the incident, Newark Police have charged two other students and last week released video screenshots of 11 people wanted in connection to the incident.
Homiak said UD has contacted other schools where I’m Shmacked has filmed parties to see what legal actions the university can take against the company, and City Solicitor Bruce Herron is exploring the city’s legal options.