FRANKENMUTH, MI – A sex toy that led to the suspension of a Frankenmuth football player and prompted a police investigation was meant as a joke and was not used for hazing, officials said.
State police opened an investigation in March after an anonymous tip that a sex toy had been used in hazing rituals in the locker room during the 2020 football season.
Investigators interviewed the parents of seven alleged victims named by the anonymous complainant and the parents of 52 players on the 2020 football squad, but all players – through their parents – denied any hazing took place, according to a state police report obtained by MLive through the Freedom of Information Act.
Police also interviewed six assistant coaches, who also denied seeing any hazing. In all, police interviewed more than 60 people during the course of the investigation.
Frankenmuth athletic director Kevin Schwedler said he began an internal investigation when he was approached by Tim Smith, the school liaison officer from the Frankenmuth Police Department. Smith had heard a rumor of possible hazing in the football locker room.
“I investigated a rumor and finished my investigation on Feb. 15,” Schwedler said. “We found a violation of our Code of Conduct, but we did not find anything criminal or hazing in nature. We followed with penalties according to our Code of Conduct, which is a suspension of the athlete for 20 percent of the next sport’s schedule, whether that becomes a winter or spring sport.
“It was a Category A violation. The suspension was an athletic suspension, not a school suspension. Nobody issued a complaint. There was no allegation. It was a rumor that we followed up on and investigated. It turned out the rumor was not true. The only thing we discovered was the presence of the object.”
Schwedler learned that a player on the team brought a sex toy with him to the games. The state police investigation confirmed the presence of a sex toy, which was termed a “mascot” and a “joke” by some of the players.
The player who owned the sex toy told police that he was given the object in the spring as a prank and threw it in the back of his truck, where he found it at the beginning of the football season and believed it could become a “silly tradition.” He also told police no coaches were aware of its presence, according to the report.
Police submitted the report to the Saginaw County Prosecutor’s Office on May 25, and prosecutors declined to file charges.
Frankenmuth head football coach Phil Martin told police he questioned the veracity of the claims, specifically that the alleged hazing happened in the locker room.
Because of COVID protocols in 2020, no players were allowed to shower, and the shower room was used for storage. Players were not allowed to store anything in their lockers and were only allowed to use them to take on and off football gear for games and practices.
Players were also divided into two groups and could not use the locker room as a changing area at the same time, for COVID protocol reasons, and players were encouraged to leave the locker room as quickly as possible.
Once the investigation started, Martin said he was advised not to speak about it with any of the players.
“Our students showed great composure when they were put in a difficult situation with this and every other situation this season,” Martin said. “I am proud of our kids. My only disappointment is I wasn’t able to do more for them.
“This was a stressful season with stops and starts and testing, and our kids continually rose to the challenges put in front of them … all 167 days of it.”
Schwedler and Martin, who is also the school’s assistant principal, said they may change some of the timing or processes involved with pre-game and post-game use of the locker room.
“As an athletic department as a whole, we address topics like this and others with players and with coaches,” Schwedler said. “This will bring more awareness.”
The Eagles were 11-1 in 2020, falling in the Division 5 state championship game to Grand Rapids Catholic Central, 48-21. It was Frankenmuth’s first appearance in a state final game in program history after reaching the state semifinals in three of the past five seasons.
In Martin’s nine seasons as the Frankenmuth coach, the Eagles are 79-15. Martin has also served as the head coach at Carrollton and Flint Kearsley.
“We continually look at how we do everything … we’re always looking for ways to improve,” Martin said. “Whether it’s how we practice or game situations or after-game processes, we always want to learn and get better.
“This doesn’t take anything away from our accomplishments this season. This is still a season our kids should be proud of. I am.”
More than 100 players have begun working toward the 2021 Frankenmuth football season. Martin expects to field a varsity team of approximately 46 players when the season begins at 4:30 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 26 against Goodrich at Flint’s Atwood Stadium.
“Right now, my focus is on the season and our first opponent,” Martin said. “Getting 100 kids better every day … that’s what’s important.”