Seven seniors on the Saugus (Mass.) High School lacrosse players were suspended from postseason play after smoking cigars to celebrate their graduation, bringing their high school careers to an end in the moments following one of their biggest accomplishments.
Saugus and the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association ban tobacco use
The ban isn’t without reason: Both the school itself and the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association have rules explicitly banning tobacco use, even for those who have graduated. Saugus’ rule is even stricter than the MIAA’s: “A violation is defined by the use, possession or being in the presence of drugs, alcohol or tobacco,” per the Saugus Advertiser.
But according to one of the suspended players, midfielder Kevin Cucuzza, the rule had never been enforced before. Smoking a cigar at the Saugus graduation is a tradition. “I’ve seen it at every graduation I’ve ever been to,” he told WBZ. “Last year the team went to state tournament and they also smoked cigars. Didn’t see a problem then so don’t know why it’s a problem now…We thought we were celebrating a big milestone in life, but I guess not.“
Robert Divola, father of a freshman on this year’s team and a former player who graduated last year, backed up Cucuzza’s claim. “My son graduated last year, and there were kids doing it last year, and nothing happened,” he told the Boston Globe. “Rules are rules, I understand that, but it wasn’t like they were smoking marijuana or doing drugs.”
One of the school’s baseball players was also suspended.
School Committee member: ‘I am confident…this will never happen again.’
In an email to the Advertiser, School Committee member Liz Marchese regretted not enforcing the rules surrounding tradition sooner:
By our tacit allowance, we as a whole have sent mixed messages to our students that there will be no consequence. That was wrong and unfair. What should have been a celebration of the culmination of their years as Sachem students will now forever be marred… Regrettably, this whole situation could have been avoided had an email been sent or announcement been made prior to the commencement of graduation ceremonies reminding everyone of the tobacco use policy, especially in light of past practices. I am confident that in the future there will be no gray area and this will never happen again.
Saugus’ season ended in the first round
Down seven of their eight seniors, the Sachems fell 17-3 to Pentucket, ending their season.
“Guys were playing out of position, but they played their hearts out and that’s all we asked them to do,” Saugus coach Rob Scuzzarella told the Globe.
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