Transcript Staff Writer

Members of the University of Oklahoma RUF/NEKS were banned from spirit events for the rest of the year because of alcohol abuse and hazing of pledges, the university announced Wednesday.

The disciplinary action was taken on the same day the OU Board of Regents approved changes in the student code.

The RUF/NEKS are an all-male spirit group best known for driving the Sooner Schooner across the end zone after touchdowns. It was founded in 1915, and was always a unique group in that it didn't fall directly under the control of the athletics department or Student Life.

The university was alerted to the dangerous hazing practices by the RUF/NEKS through several calls to the anonymous hazing hotline after OU/Texas weekend, Boren said.

The OU Office of Judicial Services started an investigation within 24 hours, he said.

The investigation found evidence of the misuse of alcohol as well as evidence that pledges were subjected to a "pervasive" atmosphere of hazing, including sleep deprivation, physical exhaustion, demeaning actions, the potential for physical harm and "generally not treating people with dignity," Boren said.

During this fall semester, about half of the 20 RUF/NEK pledges dropped out.

"We found sufficient evidence that we felt we simply had to stop this conduct now," Boren said.

As a result of the investigation, the current members of the RUF/NEK group -- about 25 men -- have been banned from participation in the group at official university events and will not be let back in the group, he said.

Pledges not yet fully members and those who had been pledges but dropped out, however, will be allowed to be in the group through the end of the 2007 football season. Next year they will make up the membership of the group.

"As a former RUF/NEK, this is a difficult thing," said Clark Stroud, vice president of student life who pledged as a RUF/NEK in 1987. "But it's best for the university, best for the organization."

Beginning in the spring, the RUF/NEKS will be reorganized under the direction of the Athletics Department as an official spirit group.

The spirit group has been "partially reorganized" twice in the past 10 years owing to student code violations, but has never been placed under the Athletic Department, Boren said.

The RUF/NEKS are an important part of OU tradition, he said.

"We want it to continue in ways that meet the standards of the university today," Boren said.

Boren asked that a transitional plan be developed for his review and approval, ensuring the continuation of the RUF/NEK tradition while preventing situations that endanger students.

The transitional plan will detail the application process for membership. The process may be an annual review, similar to other recognized spirit groups under the auspices of the Athletics Department. It will not be a pledge system, Boren said.

Members selected for the RUF/NEKS will be required to meet the grade point average and other standards expected of spirit squad members, including being a full-time undergraduate student in good academic standing.

For the remainder of the football season, OU's official mascot, the Sooner Schooner, will be driven with assistance from RUF/NEK alumni and the Bartlett Foundation, which owns and maintains the schooner.

Those current and former RUF/NEK pledges interested in firing the RUF/NEK shotguns on the sidelines during football games will be given certified training from the University of Oklahoma Police Department, as has been done annually with all RUF/NEK members in the past.

Julianna Parker

366-3550

jparker@normantranscript.com

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