The president of California’s Mater Dei High School, a Catholic prep academy whose top-ranked football team was accused of hazing in a 2020 lawsuit, has stepped down.
The exit of the Rev. Walter E. Jenkins has nothing to do with the allegations and to make a connection between the two would be “unfair,” a spokesperson for the school said Saturday.
“There is no connection between the litigation and his departure from the school and to make such a connection is deeply unfair to Father Jenkins who served Mater Dei well during his tenure,” communications director Allison Bergeron said by email.
Jenkins is returning to his religious order in South Bend, Indiana, to take on a new assignment, said the superintendent for Orange County diocese schools, Erin Jenkins, in a letter to parents, students and supporters. His exit is effective next week.
The lawsuit was filed in Orange County Superior Court by an unnamed Mater Dei football player who alleged he was struck multiple times in the face and the head by a heavier player in a hazing game of pain tolerance called “bodies.”
The Orange County Register on Saturday reported that Jenkins’ departure also followed tension with Bruce Rollinson, the head coach who has run the high school’s football program since the 1989 season. The coach has been credited with lifting the team to a championship level that draws powerful supporters and wealthy donors to the private school in Santa Ana.
Jenkins was introduced as president in February 2021, and one of his last acts in the position was to hire a Sacramento law firm to conduct an independent investigation of the hazing allegations.
“Father’s departure will not affect the progress of the independent investigation which will commence when school resumes next week,” Bergeron said. “The Diocese of Orange and Mater Dei remain committed to student safety and academic excellence.”
The superintendent, Barisano, said a new president would be announced “very shortly.”
Dennis Romero is a breaking news reporter for NBC News Digital.