Men's soccer players are the talk of the Fredonia State College campus, but it's not just because of their 9-0 record and No. 3 national ranking in Division III.
Several players are believed to be among the four or five Fredonia State students accused by an 18-year-old freshman of raping her at the end of Labor Day weekend, one source close to the investigation said Monday.
Tight-lipped authorities, including Fredonia village police and campus administrators, have provided almost no details about the alleged rapes, as they await the results of an ongoing investigation.
"I am not going to release information that is going to affect the futures of any of the individuals involved until I am positive there is a crime," Village Police Chief Bradley Meyers said Monday.
"Flippant comments made by myself or other people involved in the investigation cannot be taken back and would affect their futures," he said.
No matter how the facts turn out, the soccer team has been damaged by the innuendo and rumors that have swept across the campus. To some extent, every soccer player on campus has been painted with the same brush.
Soccer players reportedly have been advised to keep a low profile and not wear uniforms or other team paraphernalia on campus.
"When people see a soccer player go by, they say, 'Wow, there's a soccer player. I wonder if he was involved,' " said Andrea Curry, 18, a freshman from Webster, near Rochester. "It's going to be a stereotype for them now."
One source close to the investigation provided some details about what investigators have been told:
The incident occurred off campus, in downtown Fredonia, at an apartment of at least one of the accused males, on either Sept. 7 or 8.
The young woman knew at least some of the accused men and was in the apartment of her own volition.
The victim and at least some of the accused were believed to be drinking.
"I think alcohol was a factor in what she was doing," the source said. "I'm under the impression they were all partying together."
The incident, or at least the first sexual activity, may have resulted from a misunderstanding between the two parties about consent.
Students on campus Monday exhibited a wide range of opinions about the incident and the way it has been handled.
Most seemed willing to wait for the facts to emerge after the investigation is completed.
But not Joshua White, 19, a freshman from Saranac Lake.
"I think it's taken too long," he said outside the Williams Center student union. "Five guys raped one poor girl. They know what happened. What's taken so long? You have to have confidence in the authorities, and we're losing confidence."
Some young women on campus sounded scared Monday. Others sounded just concerned. But almost all of those interviewed said they have become more cautious.
"It's something you always heard of, and you said it would never happen to you," Ms. Curry said. "Now it's happened. It's kind of a wake-up call. You have to take care of yourself and know the people you're with."
The fact that the young woman in question apparently knew her attackers didn't provide much comfort to other students.
"Date rape or off-campus rape is just as serious as being assaulted by a stranger in the middle of the city," said senior Carly Bicheler, 20, from Akron. "It doesn't diminish the problem."
Jessica Olsen, 18, who came to Fredonia State this year from Selden, L.I., pointed out that by Labor Day, freshmen had had only a couple of weeks to know their new friends.
"When I got here, I felt you could trust anybody," she said. "People here are so open and friendly."
That the victim knew her attackers only makes it worse, according to Ms. Olsen.
"You have to trust people, and they took advantage of it," she said.
The fact that several of the accused play on the same team really upset some students.
"I think it's disgusting. I think it's immature," said Kerry Whitmore, 19, a junior from Watertown. "It has to do with the fact that on this campus, social groups like teams and fraternities have the mentality that you have to do what your 'brothers' do."
The day after news about the alleged rape broke Friday, the men's soccer team had its benches moved to the opposite side of the field from the bleachers for Saturday's game against Rochester Institute of Technology.
"It was a different atmosphere," said Todd Ceisner, editor-in-chief of the Leader, the campus newspaper. "There was like a buzz. You could hear people talking about it in the background."
Few students criticized the college administration for not suspending any of the accused and not publicizing the detailed accusations.
"I am concerned about the lives of all our students and ask that everyone wait until all the facts are known before rushing to any judgment," Fredonia State President Dennis L. Hefner said in a brief statement Friday.
Christine Davis Mantai, a Fredonia State spokeswoman, said college officials learned that investigators would need some time before deciding whether there was any criminal activity.
"We decided it would be inappropriate to make it public unless there was a danger on campus that we thought students should be alerted to," Ms. Mantai said. "We decided the situation called for all the students to be allowed to exercise all their privileges as students at Fredonia."
College officials have had to balance the rights of the accused and the accuser.
"The person who made this accusation has received a lot of support, from Public Safety, the administration, the student-affairs staff and the counseling center," Ms. Mantai said.