Code of conduct violation leads to removal of five players

Tony Zhou/File
Head coach Kirk Everist confirmed Monday that five players were removed from the Cal men's water polo team after violating an undisclosed team code of conduct policy.

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Five players have been removed from the Cal men’s water polo team due to a violation of the team’s code of conduct, head coach Kirk Everist confirmed Sunday night.

On Monday, Everist said the five players removed from the team are senior goalie and team captain Justin Parsons, sophomore attacker Max Bergeson, junior attacker Perry Short, junior attacker Tommy Gilfillan and sophomore attacker Nick Santala.

“We had a code of conduct problem,” Everist said. “We had a number of players that gave me no choice but to remove them from the team.”

Everist said that the code of conduct is not signed by players but is an internally recognized code that the all the athletes know about.

He would not say what the code of conduct violation was, citing his players’ and team’s right to privacy. Athletic Director Sandy Barbour also declined to comment on the situation.

But when the Bears jumped in the pool this weekend for the NorCal Invite in Stanford, some familiar faces were missing. In one of the most competitive tournaments of the year, the absences of Parsons in the cage and Bergeson on offense were impossible to miss.

In terms of the situation affecting the team, there is little doubt that the loss of so many impact players will influence the dynamic of a program that had national title hopes this season.

“Those guys will be missed,” senior team captain Marin Balarin said. “Those guys were our teammates and our friends, but we have to keep moving on. We don’t have time at this point in the season to lose focus.”

Senior Mason Cox echoed Balarin’s sentiments but still managed to see a case for team improvement in the situation.

“It hurts, but in the end I think it helps the team,” Cox said. “It makes us focus a lot more. It puts things in perspective. I think it makes the teams stronger as a whole and takes individualism out of the equation. You realize what you have to do as team.”

The last time that the Cal water polo team experienced a mid-season exodus was in 2009, when starting goalie Jacob McIntosh left and was replaced by Wil Toppen.

Midseason removals are surprising, but not unprecedented for Cal athletic teams. Last year, then-sophomore Richard Solomon was cut from the men’s basketball team for the remainder of the season in a high-profile case of academic ineligibility.

This past August, linebacker Cecil Whiteside was also declared academically ineligible and was dismissed from the football team. However, he was reinstated shortly thereafter.

In 2008, football team member R.J. Garrett and former player Gary Doxy were arrested on suspicion of robbery at Clark Kerr Campus.

For the Cal men’s water polo team, the removal of five players equates to the loss of about a fifth of the active roster.

Despite going 2-2 at the NorCal tournament this weekend, the Bears are confident that they are still national-scale contenders with the talent that remains.

“Kirk told us after the game that this weekend showed us that the talent is still there and the ability is still there,” Cox said. “If we can play together, we can still compete for a national championship.”

Clarification(s):
A previous version of this article may have implied that Jacob McIntosh left the Cal men’s water polo team in 2009 in similar fashion to the exit of the five players, when in fact he quit due to personal reasons.

A previous version of the photo caption accompanying this article may have implied that head coach Kirk Everist confirmed on Monday the removal of five players. In fact, he confirmed the names of the five players, thereby reconfirming the removal.

Correction(s):
A previous version of this article incorrectly spelled Richard Solomon’s name.