3 University of Louisville Soccer Players Dismissed After Hosting Party That Led to COVID Outbreak
"I'm extremely disappointed in these young men and particularly with the three that have been dismissed," head coach John Michael Hayden said on Thursday
Three soccer players from the University of Louisville have been removed from the team for their part in hosting an off-campus party that may be linked to a spike in coronavirus cases.
The university announced it had dismissed three players from the school's soccer team in relation to an Aug. 1 party, which they believe led to 29 coronavirus infections in both the men's and women's soccer teams as well as the field hockey and volleyball teams.
The rise in cases forced the temporary shutdown of voluntary activities and preseason practice sessions for all four sports affected by the outbreak.
"I'm extremely disappointed in these young men and particularly with the three that have been dismissed," Louisville men's soccer head coach John Michael Hayden said in a statement issued on Thursday. "They have demonstrated with their actions now and previously that they do not echo the culture of this program."
"Our student-athletes are held to a high standard of conduct as representatives of our program and university," he added.
The three dismissed players were "primarily responsible for organizing" the party, and each had prior team violations, the university said. Three other members of the group were suspended.
"I fully support John Michael's decision," Vince Tyra, Louisville's Vice President/Director of Athletics, said in a statement. "It is clear that these student-athletes did not meet the code of conduct of the university or their team. Ignoring the safety protocols issued by federal, state and local officials, as well as the athletic department, is unacceptable and dangerous."
"Their history of actions are not in alignment with the values of this university and athletics department," Tyra continued.
One of the dismissed players, Cameron Wheeler, issued a statement on social media that referred to the prior "violations" mentioned in the university's statement. Wheeler said the violations ranged from receiving a bad grade in one of his classes to leaving his hotel to walk around campus while on an away trip with the team, something he said was not a rule at the time.
Wheeler said the gathering on Aug. 1 did not begin as a "party" but became one as more "uninvited" people arrived at his home, which he shares with five other people also on the soccer team. He said he and his roommates have been in the house together since mid-June, and are "frequently" tested for coronavirus.
"We were COVID free as of last Saturday," he wrote in a statement on Twitter. "We strictly followed the safety rules to protect each other. We were proud of that."
“We didn’t invite a crowd to come to our house. One other student-athlete who had also just tested negative for COVID was invited to come over and hang out with us," he continued. "This violated no rule. Several uninvited student-athletes followed him in. They said they were also COVID free. But, things escalated quickly. Athletes from multiple teams were let in by others we hadn’t invited."
"I didn’t know many of them," he continued. "This made it more difficult to try to get the situation under control. We tried shutting it down and getting people to leave, but it took over an hour."
RELATED VIDEO: Alyssa Milano Tests Positive for COVID-19 Antibodies After 3 Negative Results: 'I Thought I Was Dying'
Continuing with sports activities during the coronavirus pandemic has been one many universities have had to confront with the start of the school year.
As NBC News notes, the University of Connecticut recently announced it was axing its 2020 football season, citing "safety challenges created by COVID-19."
The University of California, Berkeley linked most of its 47 new coronavirus cases to parties in its Greek system. The events "led to some secondary spread within households and within other smaller gatherings," the university said.
This week, Colorado State University launched an investigation after multiple football players told The Coloradoan and ESPN that they were being pressured by coaches to disregard coronavirus safety guidelines and forgo testing.
Coronavirus continues to be a major issue for the country five months after widespread lockdowns. The United States has seen more than 4.9 million cases and 159,984 deaths from the virus as of Friday afternoon, according to The New York Times.
As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a GoFundMe.org fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.