LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A former Western Kentucky swimmer whose allegations of hazing led to a five-year suspension of the school’s program says in a federal lawsuit that he suffered physical, mental and emotional abuse at the hands of teammates.
The lawsuit says Collin Craig attended Western in the fall of 2014 on a swim scholarship, but his dream “turned into a nightmare” when older teammates made threatening comments and forced him to participate in degrading activities including drinking alcohol while being struck in the testicles.
Louisville attorney Vanessa B. Cantley said in the lawsuit, filed Wednesday, that the university and coaches were negligent and “failed to follow the advised policies of the NCAA to prevent hazing, including but not limited to taking time to educate and provide written materials to swim team members about the fallacy and criminal nature of such actions.”
It asks for unspecified compensatory and punitive damages. Those named as defendants include the school, athletic director Todd Stewart, associate athletic directors John McCammon and Craig Biggs, former head coach Bruce Marchionda, former assistant coach Brian Thomas, and former swim team members Harrison Griffin, Tyler Groneck and Seth Musser.
School spokesman Bob Skipper said the university “completed a thorough investigation” into the allegations and plans to defend itself in the lawsuit. He declined to comment further.
When the university announced the suspension of its swim program in April, officials said an investigation by police and Title IX coordinator Huda Melky discovered evidence of violations.
The school’s summary determined that a hostile environment was created within the program. The findings by Melky and deputy Title IX director Joshua Hayes also said a culture of hazing and sexual harassment had been in place since spring 2012.
The report concluded that Marchionda knew that team members had been arrested for marijuana use and possession, stealing and public intoxication. None of the coaches immediately reported the sexual harassment incidents as required by Title IX. Discipline was inconsistent and often occurred during the fall when major competition wasn’t at stake.
WKU President Gary Ransdell said the behavior contradicted school values.
“We have high standards for student conduct and conduct of our student organizations,” he said in the April release. “The pervasive culture of misconduct in the swimming and diving program is intolerable.”
Current phone numbers could not immediately be found for the former coaches and swimmers.
Cantley said in an interview Friday that Craig has moved back to California, where he continues with counseling while attending school.
“He’s getting better,” she said. “He’s not out of the woods yet, but he’s got a good support system out there.”