After a number of hazing incidents have come to light in the past year, the US Air Force Academy is enlisting an external agency to review its athletic programs, the school told SwimSwam Monday.
Last year, 11 Air Force swimmers were removed from the team in the wake of preliminary investigations into a hazing ritual that took place in September 2017; nine of those swimmers were removed midway through the WAC Championships.
Earlier this month, two of the swimmers involved, now seniors, were charged with the alleged violation of Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, or dereliction of duty, by “wrongfully and willfully fail[ing] to refrain from engaging in activities that constituted hazing” on September 29th, 2017.
Cadet 1st Class Lars Knutson and Cadet 1st Class Michael Hannigan will have hearings at the end of the month and in early October to determine if there is probable cause to support the charges and could face up to six years in prison if convicted.
The school gave SwimSwam the following statement on the senior swimmers:
“We can confirm that we charged two former members of the cadet men’s swim team and that some of those charges relate to allegations of hazing. The cadets are being charged under Article 81, Conspiracy, Article 92, Dereliction of Duty and Article 134, Obstruction of Justice. We also want to clarify, this is not the first time we’ve held a hearing for someone under any of these articles. The maximum punishment for dereliction of duty is 6 months and total forfeitures of pay/allowances. For conspiracy to commit dereliction the maximum is another 6 months and total forfeitures of pay/allowances. Obstruction of justice carries a maximum sentence of 5 years confinement, dismissal, and total forfeitures of pay/allowances. If convicted of all three, these charges could result in a maximum punishment that would equal 6 years confinement, total forfeitures of pay/allowances and dismissal. We must emphasize again, though, that these are charges and the accused are innocent until proven guilty.”
However, the swim team incident was not the only one to make headlines last year. Members of the Air Force lacrosse team, including coaches, were suspended last October over similar allegations, though fewer details of their sanctions have been made public.
Thus, the school has now contracted Collegiate Sports Associates, a consulting firm specifically for NCAA Division I programs, to conduct a further review of its athletic department.
“We have hired an outside agency to review our athletic department programs. Collegiate Sports Associates was here last week and will make several visits to the Academy between now and mid-October. During the visits, they will talk to coaches and staff; current and former athletes; team captains and our Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC) Committee members –roughly 250 people in all. We are eagerly awaiting their report because we are committed to not only holding people accountable for this type of behavior, but we want to prevent it in the future.”