Boston College Swimmers File Lawsuit Over Indefinite Hazing Suspension

by Riley Overend 33

October 19th, 2023 ACC, College, News

Thirty-seven of the 67 members of the Boston College men’s and women’s swimming and diving program have filed a civil lawsuit against the university seeking to lift an indefinite suspension that was handed down in September before an investigation into allegations of hazing was completed.

A hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, when Middlesex County Superior Court Justice Diane C. Freniere will consider a preliminary injunction that would allow the Eagles to resume their season.

“The request is to lift the full team suspension so that the students can go back to normal training and competition,” said Tara Davis, one of the attorneys representing the swimmers. Her firm, Nesenoff & Miltenberg, LLP, specializes in campus disciplinary defense.

BC trustees, athletic director Blake James, and senior associate athletic director Reggie Terry are named as defendants in the suit, which claims that James and Terry made a defamatory statement.

“AD James admitted that the school did not yet have all of the relevant information and acknowledged that not everyone was involved, yet nonetheless called the students ‘disgusting’ while berating and humiliating them,” the lawsuit alleges.

The university’s initial press release said that the university had determined that hazing occurred within the program, but a revised version referred to “credible reports of hazing” and clarified that a full investigation is ongoing. The suit also accused James of taking “drastic, unfair and unprecedented” action against the entire program.

“The investigation and University conduct process involving these credible and serious allegations of hazing will continue through the Office of the Dean of Students, undeterred by any threats of legal action,” Boston College spokesperson Jack Dunn said in a statement Wednesday.

Last month, details of the alleged hazing emerged in a letter from an administrator in the Office of the Dean of Students that was obtained by The Heights, BC’s independent student newspaper. The letter suggested that freshmen swimmers were pressured to binge drink and consume their own vomit, potentially violating five Student Code of Conduct policies as well as Massachusetts state law. Sources also told SwimSwam last month that team members were forced to drink until they vomited, and then wear that vomit tied in a bag around their necks. Those same sources added that not all members of the team participated in the activities.

Both the BC men and women’s teams placed 12th out of 12 teams at the 2023 ACC Championships in their first season under former Notre Dame assistant Joe Brinkman. Still, it was a relatively successful season for the Eagles considering they’re the only Power Five swimming program that doesn’t offer scholarships. They broke three school and 15 pool records at their rivalry meet against Boston University in January and were starting to gain momentum on the recruiting trail under the new coaching staff.

It’s rare for colleges to self-suspend entire programs for hazing, but it has happened before. In 2015, Western Kentucky suspended its men’s and women’s swimming and diving program for five years in the wake of a hazing scandal that resulted in the termination of the coaching staff. Ultimately, the school cut the program.

Brinkman leads a BC coaching staff that includes assistant coach Brian Keane, assistant coach Alexander Santana, and diving coach Jack Lewis. The Eagles were expected to start their regular season against George Washington on Oct. 7.

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Evan
7 months ago

They had some solid momentum. A shame we probably won’t get to see what could’ve been for BC. It will be interesting to see where the coaches land

Oceanus
7 months ago

They are right, a full investigation should be conducted, and then they can all be dismissed from the school and arrested like most people who engage in hazing. The second you endanger the safety of your teammates for a draconian tradition like hazing, you go straight to the boiler room. Get them off the team and out of the school—discussion over.

Bobby
Reply to  Oceanus
7 months ago

Didn’t you read the article NO hazing occurred.. there’s no victim. They blames the team from an unfounded allegation . There are no victims. That is why they are suing

Admin
Reply to  Bobby
7 months ago

That’s not what the article says.

bestsportever
Reply to  Braden Keith
7 months ago

It’s what the official legal document says.

swimapologist
Reply to  bestsportever
7 months ago

Well if it’s in the ‘official legal document’ it must be true.

I can’t stop laughing at how collectively clueless the BC parents seem to be. I guess the same people who would believe “someone filed a lawsuit it must be true” are the same people who believe “mom I swear we didn’t haze and nobody threw up.”

Rubes.

Bestsportever
Reply to  swimapologist
7 months ago

So you’re laughing that many innocent kids (because certainly the entire team isn’t at fault if any) have been nationally defamed and punished … seriously?!

Coach
7 months ago

Ruining these kids lives is no joke BC. Not very caring or christian like. These kids dreamed about the opportunity to go be an Eagle. They sacrificed so much to study and they trained their entire lives to compete at a D1 level. You let them down…but now it is time do the right thing. Your God is watching your next move.

Nowhereman
Reply to  Coach
7 months ago

what an incredibly silly thing to say and do – bringing some worthless argument about an invisible god into this is laughable.

bestsportever
Reply to  Nowhereman
7 months ago

FYI, BC is a Jesuit (ie, Catholic) university that needs to live up to its stated values … so no, far from a worthless argument and definitely not laughable…

Nowhereman
Reply to  Coach
7 months ago

What a silly statement to make – bringing in the opinions of a invisible and non-existent god. These kids should not be hazing nor silently watching while hazing occurs. It’s time for hazing to stop and for students who haze or stand silently by while it occurs to take responsibility and be held responsible. I would also advocate for suspending coaches who do nothing about hazing. It is a culture that has to stop

SwimmersUnite
Reply to  Nowhereman
7 months ago

Agreed, but consider if they’re scapegoats in that effort. Youre ok with Swim & Dive getting punished for stuff they won’t punish other teams for? Zero tolerance for underage drinking-but only on the swim team. Plus, we’re going to make it sound like the whole team did it, just for effect. And add a horrible vomit accusation, so it goes viral and it’s assumed true. Then we will invite the whole school to bring their fully stocked bar to tailgate on campus.

Admin
Reply to  SwimmersUnite
7 months ago

Only 1 person, the mother of a swimmer, has denied the vomit allegation to SwimSwam, and that denial was tepid at best – claiming that her son told her that ‘vomit’ is the nickname given to some kind of gross-sounding protein powder concoction.

SwimmersUnite
Reply to  Braden Keith
7 months ago

That’s not true, Braeden. You mean 1 of the 1 moms you’ve corresponded with? Read the lawsuit. But you’ve provided a clue, so thanks. Vomit is not actually vomit?

SwimmersUnite
Reply to  Braden Keith
7 months ago

Breaking news, Braden. The school’s response to the lawsuit makes no mention of the vomit eating allegation. It’s like it never happened…

SwimmersUnite
Reply to  SwimmersUnite
7 months ago

#nobodyatevomit #scapegoats #defamation

SwimmieSwam
Reply to  Coach
7 months ago

Shame on the AD for suspending these kids with ZERO victim or proof of anything and even more so for putting a public media statement saying they had it. And shame on BC for backing this jerk and not stepping up to do the right thing for their students. These kids have been through hell and back. BC needs to pay up.

Koke
7 months ago

Poverty school

MIKE IN DALLAS
7 months ago

IMHO, BC deserves to be roasted in court. Of course, the students NOT involved have a claim. I hope they get back to teaching and swimming!

Alan J
7 months ago

Nice to know swimming is only a national new story when.
Phelps hits a bong
A dude races a bunch of woman
Lochte gets extorted for ripping a sign down in Rio
and suspending a team on allegations of hazing.

Man what a sport.

Meeeee
7 months ago

AD’s today are hired to promote football and basketball and to be the hammer to get rid of Olympic sports. I’m convinced of that based on what happened at Eastern Michigan several years ago and also what happened at Michigan State.

YGBSM
Reply to  Meeeee
7 months ago

See also the University of Iowa. Shameful.

“Student-athlete opportunities for all” now means “ticket revenue-only sports for few”

RealSlimThomas
Reply to  YGBSM
7 months ago

Could even argue University of Buffalo or Maryland.

RealSlimThomas
7 months ago

What happens next if the College says “yeah we were wrong, return to practice”. I have to imagine recruiting will be difficult for the next for years. Athletes and coaching staff are likely uncomfortable (understandably) and look to leave.

About Riley Overend

Riley is an associate editor interested in the stories taking place outside of the pool just as much as the drama between the lane lines. A 2019 graduate of Boston College, he arrived at SwimSwam in April of 2022 after three years as a sports reporter and sports editor at newspapers …

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