Stony Brook University Coaches Dismissed After Athletes Allege Abuse

Following allegations of emotional abuse by members of the women’s swimming and diving team, Stony Brook University has dismissed its coaches. Stony Brook recently reinstated their women’s swim team for the 2017-18 season, naming Olympic swimmer Janelle Atkinson as the women’s head coach. The team had been on competitive hiatus since 2012-13 due to maintenance renovations of the university’s pool. Both Atkinson and assistant Jordan Bowen are no longer listed on Stony Brook’s website.

One of the team’s former swimmers, Arianna Rodriguez, reached out to SwimSwam before the coaches’ dismissal detailing the alleged abuse that led her to leave the team. Rodriguez is one of 6 swimmers to have left the Stony Brook program since they started up this fall, with one additional swimmer taking a “hiatus.” Since the beginning of the season, the roster size has dropped from 13 to 6. The alleged emotional abuse of the swimmers included what they described as intense screaming, degradation, and regular use of profanity that became unbearable.

The following is a list of some of the allegations detailed to SwimSwam by Rodriguez, and corroborated by at least one other member of the Stony Brook team:

  • On one occasion, Rodriguez alleges she was told by Atkinson that she was “Pissing her the [explative] off and that she was going to lose her [explative] and it would be scary.”
  • Rodriguez was allegedly told by Atkinson that Rodriguez’s anxiety was due to her own mishandling of being sexually assaulted.
  • Swimmers were allegedly forced to practice when they were physically ill. Rodriguez alleges half the team was forced to practice with the stomach virus, exiting through the side door when they needed to vomit and then being forced to get back in the pool immediately afterwards.
  • Rodriguez alleges she and other team members were ignored when they had physical injuries and were not assisted by the coaching staff. One team member was allegedly locked into the pool deck area after stopping in the middle of practice and being unable to move due to physical injury.
  • Team members were allegedly called into the hallway individually to be yelled at while the team practiced.
  • Rodriguez alleges the team was told daily by Coach Atkinson that they were not good enough nor were they “real D1 athletes.”
  • She alleges that team members’ scholarships and spots on the team were threatened to be taken away on a daily basis.
  • Swimmers were allegedly told that mental illnesses and anxiety were being faked or signified weakness. Rodriguez says that she was forced to swim underwater while having a panic attack.
  • Atkinson allegedly refused to acknowledge Rodriguez’s presence on deck, ignoring her answers to group questions.
  • Atkinson allegedly refused to coach the team one day, telling the team she did not come from the Olympics to coach them.
  • Swimmers were allegedly forbidden to take GPNC courses by Atkinson despite the courses being encouraged by the university.

Rodriguez alleges that the abuse allegations were brought to the attention of the athletic director multiple times and they were told that coach Atkinson would be spoken to. She alleges that, despite numerous personal and group meetings, emails, and phone complaints from parents over a period of 3 months, no changes were made.

Rodriguez says that the university was investigating the complaints at the time of the coaches’ dismissal, but that it is her understanding that the athletics director made the decision to part ways with the coaches before the conclusion of that investigation.

SwimSwam has reached out to Stony Brook and Atkinson, but a request for comment has not yet been answered. None of the athletes that we spoke to made any allegations against the assistant coach Bowen.

Update: shortly after posting, multiple members of the Fairfield team reached out to SwimSwam saying that these accusations aligned with their experiences. We are working with getting more specifics from those swimmers.

Atkinson is a Jamaican National Record holding swimmer who competed at the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games. She won 3 silver medals at the 1999 Pan Am Games (200, 400, 800 free) and 2 bronze medals at the 2002 Commonwealth Games (400 free, 800 free). She has served as an assistant coach at UConn and Wright State and besides Stony Brook, was the head coach of Fairfield University.

The team concluded its regular season on Sunday with a 126-49 loss to New Hampshire. The team was scheduled to compete at the American East Conference Championship meet, but that meet is no longer listed on the team’s schedule. This was the team’s first season of varsity women’s swimming competition since the 2011-2012 season.

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SwImdad
4 years ago

As a parent who’s daughter swam for her last season I was the one who initiated the IX investigation. My daughter was a minor at the time and I was responsible for her wellbeing. She reached out to the athletic director with no results so I escalated it up the chain as I was out of state and needed an adult not some incompetent moron as the athletic director to protect my daughter which they did at Fairfield. The school was kept in the dark about the abuses over the years because the athletes following the normal protocol of going through the athletic director and not going higher. Once the school was informed the did the right thing and investigated… Read more »

#Swimmer
4 years ago

Not good at all!

Bossanova
4 years ago

You would think a Jamaican head coach would be more laid back and just want everything to be irie mon. Thumbs up if you agree.

Maverick
4 years ago

Where were these comments on the article about her getting hired at Fairfield???

Sccoach
Reply to  Maverick
4 years ago

After doing a quick google search I don’t think there was was a swimswam article on her leaving Fairfield. I’m pretty sure this was because her contract wasn’t renewed, and she wasn’t fired.

However, there was a swimswam article on her being hired by Fairfield, which had 5 positive comments, and a swimswam article on her being hired by Stony Brook, which had 0 comments.

Eg18
Reply to  Sccoach
4 years ago

There was an investigation done through title IX and the AD at Fairfield where many of the swimmers were interviewed about her behavior and ultimately they just made the decision not to renew her contract instead of firing her before the end of the season

Swimmom57
Reply to  Eg18
4 years ago

So much for Title IX. This is the first I’ve heard of any investigation…Is it documented anywhere? And who is “they”?

Jim Baumbach
Reply to  Swimmom57
4 years ago

Can you contact me — I’m a sports reporter with Newsday on Long Island. [email protected]

Swimmom57
Reply to  Eg18
4 years ago

Can you be more specific as to the Title IX investigation? Is this information public?

Swimmom57
Reply to  Sccoach
4 years ago

Yes there were 5 comments- only two knew of her; the others were general comments

Emily
Reply to  Maverick
11 months ago

You can deadass go to her Facebook and see her posts complaining about how Fairfield parents and swimmers are a bunch of babies. Can’t find them? I have screenshots

Ricky Hull
4 years ago

This exact same thing happened while Janelle was the swim coach at Fairfield University however the cowards in charge of the athletics their refused to do anything for three years despite repeated letters to everyone in charge. I know they knew what was happening because I wrote multiple letters to those in charge detailing the abuses and nothing was done. And I also know their were other parents who wrote letters of concern to the athletics department and still nothing was done. The swearing as well as the mental and physical abuse were all on full display while at Fairfield. By the end of my daughters freshman year at Fairfield all but 1of the recruits from that year had quit… Read more »

Swimmom57
Reply to  Ricky Hull
4 years ago

Thank you Arianna and Ricky Hull for keeping this conversation going. As previously stated, this coach’s reign of terror is well documented by many parents who fought this in 2014. And let’s be very clear- there is NO justification for this type of behavior AT ALL- EVER. Parents from Fairfield have a clear paper trail showing the steps taken to ultimately have nothing being done. My daughter was also an incoming freshman in 2014, and I will never get forget the gut-wrenching sobbing sound as she recounted the verbal abuse out of my head. The former AD swept this under the rug as quickly as he could. I am also so sorry Ms. Young for what you endured.

Swimmom
Reply to  Swimmom57
4 years ago

Yep I know this story all too well from my daughter

Swimmom57
Reply to  Swimmom
4 years ago

I am so sorry for your pain Swimmom. This is something that affects the family also. Hope she is well.

Jim Baumbach
Reply to  Swimmom
4 years ago

Can you contact me — I’m a sports reporter with Newsday on Long Island. [email protected]

OG Swimmer
4 years ago

This is a rookie coach that was not Coached by her Athletic Director. At the first sign of problems the AD should have questioned, counseled and corrected the coach’s actions. This was a first year team and the AD let the coach place demands on the team, as if they NCAA qualifiers. What was the AD’s goals for the team? Not saying that Janelle was right, but if she was wrong, so was the AD and he should be fired along with Janelle.

Dan Smith
Reply to  OG Swimmer
4 years ago

She is not a rookie coach; she coached three years at Fairfield U; she was not renewed by Fairfield was then hired by Stony Brook U to coach a revived team that had been dormant due to several years of pool repairs. She is/was no rookie. She has coached at the DI level previously. Makes the actions listed more egregious.

OG Swimmer
Reply to  Dan Smith
4 years ago

Rookie Head Coach, yes lots of experience doing what she was told to do. But, being the head coach and all the self imposed pressure of being the head coach at any level. Some people aren’t made to handle that pressure. I say the AD needs to be the coach’s coach. First year and first time head coach needs to be tutored. Yes, Janelle did a lot of wrong things, but the AD needs to take responsibility for letting bad things get to this level.

NONA
Reply to  OG Swimmer
4 years ago

She was head coach at Fairfield for several years.

anonymoose
4 years ago

what the f am i reading?? thats sound horrendous.
especially allegation nr. 2… i mean COME ON!!

Aggie Swim Fan
4 years ago

The athletic director ought to be held accountable in this as well!! Sounds like it all went in one ear and out the other!

Swimmom57
Reply to  Aggie Swim Fan
4 years ago

The athletic director, Eugene Doris , has left the program.

Admin
Reply to  Swimmom57
4 years ago

Just so there’s no confusion – Eugene Doris is the former Fairfield University Athletic Director who resigned his position last summer, but hung around for a while as a “special advisor.”

About Lauren Neidigh

Lauren Neidigh

Lauren Neidigh is a former NCAA swimmer at the University of Arizona (2013-2015) and the University of Florida (2011-2013). While her college swimming career left a bit to be desired, her Snapchat chin selfies and hot takes on Twitter do not disappoint. She's also a high school graduate of The …

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