Western Kentucky University announced on Tuesday that it has suspended its varsity men’s and women’s swimming and diving programs for 5 years, with head coach Bruce Marchionda, associate head coach Brian Thomas, and head diving coach Chelsea Ale all being terminated effective June 30th.
The announcement comes in the wake of a Title IX investigation into allegations by multiple former swimmers that the team partook in hazing and that the coaching staff knew about it and did nothing to intervene.
Further investigation revealed drugs in a house where the hazing was claimed to have occurred, as well as a “picture board” that included collages of highly intoxicated students in nude or partially nude positions, with at least one having a racial slur written on it.
Western Kentucky is the current training ground of one member of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team, and sent one swimmer to the 2015 NCAA Championships: Fabian Schwingenshlogl, who placed 6th in the 100 breaststroke and 12th in the 200 breaststroke.
The full statement from Western Kentucky is below.
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — Effective immediately, Western Kentucky University has suspended its intercollegiate swimming and diving program for five years, the University announced today. The 50-plus team members and coaches were informed of the decision this morning by WKU President Gary Ransdell and Director of Athletics Todd Stewart.
“This is a very difficult and unfortunate decision on many levels,” Stewart said. “While many in the program have represented WKU with distinction, the overall findings of a consistent pattern of disappointing conduct is troubling and not acceptable at WKU.
“Current student-athletes in the program will certainly be allowed to transfer immediately to another institution,” he said. “If they choose to remain a student at WKU, their current scholarship amounts will be honored through their senior years provided they remain in good academic and university standing.”
Positions for Head Coach Bruce Marchionda, Associate Head Coach Brian Thomas and Head Diving Coach Chelsea Ale will be eliminated June 30.
“We have high standards for student conduct and conduct of our student organizations,” President Ransdell said. “The pervasive culture of misconduct in the swimming and diving program is intolerable. A five-year suspension is both necessary and prudent.”
The decision comes after an investigation into complaints brought by a former team member. The investigation by the Bowling Green Police Department and WKU’s Title IX Coordinator Huda Melky found evidence of violations of WKU’s Student Code of Conduct, Discrimination and Harassment Policy and Title IX Sexual Misconduct/Assault Policy.
These actions have been taken in response to the findings that related to the swimming and diving program and the coaching staff. The Office of Judicial Affairs will handle matters related to the alleged violations of the student code of conduct, in accordance with the University’s Judicial Process.
WKU officials will have no further comment.