Western Kentucky University Suspends Swimming & Diving Program For 5 Years In Light of Hazing Allegations

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.

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coacherik
6 years ago

Here come the trolls….

NONA
6 years ago

WOW. This makes SMU Football’s “Death Penalty” from the 1980s seem like a slap on the wrist. Maybe, eventually, people will understand the repercussions of hazing.

swimdawg
6 years ago

Wow…Hate to see another program go down but have to give kudos to the university for taking a strict stance on hazing and behavior detrimental to the school.

Reply to  swimdawg
6 years ago

Yup. This.

Angry Gilfish
6 years ago

As a former alumni, I have no words. This is egregious, overzealous, and excessive. Five years is too much. I have a 1 year old daughter and my highest hope was she would be able to follow in my steps. To say this hurts is an understatement. Sad day for the sport to say the least when a comradiere and brotherhood formed for nearly half a decade is ruined because of the actions of a few individuals and the cowardice of the administration because we aren’t shooting hoops or throwing footballs. A lot of dreams got crushed today and swimming as a whole became weaker. I’ve never been more ashamed to be a WKU alumni than today.

junker23
Reply to  Angry Gilfish
6 years ago

“I have no words…”

*writes 100 more words anyway*

coacherik
Reply to  Angry Gilfish
6 years ago

I’m sure those kids who were hazed and are dealing with the psychological, emotional and physical damage caused by those few are a little more disappointed then you.

Your comment skips right over the fact that innocent lives were severely harmed in the name of “tradition”. Is it a harsh penalty? Absolutely. Is it excessive? In the context of what was taken away from those hazed athletes, a lifetime of positive and fun memories, I would say no. 5 years is short in comparison to the lifetime of knowing what they signed up for was a sham. Their collective college swimming experience is ruined by the action of some and the inaction of others.

Reply to  Angry Gilfish
6 years ago

Um. It’s a 5 year ban. Your 1 year old daughter isn’t planning on attending WKU before she turns 6, is she?

Swimmer
Reply to  Hulk Swim
6 years ago

The program will have to come back and in reality it probably won’t

Reply to  Angry Gilfish
6 years ago

Also, today you are ashamed? Not the day they released they found photos of passed out girls with their underwear taken down? Or passed out people with racial slurs written on them? You weren’t ashamed THAT day?

Angry Gilfish
Reply to  Hulk Swim
6 years ago

Ooooooo I’ve been waiting to get a crack at you.

firstly, you honestly think after five years they will reinstate the program when WKU is currently trying to build its football and basketball programs into national powers? Why fund swimming when we can add more seats to the stadium or give Ray Harper a pay raise? No, SMU got axed for two years and they are STILL recovering.

Secondly, I agree. Change needed to be made. Current leadership had to go. Times have changed so old habits need to change. But axing the program is the best way to do it? I’m not condoning past incidents, but the majority of this not new to most frat houses and… Read more »

Coach
Reply to  Angry Gilfish
6 years ago

Withouth factoring in the overall heath of Olympic sports in the NCAA in the upcoming years, I think they probably will re-instate at least their women’s team – especially if they want to continue to grow the football and basketball programs. I think those women athlete numbers are very important to NCAA schools.

Since you bring up frat houses – I know a number of frats have been kicked of campuses all over the country for similar stuff. I just hope that coaches that turn a blind eye – or even silently promote a tiny bit of hazing – itthey can lose their jobs if they don’t get serious about it. A coach CAN end it if he/she really wants… Read more »

Reply to  Angry Gilfish
6 years ago

I don’t know what the administration will do. As a swim fan I hate to see programs get the heave-ho, but this one is understandable from a non-swimcentric point of view.

If they want to be mid major powers in revenue sports that’s their right. It’s not their job to make less money for the school.

Knowing that- non-revenue sports are well aware of the axe over their heads. So to continue practices that will assuredly bring the wrong kind of administrative attention their way is flat out stupid. From he coaches to the athletes they have to be smarter.

In this case, WKU Swimming and Diving screwed up. They weren’t smart. In fact, some of them went beyond stupid… Read more »

Caitlin Garrison
Reply to  Angry Gilfish
6 years ago

“Old habits” Really? Changing a bad diet is an “old habit”. This is a pretty serious situation. And BTW the “they all do it” defense doesn’t hold water.

mjd
Reply to  Hulk Swim
6 years ago

Two Vanderbilt football players convicted of rape…did you see those pictures. Oh, the team is about to start spring practice. Punish those involved, not the 50 that were not.

Reply to  Angry Gilfish
6 years ago

I guess I also have to ask… you couldn’t wait for your daughter to attend a school and be a part of a program that would take pictures of her with her pants down when she passes out? Good greif.

topsontop
Reply to  Hulk Swim
6 years ago
KB
Reply to  Angry Gilfish
6 years ago

“Former alumni”?? Alumni means former student…

Anyway, I just looked at the list of kids who committed to WKU for next year – that’s who I feel for. And as the father of a daughter just beginning the recruiting process, the thought of that kind of hazing makes me sick. Kill the program? Harsh. I would think they would suspend/kick out those athletes involved, fire the coaches. Go all “necessary roughness” and put the team on probation and fill the roster with new kids and walk-ons. Maybe a 40-year old butterflyer?? What is Sinbad doing these days??

swimmer
Reply to  Angry Gilfish
6 years ago

Honestly, this is just disgusting. Not saying that hazing doesn’t happen everywhere, but the coaches knew about it and they didn’t give a great enough effort to stop it before it came to this. It really hurts me as a college swimmer that something like this happened. Not only for the kids that were involved in the hazing, but put in the shoes of the recruits. Already NLI signed, ready to go, and BAM this happens. It sucks for them that now they have to go to and look at other schools and have a disadvantage because its already April and a lot of schools are already done recruiting. They’re the ones that are getting the worse backlash of this.

RandomSwimmer
Reply to  Angry Gilfish
6 years ago

You want your one year old daughter to walk in your footsteps on the WKU swim team? So you want your daughter to be drugged, drunk, and naked pics taken of her? What a role model parent.

GoldenB
Reply to  Angry Gilfish
6 years ago

If I were you, I’d want my child to go to Cal, or Stanford or even Virginia. Forget school pride…strive for the elite!

AND, I agree with Hulk Swim on their posts.

Maybe not Virginia
Reply to  GoldenB
6 years ago

They haze there too.

Coach
6 years ago

This is a huge BS! They found the perfect excuse to get rid of swimming. Now they are already ahead of other school with a little free cash to pay the football and basketball players. Good thing those players never drink or get in trouble.

G
Reply to  Coach
6 years ago

My thoughts exactly. I will bet my left kidney that far worse stuff takes place on an annual basis on the football team, but they’ll cover that stuff up for years. They were just looking for an excuse to can the program and save a few bucks.

Reply to  Coach
6 years ago

Well its too bad the kids on the team gave them so much ammunition. I’d think if you all knew they were looking for a reason, you’d at the VERY LEAST take down the photos of passed out girls and racial epithets. Or, you know… not take the photos at all.

Don’t try and redirect this into something it isn’t. Your program screwed up and crossed the line by miles. Deal with THAT. Address THAT. Don’t point fingers at the big, bad administration.

G
Reply to  Hulk Swim
6 years ago

For crying out loud, I have not seen a single thing yet that didn’t happen at every single college team I ever dealt with when I was in school.

There was underage drinking on a college campus? Ermergherd. You mean, people drank to the point of passing out? Ermergherd. Students took pictures of other students who had passed out and wrote disparaging things on them? Ermergherd. And…..marijuana??? Heavens-to-Betsy, it’s an atrassimacy, I tells ya.

If you made it through you college career without doing more than one of these things, congratulations, you get the Goodie Award. However, most people I went to college with, in and out of swimming, had most of these things happen to them at least… Read more »

Reply to  G
6 years ago

Disregarding your ermagherds… the real issue here is the picture of the girl with her pants lowered, and the racial epithet.

Both of those things are going to get you into trouble on a college campus (and anywhere else) 100% of the time when authorities are made aware. A Google search will quickly show you there are a number of frats getting booted off campus for these same behaviors. And this isn’t the first sports team to get in trouble.

College campuses aren’t fairy tale land where nothing counts… criminal behavior (as the pants down thing and racial epithet are) especially counts. No college freebies. Sorry.

Swimmomfl
Reply to  Hulk Swim
6 years ago

Wait, show me where calling some a racial epithet is criminal behavior, please?

Reply to  Hulk Swim
6 years ago

OK. For that one let’s go with “morally reprehensible, disgusting act”.

coacherik
Reply to  Hulk Swim
6 years ago

swimmomfl, it was written on a person’s body and photographed……………

Bill
Reply to  Hulk Swim
6 years ago

Did Baylor University suspend their basketball program when the coach committed academic fraud as well as a basketball player being killed by another player? No, they fired the coaches and the program moved on. The University of New Mexico’s soccer program had a problem much like WK but they didn’t drop the program. The coaches were fired and athletes were disciplined. Dont forget who really runs the athletic departments….the boosters. Non revenue sports are often used as an example to show that the administration is on top of things.
Very sad situation.

Reply to  Hulk Swim
6 years ago

Bill, this is nothing new. The NCAA and college administrators have made it crystal clear- there are two sets of standards. One for revenue generating programs and one for non-revenue generating programs. They are consistent in that.

So we know the rules. To sit and whine about how the rules aren’t fair misses the point.

dmswim
Reply to  G
6 years ago

Racial slurs and sexual assault were common at every single college team you ever dealt with?

Lazy Observer
Reply to  G
6 years ago

A student passed out with her pants down is a high-risk situation because of the strong correlation between binge drinking and sexual assault.

As for the casual use of racist slurs, while that seems to be in vogue of late on college campuses, I don’t find them particularly funny. What’s the joke? “Hey, your ancestors were kidnapped, whipped, raped, robbed of their children, denied the vote, and now live with higher rates of poverty and incarceration! Isn’t that hysterical!”

And spare me the idea that this is a bold use of free speech. It’s not bold; it’s self-absorbed and willfully unkind. You’re free to say it or write it – and you’re also free to suffer the consequences.… Read more »

GreenGoggles
Reply to  G
6 years ago

G,

I hope you don’t believe these very serious offenses happen on EVERY college swim team. This was my 4th year of college swimming, and nothing like this ever happened. In fact, our team initiation was scavenger hunts and potluck dinners. So yes, there are some, probably MANY, of us who would never be involved in this. That’s not sitting on our high horses either. That’s just common decency. You can drink in college without hazing like this. You can drink without blacking out or breaking the law when you are an upperclassmen even when you have had a lot to drink.
Pulling down a girl’s underwear and taking pictures when she’s passed out, surely you have to at… Read more »

Caitlin Garrison
Reply to  G
6 years ago

I made it through college without doing any of these things and I was in athletics. It is a shame that those of us who don’t do these things get a “Goodie award” (snicker). I guess it is cool to act like a jackass.I have a news flash for you. Not every one does these things. You are offended by people who don’t get involved in these things? Really? How disgusting can you be?

6 years ago

Wow. I don’t know the details of the hazing, but if it was excessive, I can’t fault the college. I have 30 years as a head coach, and my team knows I hate hazing and will come down hard, but I also know there is a grey area to it. Freshmen do laundry for a team, is that hazing? Freshmen police the bus after a road trip, is that hazing? I don’t think so, but what happened to me swimming for Temple back in the day was definitely hazing, no details, and I would not let that sort of thing go by if I hear about it.
We, as coaches, have get a hold on this.

Reply to  Rich Morris
6 years ago

The details are easily found on this site… but they went well beyond carrying backs and pulling lane lines.

Hazing
Reply to  Rich Morris
6 years ago

Yes, all those things you list are hazing. My sorority had to ban anything you had pledges do (meet one-on-one with each sister, collect a momento from each sister) that active sisters did not do – because that was considered hazing. So, yes, freshmen having to do laundry for the team is considered hazing. Freshmen having to police the bus when sophs, juniors, and seniors don’t have to – that’s hazing. No grey area where my sorority was concerned. What you are having your freshmen do is hazing.

Joel Lin
6 years ago

Rich Morris, not to make less light of what happened here, but I do think that hazing is an ideal red herring for those who have it in for a program or coach. This program is constructively finished, but the press release styles it as something else. Yes, doing laundry makes the cut and so would my memories of old ritual of drinking a bottle of catsup or swallowing a goldfish. When this topic comes up, the pitchforks and torches are handed out, so a good riot ensues anyways. That cheapens the policing of real hazing which looks to be the case here, versus good natured fun which only the most drab could consider evil. It all gets painted with… Read more »

CoachK
Reply to  Joel Lin
6 years ago

I could not have said it better than this.

floppy
6 years ago

Wow – that is basically eliminating the program. Surprising that it appears to be both the mens AND womens teams. Must have been pretty bad.

It’s hard for people over the age of 30 to understand what college is like these days when cameras are ubiquitous. Young people HAVE to be more responsible than in yesteryear. The times they are a changin’ – there’s no way around it.

Swimmomfl
Reply to  floppy
6 years ago

Agreed that the situation is foreign to some of us who are a bit more seasoned 😉 When I swam in college in the late ’80s, the stuff described at WKU (other than the wall of shame, which I don’t think our team had, although as with any team there were no real secrets…) seems pretty tame compared to what went on. But the activities were opt in or out, and no one really gave anyone grief either way. We had kids who studied 24/7 and seldom, if ever, went to parties, and we had kids who partied 24/7 and seldom studied. And everything in between. And pot was the least of the pharmaceuticals around at swimmer’s parties. So I… Read more »

Reply to  Swimmomfl
6 years ago

I think this is part of the problem… when these kids here about all the “hijinx” and “pharmaceuticals” their predecessors got up to, which is always spun in a “glory days” way… they will of course try and replicate it. Or surpass it.

And I am gonna guess you are wrong in your recollection that it was always harmless and NOBODY remembers it poorly. I just don’t think they said anything.

Swimmomfl
Reply to  Hulk Swim
6 years ago

hey Hulk, I never said it was always harmless, or that no one remembers it poorly… and I sure am not glorifying it. 🙂 Just an observation that it is interesting to me that waaaay worse went on “back in the day” and probably goes on now, and I can’t recall anyone getting this kind of consequences handed to them. I suspect the picture board (which one article described as showing people being assaulted) put this over the top. And it certainly sounds like an out in the open out of control culture at that house. The sad reality is, this is what our society looks like in too many instances (ie the panama city spring break incidents this year).… Read more »

Reply to  Swimmomfl
6 years ago

Sorry, I forgot to add my winky faces above when discussing hazing back in he 80s… because remember kids… in the 80s, doing drugs and drinking excessively was hilarious fun and nobody ever got hurt by it. 😉

floppy
Reply to  Hulk Swim
6 years ago

There’s no need to judge whether the changing standards for college behavior are a good or bad thing (except our natural instinct to judge things).

The fact is that 19 year olds are held to a higher standard of behavior than they were in the 80s or 90s. College kids NEED to accept that – stories and rumors were bad back in the day, but it’s nothing like having a picture/video publicly immortalizing your embarrassment.

bad parent
Reply to  floppy
6 years ago

Floppy
No debate – it is good to move our standards higher.

David Berkoff
Reply to  floppy
6 years ago

Got to agree with this discussion. If kids did what my teammates and I did 30 years ago now, they’d be expelled or severely punished. What is totally “boys being boys” behavior then is often totally inappropriate now. The excuse of “we did worse than that when we were young” does not make bad behavior right, now or then. I am glad our behavioral standards have evolved.

dmswim
Reply to  Swimmomfl
6 years ago

I know heavy drinking, drugs, and hijinx occurred in the past, but I think it was the racial slurs and pictures of a female passed out with her underwear pulled down that put this situation in a different category. I would be interested to know how widespread this was among the team members. If a majority of the team was participating, I think the punishment is appropriate, but if it was a select group, I don’t see why they couldn’t fire the coach, kick those members off the team, and suspend the team for maybe a year instead of five. I just feel bad for those athletes (if any) who had nothing to do with this and now no longer… Read more »

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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