Western Kentucky suspends swim team for 5 years after alleged hazing
Western Kentucky University, in response to a police investigation, has suspended its swimming program for five years, according to a release from the school’s office of media relations.
The team, which has more than 50 members, was told of the decision Tuesday morning by university president Gary Ransdell and director of athletics Todd Stewart.
The Bowling Green Police Department investigated the program after a former team member brought a formal complaint about sexual misconduct within the program.
“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 police and Title IX sexual misconduct/assault police,” according to the release.
The Western Kentucky student newspaper, The Herald, reports hazing, sexual harrassment and sexual assault are the reasons for the suspension of the program. According to the report, head coach Bruce Marchionda was informed about the problems in spring 2012 and punishment was primarily given to team members during fall semesters because important events take place in the spring.
The Herald also reports beer kegs, marijuana and picture boards of highly intoxicated students were seized by Bowling Green police from the house where the alleged hazing occurred. To read The Herald's full report, click here.
According to the school’s announcement, the university will have no further comment. The matter will be turned over to the school’s office of judicial affairs. The positions of head coach 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 student organizations,” 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 athletic director echoed those sentiments.
“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.”
Stewart said current athletes in the program will be allowed to immediately transfer and, should any of them choose to remain at Western Kentucky, their scholarships will be honored.
- Phil Watson