Former swim team member files federal lawsuit against university

The Bill Powell Natatorium will no longer be called home by the more than 50 student athletes of WKU’s Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving programs after President Gary Ransdell and Athletic Director Todd Stewart announced on Tuesday, April 14, 2015 that the programs will be suspended for the next five years effective immediately. This comes after a former swim team member, Collin Craig, filed complaints with the Bowling Green Police Department on January 6, 2015, sparking an investigation by both police and WKU Title IX coordinators. Nick Wagner/HERALD

Andrew Henderson

Collin Craig, former member of the WKU swim and dive team, filed a federal lawsuit against WKU and other parties on Sept. 30.

The lawsuit was filed against the university, former Head Coach Bruce Marchionda, former associate head coach Brian Thomas, Athletic Director Todd Stewart, two associate athletic directors, John McCammon and Craig Briggs, and three of Craig’s former teammates. 

Craig’s allegations of assault and hazing last year resulted in a Title IX investigation that concluded with a five-year suspension of the team. 

The 21-page complaint was filed in U.S. District Court last Wednesday. The complaint demands a jury trial in a civil action brought by Craig, who no longer attends WKU, against the defendants. The lawsuit alleges negligence from all of the listed defendants and makes accusations of assault, defamation, battery and infliction of emotional distress. 

The complaint also specifically names former swim team members Harrison Griffin, Seth Musser and Tyler Groneck as defendants.

The complaint alleges that on numerous occasions, Craig was subject to intimidation by threats, forced to consume alcohol underage and repeatedly being struck in the testicles by Griffin and Groneck, among others.

The complaint further alleges that Musser also participated in intimidating Craig. 

The Herald reached out to Griffin for comment, but he respectfully declined the request. 

Director of Media Relations Bob Skipper released a statement regarding the lawsuit on Friday.

“WKU completed a thorough investigation into this matter and will be defending the lawsuit filed by Mr. Craig,” the statement read.  

Craig initially filed a complaint with the Bowling Green Police Department on Jan. 4, 2015, which lead to an investigation by both the police and WKU Title IX coordinators. 

In Craig’s complaint filed with BGPD, he alleges that he was assaulted, forced to drink alcohol and harassed by several subjects throughout the fall 2014 semester. 

In April 2015, BGPD released documents regarding their investigation. Officials obtained a search warrant for 1303 Chestnut St. — the address where the hazing was reported to have occurred — and seized various items in the house. 

The Title IX investigation also concluded in April 2015. The summary judgment completed by Huda Melky, former Title IX coordinator, and Joshua Hayes, Title IX deputy, said individuals of the team were pressured to drink underage, subjected to calisthenics — also referred to as the “freshman fuck around,” according to the report — and endured mental abuse and paddling, or the smacking or tapping of the genital area. 

“The resulting hostile environment was created not only at ‘the party house,’ but within the team itself,” the ruling said. 

The investigators also concluded that  Marchionda was aware that “a culture conducive of hazing and sexual harassment” existed at least until spring 2012 based on an email Marchionda received from a former swim team member. 

Effective April 14, 2015, WKU suspended the swimming and diving program for five years, according to a press release by WKU News. 

“The pervasive culture of misconduct in the swimming and diving program is intolerable. A five-year suspension is both necessary and prudent,” President Gary Ransdell said in the statement. 

The Herald reached out to Thomas Kerrick, the university’s attorney for the lawsuit, but Kerrick did not respond by publication time.

The Herald also reached out to Vanessa Cantley, one of the members of Craig’s legal counsel team, but Cantley did not respond by publication time.

A previous version of this story said “for associate head coach” this has been corrected to say “former associate head coach.” The Herald regrets the error.

The web version of this story did not indicate that Huda Melky was the former Title IX coordinator for WKU. This has been corrected. The Herald regrets the error. 

A previous version of this story did not explicitly state that Craig no longer attends WKU. That issue has been fixed.