WKU swim team Head Coach Bruce Marchionda released an open letter regarding the hazing and assault allegations brought forth recently.
“I am truly saddened by how these events have tarnished the Program and negatively impacted all those associated with it,” he said in the letter.
Last week, the university suspended the swim team for five years after the Bowling Green Police Department and Title IX completed investigations. The BGPD searched the team’s alleged “party house” and discovered incriminating pictures and drug paraphernalia. The Title IX investigation concluded that the team violated multiple university hazing and sexual assault policies.
Marchionda knew about the hazing since the spring 2012 semester, the Title IX report said.
“With the clarity that only hindsight can afford, I accept the criticism that more supervision over the team members’ personal conduct outside of Program activities should have been in place,” Marchionda said in his letter. “However, I want to emphasize that I took measures to help individuals learn from their mistakes and take responsibility for their actions.”
Marchionda’s position, along with those of Associate Head Coach Brian Thomas and Head Diving Coach Chelsea Ale, will be eliminated effective June 30.
Marchionda pointed out that his disciplinary actions included suspending swimmers for an entire semester when university policy only dictated a one-game suspension, removing scholarship money for violating the team code of conduct, and not allowing swimmers to compete at conference championships for drinking during “dry periods.”
Despite everything, Marchionda said he wants to continue coaching.
“I want to thank everyone for the more than one hundred text messages and emails of support I have received over the past week,” he said. “Your support, especially in times like these, means the world to me. I will truly miss the opportunity to continue to work with the current swimmers and divers and the twenty individuals that were scheduled to join the WKU swimming family next year.”
The full text of the letter can be read below:
A letter from Western Kentucky swim coach Bruce Marchionda:
From: Bruce Marchionda
Date: April 22, 2015
I wanted to reach out and express some of my thoughts about the recent events leading up to the suspension of the WKU Swimming and Diving Program.
The recent Title IX investigation brought to light problems with in our Program that are disappointing and clearly unacceptable. I am truly saddened by how these events have tarnished the Program and negatively impacted all those associated with it. I want to dispel the misperception that the coaching staff knowingly turned a blind eye to this misconduct. First, neither my staff nor I would ever condone hazing, harassment, or underage/excessive drinking of our student-athletes in any form. Second, as head coach one of my responsibilities was to discipline student-athletes for misbehavior. A few examples of the disciplinary actions taken over the past two years include: suspending swimmers for an entire semester of competition for breaking team rules (whereas normal university policies would enact only a one-game suspension); removing scholarship money for violations of the team’s code of conduct; and not allowing swimmers to compete at the conference championship for violating mandatory dry periods. In short, when misconduct issues were brought to my attention, I strived to find a solution that was in the best interest of the athletes, the Program and the university as a whole.
With the clarity that only hindsight can afford, I accept the criticism that more supervision over the team members’ personal conduct outside of Program activities should have been in place. However, I want to emphasize that I took measures to help individuals learn from their mistakes and take responsibility for their actions. We had a code of conduct that team members were expected to comply with. I also had an outside expert come in and deliver workshops on goals, along with the values and behaviors needed to achieve those goals. I kept the administration up to date on all major disciplinary matters and employed their help, in addressing the team, when I felt it was appropriate. I do not give up on kids easily, and I certainly believe in second chances.
The past twelve years of coaching at WKU have been a source of great pride for me. The accomplishments both in the pool and in the classroom speak for themselves. Academic All-Americans, an Olympic gold medalist, NCAA finalists, and conference championships all come to mind. However, more importantly are the relationships that have been built with student-athletes, parents, and alumni that I will continue to cherish for years to come. Last year’s alumni weekend, when over two hundred alumni returned to campus, illustrated the special bond, which transcends generations, that comes with swimming and diving at Western Kentucky University.
I want to thank Coach Bill Powell for giving me the opportunity to work with him during my first three years at WKU and then having the faith to turn the program over to me. I was fortunate that he chose not to immediately retire and that we were able to work together for many more years. In addition, I will never take the amazing parental support for granted. Many of them have become great friends. I am thankful that they gave me an opportunity to become part of their lives and their children’s lives.
I want to thank President Gary Ransdell for all of his support during my tenure. Gary and Julie have been some of our biggest fans and have always been there to help. The conference championship team dinners held at their home remain special to me. Craig Biggs, Associate Athletic Director in charge of swimming, and Athletic Director Todd Stewart were always supportive of the goals I set for the program. The administration is also enabling any of our team members who do not transfer and wish to continue their education at WKU to do so at their current scholarship levels, which we all appreciate.
My main focus at this point is to help each student-athlete in every way I can. I have had nonstop meetings with the swimmers to help them emotionally and to counsel them on finding a new home if that is what they wanted to do. I want to help put a plan in place to make sure that the program returns in five years. Once this is completed, I will turn my attention to the coaches and helping them find a new home. Any program in the country would benefit from their being on the pool deck.
I want to thank everyone for the more than one hundred text messages and emails of support I have received over the past week. Your support, especially in times like these, means the world to me. I will truly miss the opportunity to continue to work with the current swimmers and divers and the twenty individuals that were scheduled to join the WKU swimming family next year.
Moving forward, I do wish to remain in coaching. Wherever my future path leads, I will always treasure my experiences at WKU and truly wish this great university nothing but continued success in every area.