Hazing News

Dangerous new trend: Swim teams and alcohol-related hazing

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This has to be said. College swimmers: stop hazing and initiation drinking events for new members of your teams. Or you’re not going to have a team much longer.

The issue is almost reaching epidemic levels in the sport of swimming over the past few years. This summer/fall alone, three Division I programs were in the news for hazing-related issues.

Dartmouth canceled its entire fall meet schedule and its winter training trip in response to a 2016 event in which the first-year team members were required to create a “sexualized PowerPoint” for their teammates. (Is there a dumber reason to give up half a college swim season than a sexualized PowerPoint? That’s the hill you want to die on?).

East Carolina’s teams went under investigation over alleged hazing activities just last week, and though the teams themselves have been cleared, the school said it could still dole out punishments for specific athletes.

Just this week, Bucknell put it teams back on probation after an initiation event supplied underage team members with alcohol. (Bucknell’s teams were just about to wrap up a previous two-year stint on academic probation for similar reasons, proving that alcohol-based initiation is apparently so important that team members didn’t have the self-control to survive two whole years without it).

And these teams got off relatively easy compared to what we’ve seen.

In 2014, five Virginia swimmers were suspended on allegations of hazing, and later all five were slapped with a lawsuitby a former teammate who says they hazed and threatened him. Drury’s head coach was forced to step back from coaching the team this past winter in response to a former swimmer who says he was hazed so severely it left him unable to swim while suffering from PTSD and Conversion Disorder.

And in 2015, Western Kentucky suspended its entire program for five years, terminating the positions of its entire coaching staff after a Title IX investigation into hazing concerns.


That Western Kentucky program isn’t coming back, folks.

At least, that’s the sentiment among a number of onlookers. By 2020, the school will have a choice. Option 1: a lengthy search process to hire up to 6 new coaches, who will then start completely over with an entirely blank roster, hoping to recruit enough swimmers just to fill a lineup in year 1 and with at least three or four years before having any sort of competitive chances. Option 2: electing not to resurrect the program and saving a few million dollars in the process.

Swimming is in a horrifically dangerous position at the college level, and would-be hazers need to realize it. College swimming programs across the nation are dropping like flies.

By Hank Nuwer

Journalist Hank Nuwer is the Alaska author of Hazing: Destroying Young Lives; Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. In April of 2024, the Alaska Press Club awarded him first place in the Best Columnist division and Best Humorist, second place.

He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His current book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press. He is married to Malgorzata Wroblewska Nuwer of Warsaw, Poland and Fairbanks, Alaska. Nuwer is a former columnist for the Greenville (Ohio)Early Bird and former managing editor of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner in Alaska.
Nuwer was named the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists columnist of the year in 2021 for his “After Darke” column in the Early Bird. He also won third place for the column in 2022 from the Indiana chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He and his wife Gosia, recently of Union City, Ind., have owned 20 acres in Alaska for many years. “The move is a sort-of coming home for us,” said Nuwer. As a journalist, he’s written about the Alaskan Iditarod sled-dog race and other Alaska topics. Read his musings in his blog at Real Alaska Daily-- and in his weekly column "Far from Randolph" in the Winchester Star-Gazette of Randolph County, Indiana.

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