Good afternoon, Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) fans.
Just finished watching the University of Virginia home game vs. the #5 Louisville Cardinals.
Head football coach, Bronco Mendenhall is beginning to change the culture of the football team on the field – the Hoos almost defeated the Cards today in the noon national game on ABC. It took a Heisman trophy style touchdown pass from Lamar Jackson to seal the deal for Louisville by the score of 32-25. Lamar Jackson had 18 rushes for 90 yards – and passed for 361 yards. Jackson is still the leader in the clubhouse for the Heisman trophy. The Hoos played hard on every down – and were done in by a big play.
However, there is a culture problem off the field that is unacceptable – and that is the hazing of a former football player who reported had a learning disability. From the Charlottesville Daily Progress:
The attorney for former University of Virginia football player Aidan Howard had been trying to speak with someone at the school since late August before he filed a federal civil rights lawsuit Oct. 14, he said Thursday.
C. James Zeszutek, speaking by phone, said UVa provided “no response or very limited response” when presented with Howard’s claims of hazing and bullying that led to the first-year receiver suffering a concussion and broken orbital bone. The injuries allegedly occurred Aug. 12 during an organized fight with fellow freshman receiver Hasise Dubois in front of “approximately 105 individuals” inside the Virginia locker room.
Teammates allegedly set up the fight as part of Howard’s initiation into the football program, marking off a ring with athletic tape and making them enter from separate doors to music and lights, according to the lawsuit.
Howard has since transferred to Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh. Because of his injuries, the Monroeville, Pennsylvania, native won’t play this season for RMU, a Football Championship Subdivision program.
“The University investigation is ongoing,” UVa spokesperson Anthony de Bruyn said Thursday. “No one has been suspended.”
Dowling, a junior, is fourth on the Cavaliers with 21 receptions. Eldridge, a sophomore, is seventh with five. The duo has yet to miss a game this season.
“The bottom line — these student-athletes are continuing to play,” Zeszutek said. “There’s been no ramifications to them. And Aidan has a concussion, a broken orbital bone and he can’t play football this year — he can’t compete.”
UVa President Teresa A. Sullivan, athletics director Craig Littlepage, receivers coach Marques Hagans and graduate assistant coach Famika Anae are the other defendants listed in the 21-page suit, which alleges violations of Title IX and the Americans with Disabilities Act (Howard was diagnosed with a learning disability after a placement test at UVa).
First-year head football coach Bronco Mendenhall is not.
“At this point, we didn’t have any specific information involving Coach Mendenhall,” Zeszutek said. “We’ll take discovery and see where things are, and go from there.”
UVa would not have further comment on the situation, according to de Bruyn.
“The University is aware of Mr. Howard’s allegations and has made all of the required external notifications in accordance with state law,” de Bruyn said in an email Thursday. “The University has been actively investigating these reports consistent with its obligations under the law and University policy. The University does not comment on ongoing litigation and will not make any further statements regarding this case.”Littlepage, the school announced Tuesday, will be on a leave of absence from Oct. 24 to Jan. 2 to attend to a family member.
Virginia has an online program called Just Report It, which has been in place for many years, according to de Bruyn, for members of the university community to report incidents of hazing. It also has a hazing hotline in place for students to report any misconduct.
“Bias, hazing, and sexual and gender-based violence have no place in our community of trust and respect at UVa,” Sullivan wrote at the time of the program’s launch. “This means that all of us should promptly report instances of these behaviors that we learn about, witness, or experience firsthand.”
Two fraternities have recently had their charters revoked following hazing incidents. Earlier this year, five former members of the Virginia men’s swimming team settled a federal lawsuit filed against them in 2015 by a former freshman teammate.
UVa already is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights for an alleged Title IX violation involving sexual violence. A spokesman for the department declined Thursday to give specifics about the case, which was opened on July 22, 2016.
The investigation was launched nearly a year after the university and the Education Department had reached a settlement in an investigation that had begun in 2011.
That case put UVa on the original list of 55 colleges and universities under OCR investigation when the Education Department in May 2014 began publicizing the schools suspected of mishandling of sexual misconduct cases.
If this is true, several university officials, coaches, and student athletes need to be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law. We will keep you up-to-date on the developments regarding the University of Virginia Football hazing incident and litigation.