Two former University of South Alabama volleyball players have filed a lawsuit against the school, former coach Alexis Meeks-Rydell, Athletic Director Joel Erdmann and other program officials for what they claim was a “pattern and practice of blatant sexual harassment and sexual and other physical and emotional assault” by Meeks-Rydell during her short tenure as head volleyball coach.
Plaintiffs Rachael DeMarcus and Alexis Silver claim they both matriculated to USA to play the sport in 2018, but left after Meeks-Rydell “created a climate of fear and intimidation … including engaging in a pattern and practice of physical, verbal, and psychological abuse.”
Meeks-Rydell was hired on Dec. 31, 2018, after a coaching stint at the University of West Alabama. USA announced in February that she was departing. She has since been hired as an assistant coach at Purdue University in Fort Wayne, where the Indianapolis Star reported she was put on leave after the allegations surfaced last week.
Specifically, the plaintiffs allege Meeks-Rydell’s coaching tactics including swearing at team members, accusing team members of faking injuries, punishing team members with disciplinary actions not sanctioned by the National Collegiate Athletic Association, and “physically grooming and touching plaintiffs … in physical conduct rising to the level of sexual harassment.”
The plaintiffs took aim at what Meeks-Rydell called breakfast clubs, “which consisted of forcing the team to arrive at the gym as early as 4 a.m., where Meeks-Rydell would force the players to run and do other physical drills until the players vomited, passed out, or cried due to the inability to continue.”
As for the alleged physical abuse, the plaintiffs claim Meeks-Rydell had a habit of pinching each players’ butt as they disembarked the team bus; “forced team members into ‘floor hugs’ where she would force the team members to lay on the ground while she laid on top of the individuals; forcing players to “hug her and tell her that they loved her,” and “forcing team members and plaintiffs to individually and constantly tell her that they love her in text messages and in person.”
Further, the plaintiffs claim Meeks-Rydell would routinely ignore their injuries, and instructed them to hide those injuries from athletic trainers so they would not be deemed ineligible to play. They also allege the behavior was known by Erdmann and assistant coaches Rob Chilcoat and Patricia Gandolfo.
The complaint, posted alongside this article on lagniappemobile.com, includes seven causes of action ranging from Title IX violations to breach of contract. DeMarcus currently plays volleyball for the University of Louisville, but the complaint says Silver has since left the sport. A message to Purdue University was not returned prior to deadline, but USA spokesman Lance Crawford said, “the University has been made aware that a lawsuit was recently filed that has not yet been served, and does not comment on pending litigation.”
This page is available to our local subscribers. Click here to join us today and get the latest local news from local reporters written for local readers. The best deal is found by clicking here. Check it out now.
Already a member of the Lagniappe family? Sign in by clicking here