COLUMBUS, Ohio (CN) – A former football player claims in court that a night of freshmen initiation at the University of Dayton went too far, resulting in alcohol-induced head trauma that forced him to drop out of college.
According to a lawsuit filed Monday in the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas, a group of freshman football players were forced by upperclassmen to drink excessive amounts of alcohol on Dec. 7, 2014.
Plaintiff Max Engelhart claims that the University of Dayton, head football coach Richard Chamberlin and strength coach Jared Phillips knew or should have known about the annual hazing event called Mad Dogs or Madcaps.
Hazing is illegal in Ohio and prohibited by the university’s student handbook, and Engelhart says those in positions of authority should have stopped it.
Engelhart accepted a partial academic scholarship to the University of Dayton in 2014, after being recruited by various members of the coaching staff, including defendant Chamberlin. Engelhart contends that in December 2014, Phillips told some of the freshman football players to be ready for Mad Dogs.
On Dec. 7, Engelhart and other freshman players were ordered to come to a house rented by upperclassmen, according to his complaint, and were forced to stand on the porch in cold temperatures and chug Four Loko, a canned beverage with a high alcoholic content.
"The upperclassmen told the freshman that the quicker they chugged the Four Loko, the quicker they could escape from the cold,” the complaint states.
Once inside, they were allegedly forced to chug more alcohol. The upperclassmen also shaved their heads, shouted derogatory phrases at them, forced them "to wear t-shirts with a penis drawn on it," and spray painted some of their torsos, according to Engelhart.
According to the lawsuit, the freshman were then taken to a second house and forced to drink more, even though Engelhart was "extremely inebriated.”
"While being hazed by upperclassmen at house 2, Max sustained traumatic head injuries and became completely unconscious,” the complaint states.
Rather than return him to his dorm, the upperclassmen allegedly took him to a third house, which was also rented by football players.
The next morning, Engelhart says he woke up in a bed in the third house "covered in his own vomit, his own urine and his own excrement. He had a terrible, pounding headache that would not relent.”
Engelhart did not leave his dorm room for three days, missing classes to sleep, according to the complaint. His father then drove to Dayton and took him to the football team doctor, who gave him a series of tests.
"Max was asked to remember and repeat four words. He failed the test. Max was asked to hold his arms out to his side and to close his eyes. Max did so and the immediately collapsed,” the complaint states.
The doctor concluded that Engelhart suffered a severe concussion, and that he should go home with his father and rest.
Engelhart says he took his fall finals, but his GPA dropped. He attempted to return for the spring semester and the next fall semester, but "was forced to withdraw because of the injuries he suffered while being hazed," according to the complaint.
The former player claims in his lawsuit that his father asked Coach Chamberlin about Mad Dogs after the incident, and Chamberlin later told him that none of the players ever said what happened.
Although many of the freshmen arrived in the dorms intoxicated with their heads shaved, their abdomens painted or wearing vulgar shirts, no one was ever sited for hazing, according to the lawsuit. Three of the young football players were ticketed for underage alcohol consumption, and one freshman had his stomach pumped at Miami Valley Hospital.
"Defendants knew or should have known about the hazing of the freshman,” the complaint states. “Defendants did not take responsible steps to prevent it. None of the upperclassmen or 2014 staff were disciplined for Mad Dogs 2014.”
Engelhart accuses the university, Chamberlin and Phillips of negligence, infliction of emotional distress, civil conspiracy and violations of Ohio's anti-hazing law.
He seeks compensatory and punitive damages in excess of $25,000, and is represented by Scott K. Jones of Graydon Head & Ritchey in West Chester, Ohio.
The University of Dayton said it does not comment on pending litigation but “strives to maintain a safe campus environment that protects the dignity of all persons."
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