University denies allegations
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Neil Henley, who began matriculating at Xavier in the fall of 2012, claims he was injured multiple times after being coerced into drinking 'significant quantities' of alcohol at a soccer team event.
CINCINNATI -- A former Xavier University men’s soccer player is suing the university and its head soccer coach over allegations of hazing and negligence.
Neil Henley, who began matriculating at Xavier in the fall of 2012, claims he was injured multiple times after being coerced into drinking “significant quantities” of alcohol at a soccer team event – and those injuries led to the loss of his scholarship.
According to the suit, Henley was taken to off-campus housing called “The Soccer House” at 2006 Hopkins Ave. on Feb. 16, 2013 for a pre-party hazing ritual. The lawsuit claims Henley’s coach, Andy Fleming, and Xavier University Athletics Department officials were aware of the party and what the students were doing there.
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At the event, Henley claims he and other first-year students were required to binge drink and perform embarrassing tasks. Henley said he was also given the title, “The Chosen One” and subjected to additional hazing and an “unknown chemical agent.”
Henley's attorney Brian Goldwasser said the soccer player couldn't refuse the hazing requirement.
"Under Ohio's anti-hazing statute, the answer to that is no," Goldwasser said. "He did not because with hazing it's almost as if you're put in a position where you've lost your ability to exercise your own freewill."
Prior to the party, members of the soccer team wrote on a private Facebook page created for the event. There, one player wrote, “Make peace with God tonight, freshman,” according to the lawsuit. Another player wrote, "Next Sunday morning, well afternoon for most of you will be consisting of telling stories and piecing together your day/night!"
As a result of the hazing, Henley said he sustained several injuries to his head. Those injuries included striking his head on an overhang, hitting a window casing, hitting a wall inside the soccer house, hitting his head on a banister, falling several times and tripping while being required to carry a keg of beer up a flight of stairs, the lawsuit states.
At one point, Henley said he was knocked unconscious – and no one in attendance sought medical attention or called 911.
The lawsuit states Henley was taken back to his dorm after the party and remained there for two days. Because he was suffering head pain, he sought treatment through the Xavier University Sports Medicine Department.
Henley said seniors of the men’s soccer team coerced him to inform the Sports Medicine Department that he sustained a head injury from playing soccer with his teammates.
Henley was diagnosed with a concussion by the school’s orthopedic surgeon. On Feb. 21, he was examined by another physician and was diagnosed as continuing to suffer from a concussion, according to the suit.
By concussion protocol of Xavier’s Athletic Department, Henley’s attorney said the student was required to undergo special testing and receive medical clearance by a physician before being allowed to return to the soccer team.
The lawsuit claims “an unsupervised student trainer” cleared Henley on March 4 to return to soccer despite no further testing and no attempt to have him examined again.
The lawsuit alleges Henley’s coach was aware or should have been aware that he did not undergo the required testing before rejoining the team.
On March 23, Henley said he was knocked to the ground by an opposing player and sustained a second concussion “as a result of being required to return to soccer too early.”
Because of his second concussion, Henley’s lawsuit claims he sustained “serious cognitive and physical limitations which impacted… his ability to perform daily activities and focus on academics.”
On June 14, Xavier University revoked Henley’s academic scholarship due to “performance issues.”
"He started missing classes," Goldwasser said. "He started having concentration issues. He was unable to keep up with the team, and ultimately he was cut from the program."
But Henley’s lawsuit argues his “performance issues” arose as a direct result of hazing and the “negligence of the athletic department and its trainers.”
Henley, who is originally from Louisville, is suing for $50,000 in damages, attorney fees and other costs associated with his injuries.
"(Henley) will never be back to where he was. He's suffered damage as a result," Goldwasser said.
After reviewing the lawsuit, Xavier University officials called Henley’s allegations “unfounded.”
“We have reviewed the complaint… The university will provide a vigorous defense," Xavier officials said.
The hazing lawsuit comes in the wake of another suit against the university involving a former basketball player . In that suit, the former student claims he was defamed by the university over rape allegations.
WCPO's Jason Law contributed to this report