College Sports

Here’s why ECU suspended its swimming and diving program last month

A Facebook post on ECU’s swimming and diving team’s page says ‘#tbt to our Men’s first championship in the #AAC #stillhungry.’
A Facebook post on ECU’s swimming and diving team’s page says ‘#tbt to our Men’s first championship in the #AAC #stillhungry.’

East Carolina’s athletic department temporarily suspended its swimming and diving program in late August after someone reported a hazing incident, a university spokesperson said this week.

Tom McClellan, an ECU spokesperson, said the members of the swimming and diving program were in a packed car, exceeding the car’s capacity, and driving fast in circles, which is commonly referred to as “doing doughnuts.”

The university and the ECU police department conducted separate investigations, and both determined the incident didn’t qualify as hazing.

McClellan said that a student did not report the incident, but that the car was stopped by police.

“Those investigations concluded that while a series of activities described as “team building” were determined not to warrant continued suspension of the team, recommendations will be presented to the athletics department for continued support and education of team members,” McClellan said in an email.

The incident was not in the university’s crime log.

ECU police captain Beth Watkins said the department and the district attorney’s office agreed that the incident did not meet the hazing statute.

The definition of hazing, according to N.C. general statute § 14-35, is “to subject another student to physical injury as part of an initiation, or as a prerequisite to membership, into any organized school group, including any society, athletic team, fraternity or sorority, or other similar group.”

“Therefore, this is why this incident has been documented as an ’Information Only’ & why it wasn’t reflected on our Crime Log,” Watkins wrote in an email.

Hazing has been a concern among universities in recent years. One recent high-profile case involved a Penn State student who died in February as a result of hazing. Timothy Piazza was participating in a drinking obstacle course as part of an initiation in a fraternity on campus, according to The New York Times. He became intoxicated and fell down a flight of stairs.

ECU’s swimming and diving team has resumed practice and the university says no charges will be filed and no team disciplinary action will be taken. However, the school could still find individual student-athletes to be in violation of the school’s student code of conduct.

The men’s and women’s teams will have their first official meets on Oct. 6 against Navy in Annapolis, Md.

Jonathan M. Alexander: 919-829-4822, @jonmalexander