University of Virginia Sued by Ex-Recruit

A former recruit for the University of Virginia football team has sued the school for monetary damages, claiming that a hazing incident resulted in a serious eye injury.

University of Virginia Sued by Ex-Recruit

Aidan Howard, who is currently enrolled at Robert Morris University, alleges that current Cavaliers wide receivers Doni Dowling and David Eldridge pressured him into fighting another recruit as an initiation rite. Howard says that he took a blow to the head during the fight which resulted in a concussion along with a broken orbital bone that required surgery.

Howard further alleges that the injury has prevented him from playing football at Robert Morris, and that he was bullied by Cavaliers football players for being slow to learn the playbook. Howard has been diagnosed with a learning disability.

James Zeszutek, Howard’s attorney, said in an interview that athletic department and school officials were slow to act on Howard’s complaints, an allegation that Virginia refutes.

A statement from the university says that the school became aware of Howard’s complaint on August 16th and immediately reported the incident to city and county authorities. It further stated that investigations by the school’s Title IX Enforcement department, campus police and the Dean’s office are all on-going.

Howard’s allegations may be signs of a deeper issue

Howard isĀ the most recent former Cavalier to make allegations of hazing, but there have been others who have made similar claims in a short period of time.

Anthony Marcantonio left the Virginia men’s swimming team in 2015 over what he referred to asĀ horrific hazing that made him fear for his life. Marcantonio also filed suit against Virginia after he transferred to Northwestern University.

Neither Dowling nor Eldridge nor any of the university officials listed as defendants in the suit have received any kind of discipline, as the university’s investigation is on-going.

In Marcantonio’s case, the alleged perpetrators of the hazing were suspended for the remainder of the semester and none of them returned to the team. Two of them transferred to other schools.

One huge difference between the two cases

Obviously, it’s much easier for a school whose football program belongs to a Power 5 conference to suspend and lose the services of members of the men’s swimming team than the football team. Football is a revenue sport, men’s swimming is not.

Losing Dowling would be especially harmful. He leads all Virginia receivers with at least 20 catches on the season in yards per catch and is second on the team in receiving yards. Eldridge is a deep threat for the Cavaliers, averaging nearly 30 yards per catch, though on only five catches thus far this season.

Where the case goes from here

Whether or not the school will conclude its investigations before the case goes to trial remains to be seen. Much of the lawsuit’s litigation will revolve around the testimony of other players present in the locker room at the time of the alleged incident, so it would be in Virginia’s best interest to identify and interview those individuals before the trial begins.

It’s still possible that Howard and Virginia could settle outside of court, and whether or not the university pushes for that will say a lot about how its internal investigation is going.

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