MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — A second lawsuit against the former University of South Alabama women’s head volleyball coach, Alexis Meeks-Rydell, has been filed in federal court. The lawsuit also names the University, Athletic Director Joel Erdman, and former assistant coaches Rob Chilcoat and Patricia Gandolfo as defendants.
A former University of South Alabama player came forward with more sexual harassment claims. The lawsuit was filed last month.
The new complaint alleges the abuses took place from Jan. 1, 2019 through the 2019 to 2020 academic school year. The lawsuit alleges Meeks-Rydell created a “climate of fear and intimidation” among the players. This is similar to what the first lawsuit claimed. The first lawsuit was filed in September of 2021, with several players as the plaintiffs.
The allegations of abuse include:
- unwanted pinching player’s buttocks
- inappropriate touching
- forced hugs
- overtraining, using coersion and force to play through her injuries
The lawsuit alleges these abuses continued through 2019 and 2020, though Erdman, Chilcoat, Gandolfo and other university officials had direct knowledge of the abuse.
Meeks-Rydell was hired as the University’s Women’s Volleyball Team Head Coach on Dec. 31, 2018. She resigned from USA in February 2021, according to the lawsuit.
She was hired at Purdue University Fort Wayne in Fort Wayne, Indiana on June 1, 2021. She was placed on administrative leave in September 2021. According to the lawsuit, her employment with that university ended in December 2021.
This lawsuit also alleges Meeks-Rydell used her authority to manipulate and control the player in this lawsuit. Meeks-Rydell was employed by the University of West Alabama before taking the job as the head coach at South Alabama. The lawsuit alleges Meeks-Rydell recruited the plaintiff while still at West Alabama, to follow her to South Alabama to play on the volleyball team.
The lawsuit says the plaintiff was the only recruit to go with her to South Alabama, and that she abandoned a full scholarship to the University of West Alabama to follow Meeks-Rydell. The lawsuit alleges the plaintiff suffered “extreme physical, mental, and emotional distress” as a result of the abusive conduct, which led for her to leave the university and volleyball team in May 2020. Which led to physical, emotional, mental, and financial damages for the former player, according to the lawsuit.
The lawyers for the plaintiff released this statement about the new lawsuit:
“[The lawsuit] is a new case filed by a former USA student-athlete who has bravely come forward with claims of misconduct against the University of South Alabama and its athletic department administrators that are strikingly similar to the allegations made in other pending litigation against the same defendants. We look forward to presenting our case and achieving justice on our client’s behalf.”
Ken Abbarno, DiCello Levitt Gutzler
Former assistant coaches Chilcoat and Gandolfo have left USA. Erdmann still serves as USA’s athletic director.
A spokesperson for the University of South Alabama says the university is aware of the lawsuit but declined to comment due to pending litigation.
The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama, Mobile Division.
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