Max Engelhart claims he was forced to chug high-alcohol drinks as part of a “Mad Dogs” initiation to the University of Dayton football team two years ago.
Engelhart, then a 6-foot-1, 270-pound offensive lineman, woke up Dec. 8, 2014 covered in his own body waste and with a headache later diagnosed by UD’s team physician as a concussion. Engelhart claims he quit football, left the university and has been prescribed a medicine typically given to Alzheimer’s and dementia patients.
A lawsuit filed against UD, its football coach, an assistant strength coach and others in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court alleges a freshman hazing incident forced Engelhart to quit school and that he still suffers from traumatic brain injury.
The lawsuit filed by attorney Scott Jones alleges UD covered up the hazing allegations and that a UD police investigation never reached city or county officials.
This news organization requested UD police records and other documentation of the incident that allegedly included one freshman having his stomach pumped at a local hospital and three freshmen being investigated for underage consumption.
The university Wednesday denied the request on grounds that all the relevant records are “student judiciary citation reports, which are educational records,” that UD said are exempt from open records requests.
Jones named as defendants UD football coach Rick Chamberlin, assistant strength and conditioning coach Jared Phillips and numerous other school officials who “knew or should have known” about the “Mad Dogs” hazing ritual that has allegedly gone on for decades.
“Prior to filing this action, Max met with UD administrators on several occasions to try to resolve this matter and effect meaningful change at UD,” Jones said Wednesday as part of a longer statement for media. “Those efforts have failed.
“We are now asking the justice system to assist us in accomplishing those tasks. We ask that the media and others to respect Max’s privacy while he attempts to heal and recover from his injuries.”
A UD response Wednesday said: “The University of Dayton does not comment on pending litigation. The University strives to maintain a safe campus environment that protects the dignity of all persons.”
The complaint listed five counts, including a violation of Ohio’s anti-hazing statute, negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress and civil conspiracy.
The suit said as part of “Mad Dogs” or “Mad Caps,” some freshmen football players were forced to drink to excess, had their heads shaved, had to endure verbal abuse and humiliation including being called vulgar or derogatory names or having penises painted on their T-shirts.
According to the suit, Engelhart and other freshmen were ordered to stand on the front patio of a house and drink multiple 16 oz. cans of Four Loco, an alcoholic beverage with approximately 12 percent alcohol. Upperclassmen allegedly said the faster the cans were drank, the faster the freshmen could get in out of the cold.
Once inside, upperclassmen forced the freshmen to chug more Four Loco and drink hard alcohol like vodka. Of the three houses Engelhart was taken to, two are reportedly owned by UD and rented to upperclassmen, the suit alleges.
The suit claims a coverup because no disciplinary action was taken even though multiple witnesses reported a “hazing” incident and that hazing is against UD’s student policy.
At the second house, Engelhart was extremely inebriated, the suit said. After being helped in, an upperclassmen allegedly told Max, “Hang in there; you’ll get through this.”
The suit said Engelhart received head injuries there and became completely unconscious. He was then taken to a third house instead of his dorm room, according to the complaint.
Chamberlin said he’d ask around to see what happened and told Engelhart’s father no one ever told him what happened, according to the complaint.
The suit also said William Fischer, UD’s vice president of student development, told Engelhart’s father that former UD football coach Mike Kelly was furious about the incident and that it “went too far this year.”
The complaint said a UD police reported a resident assistant reported the incident and that freshmen “were involved in a hazing incident,” another witness said it was a “football hazing gone wrong” and that one freshman said he “drank 8-10 shots of hard alcohol.”
The lawsuit claims various current or former UD administrators, employees, trustees, directors, officers, coaches or faculty members knew or should have known about the hazing at UD and “did not take reasonable attempts to prevent it.”
Engelhart attempted to go back to school in both the spring and fall 2015 semesters, but was forced to withdraw, according to the complaint.
The suit said Engelhart was diagnosed with depression and was ordered by two doctors never to play football again. It said Engelhart is under the care of a psychologist, a specialist in traumatic brain injuries, a neurologist and a neuropsychologist.
The suit said Engelhart suffers from cognitive brain injury, was diagnosed with and suffers from short-term memory loss and that “retraining” his brain could “take years.”