A Louisville soccer standout says hazing cost him his scholarship at Xavier University.
Neil Henley was named Gatorade’s Boys Soccer Player of the Year after his senior season at St. X high school. It helped him earn a spot on Xavier University’s Soccer team, but Henley is now suing the University and its head soccer coach. He claims he was forced to drink in excess at a freshman initiation soccer team party in 2013.
“The upperclassmen put together this initiation,” said attorney Brian Goldwasser, who is representing the 19-year-old student. “From one to 10, the upperclassmen do whatever they want to the freshman — the rookies on the team.”
He says the initiation happened in what’s known as the soccer house, an off-campus rental where seniors on the team live together.
“We know that Neil suffered a number of head injuries throughout that evening. Neil struck his head against the wall, struck his head against the ceiling, falling down and, in fact, at one point he was rendered unconscious and no one provided any assistance to him,” his attorney said.
Goldwasser says Henley suffered a concussion, and the former soccer player is now suing Xavier University and head soccer coach Andy Fleming claiming hazing, negligence and vicarious liability.
“That’s where the blame is, the university has a responsibility to monitor their students and make sure these events don’t occur,” Goldwasser said.
The suit says the team published the party on Facebook.
One soccer player writing, “Make peace with God tonight Freshman.”
Another saying, “Next Sunday morning, well afternoon for most of you will be consisting of telling stories and piecing together your day/night.”
“He’s encouraged by one of the senior team members to tell the trainers and sports management team that they were doing a pickup soccer game and he got a concussion doing it,” Goldwasser said. “That’s why Ohio has an anti-hazing statute.”
“The fact that Neil participated is not defense for the university to hide behind,” he added.
“Why didn’t he just say no? That’s the whole issue with hazing — you almost lose your free will, because you’re encouraged to participate in activities which you otherwise would not do.”
The suit says Henley blacked out and suffered a concussion at the party.
Henley claims he was released back to practice against protocol and too soon and suffered a second concussion weeks later. That injury left him with serious brain injuries.
In June, Xavier University revoked his scholarship, citing performance issues.
“Right now, Neil is still suffering from the concussion. He has short term memory issues, he has some hand tremors, he has obviously a significant problems concentrating,” his attorney said.
Goldwasser says local police and prosecutors investigated and did not file charges.
Henley is seeking more than $50,000 in damages. The University has not returned our calls for comment.