BREAKING NEWS: Lawsuit Filed Against Former Women’s Volleyball Head Coach, Current Athletic Director Named As Defendant

By: Amelia Rose Zimlich | Managing Editor | arz1722@jagmail.southalabama.edu

Photo Source: South Alabama Athletics

Two former South Alabama women’s volleyball players have filed a lawsuit against former head coach, Alexis Meeks-Rydell, according to a press release issued Sep. 2.

Rachael DeMarcus and Alexis Silver came to South in 2018 and allege that they suffered sexual harassment and physical, emotional and mental abuse from their coach. The players say that Meeks-Rydell often forced players to practice or play while injured, verbally abused them, accused them of faking injuries and fostered an atmosphere of fear and intimidation amongst the team. 

Meeks-Rydell also sexually abused the players, touched their buttocks as they exited the team bus and forced them to engage in “floor hugs”, in which the players laid on the ground as she laid on top of them.

The plaintiffs are being represented by DiCello Levitt Gutzler. The lawsuit also names athletic director Joel Erdmann and former assistant coaches Rob Chilcoat and Patricia Gandolfo as defendants in the case, claiming that they were aware of the abuse and did not take the appropriate actions to stop it. 

“Meeks-Rydell’s abuse was so severe that my clients not only suffered prolonged physical and psychological issues, but they were left with no choice but to abandon their athletic and academic careers at the University of South Alabama,” said Kenneth P. Abbarno, a DiCello Levitt Gutzler partner and plaintiffs’ co-counsel. “I sincerely hope that we, as a society, are not becoming desensitized to the abuse of young, female athletes at the hands of coaches and other authority figures who they should be able to trust with their physical and emotional well-being.”

Meeks-Rydell was hired as head coach of the women’s volleyball team at South Alabama on Dec. 31, 2018, and continued in that position until her resignation in February 2021. She is currently an assistant coach at Purdue University Fort Wayne. She has since been put on leave. Both DeMarcus and Silver have transferred from South Alabama.