Conspiracy Alleged in Expanding Volleyball Lawsuit

By: Amelia Rose Zimlich | Editor In Chief |

Photo by: Michael Dunn | Photographer

Lawyers for a growing list of women volleyball players suing the university for abuse have named two more senior athletic officials accused of conspiracy, according to a new court filing in the federal court in Mobile.

The amended lawsuit was filed Dec. 17 and names Chris Moore, the current associate athletic director for compliance, and Jinni Frisbey, the current senior associate athletic director and Title IX coordinator for athletics, as defendants alongside the defendants named in the original lawsuit. A spokesman for the university this week declined to comment on the new allegations.

The amended lawsuit adds a conspiracy count, alleging that senior athletic officials were aware of the abuse and acted to cover it up. The lawsuit says that former Head Coach Alexis Meeks-Rydell was placed on administrative leave in January 2021, but South’s Athletic Director Joel Erdmann and other athletic officials allowed the coach to contact the team and recruits, oversee practice remotely and discipline players.

The lawsuit maintains that Moore conspired with Meeks-Rydell and the university to hide the abuse. This included allegedly coercing a player to write a fraudulent letter to the NCAA. The player was told that she would be fined over $6,000 for leaving the university, the complaint alleges. Instead, Moore and Meeks-Rydell pledged to take care of the fine if the player wrote a letter saying that she was withdrawing because of a natural disaster in her home country, rather than leaving to escape the abuse.

Several players and their parents allegedly contacted Erdmann and Frisbey about Meeks-Rydell’s alleged abuse, but the lawsuit claims the university failed to act.

Six new plaintiffs have joined the lawsuit. Originally filed on behalf of former volleyball players Rachael DeMarcus and Alexis Silver, the lawsuit was updated to include six additional former volleyball players: Caitlin Tipping, Meaghan Jones, Hannah Kazee, Hannah Johnson and two others referred to as “Jane Doe 1” and “Jane Doe 2.” The plaintiffs seek full compensation for “all they suffered and continue to suffer in the future,” the complaint states.

Among the new allegations, the updated lawsuit claims that athletic staff:

• used fines as intimidation;

• accused players of faking serious injuries;

• denied medical treatment to players;

• forced a player to share a hotel bed with Meeks-Rydell and be subject to the coach’s unwelcome advances; and

• called a player who took anti-depressant medication “crazy.”

When reached by phone on Dec. 20, Lance Crawford, the director of media relations for South Alabama, said, “The University of South Alabama does not comment on pending or active litigation.” Frisbey and Moore did not return phone messages and emails from The Vanguard.

In a statement this week, plaintiffs’ counsel, Diandra “Fu” Debrosse Zimmermann, a prominent civil rights advocate based in Birmingham, called the abuse “brazen and willful.”

“Alexis Meeks-Rydell, the University of South Alabama and the other defendants had a duty to ensure the safety of its student-athletes,” said Zimmermann in a news release. “Not only did they fail to do that, but they also actively conspired to cover up a situation that they knew was detrimental to these young women.”