Western Kentucky University’s suspension of its swimming and diving programs sent a shockwave through portions of the PrepXtra coverage area on Tuesday.
Now two area senior high school swimmers, including one who was set to sign on Wednesday, are scrambling to pick up the pieces.
Maryville’s Trenton Reed and Hardin Valley’s Ashley Darby planned to compete at WKU next season before Tuesday, when the university announced a 5-year suspension for its swimming and diving programs after it and Bowling Green (Ky.) police found violations of Title IX sexual misconduct and assault, harassment and the student code of conduct.
Reed first saw the news on the Internet on Tuesday morning, just a day before he was scheduled to sign with the Hilltoppers during a 9 a.m. ceremony at Maryville. Darby signed with WKU’s women’s program in November.
“It was an emotional day for us,” said Todd Reed, Trenton’s father. “We’re making the best of it. We just kind of caught it on the news. We were in communication with the compliance office and things like that. Really, what we just want to say is it was a shock, and we’re moving forward with making the best of it.”
Darby did not return calls from the News Sentinel on Tuesday evening.
Trenton Reed and Darby were the latest swimmers in what’s become a steady pipeline of Knoxville-area athletes to WKU.
Former Bearden standouts Ryan Burcham (freshman; butterfly/freestyle) and Chris Goodman (junior; backstroke/free) and Knoxville’s John Myhre (freshman; free/back) were listed on the men’s roster.
WKU is giving its athletes the option to either transfer or stay on campus, where their scholarships will be honored if they remain in good standing.
Former Maryville High School standout Logan Graumann (freshman; free/back) and Bearden’s Kennedy Higdon (senior; butterfly/medley) compete for the women’s program, and also have those options.
“We’re doing a lot of backtracking now figuring out what’s going on,” said Tennessee Aquatics’ Marshall Goldman, who coached Darby and Reed. “It’s a shame because we have a strong history of swimmers at the program. We’ve got four or five who are there right now. We’ve had almost 10 over the last handful of years to have gone there. It’s kind of a shock in general. … The cut because of this is a little hard to swallow.”
Reed and Darby will now seek alternative college options. Reed can go wherever he chooses since he did not sign at National Letter of Intent, and Goldman said Darby will have the same options since WKU is granting blanket releases to its signees.
“(Darby) signed in the fall,” Goldman said. “We’re having to get her released from everything. … Western Kentucky is granting blanket releases on scholarships.”