Miltenberg, Lewis: “Lawsuit Alleges Bullying, Abuse by UC San Diego Rowing Coach Led to Student’s Suicide,” The San Diego Union-Tribune


The parents of a 19-year-old UC San Diego student who killed himself in January have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the university and its men’s rowing coach, who is accused of subjecting collegiate athletes to pervasive bullying and verbal abuse. The lawsuit, filed in San Diego federal court Thursday, accuses head coach Geoff Bond of singling out freshman rower Brian Lilly Jr. to the point of mental deterioration and, ultimately, suicide. “This horrific tragedy is not the sad, but inevitable, result of an ‘old-school coach’ miscalculating the effect of his harsh coaching style on an overly sensitive Generation Z teenager,” the lawsuit states. Lilly was described by his family and teammates as a powerhouse endurance athlete with no previous history of mental illness. He was known for his mental fortitude, overcoming physical limitations as a child to eventually compete in the Ironman Triathlon as a high school senior in Scarsdale, N.Y. A chart on his bedroom wall spelled out how to become an Olympic rower … “It bothers me every day to think my son was the victim of a bully predator coach,” his father, Brian Lilly Sr., said in an interview. Bond is being sued under Title IX — the civil rights statute that prohibits sex discrimination in education — as well as on claims of wrongful death, denial of equal protection and deprivation of substantial due process. Bond declined to comment when reached by phone Thursday afternoon. UCSD, as well as its athletic director Earl Edwards and associate director Katie McGann, are being sued on the same grounds, plus claims of negligent hiring and supervision. UCSD spokesperson Matt Nagel on Thursday released a brief statement: “We are very sorry for the Lillys’ loss, but we are unable to comment on pending legal matters and Title IX matters are confidential.” … The Lillys’ New York-based attorney, Nicholas Lewis, said coaches hold tremendous sway over an athlete’s emotional well-being and self-worth, and the vast majority serve as important mentors to youth. “Geoff Bond’s conduct reveals he is not worthy of the lofty position of head coach. He was an abusive bully who subjected his rowers to terrifying temper tantrums, mean-spirited insults, and countless mind games,” said Lewis. “Bond did not care to build this kid up; he used his power to break Brian down.”

Click to view article