PRESS RELEASE – OCTOBER 3, 2019
For immediate release
For more information:
Dr. B. David Ridpath, Ed.D.
The Drake Group
The Drake Group Calls Upon the NCAA to Accept Its Governance Responsibility for Protecting the Health and Well-Being of College Athletes
WEST HAVEN, CONN —
- David Ridpath, Ed.D., President of The Drake Group, commented, “Following a comprehensive examination of the current state of college athlete health and safety protections, we have concluded that there is a systemic failure to protect the health, safety and well-being of college athletes that must be addressed. The Drake Groupbelieves that coaches and athletics personnel, higher education institutions, and national athletic governance associations are not complying with their respective duties of care and must be held accountable. The pressures to push athletes to training extremes in order to achieve team performance success and its commercial rewards are real. Too often fear of powerful coaches results in athletes and trainers not reporting abusive coaching and conditioning practices. When unsafe practices occur, institutions are more likely to act in ways that protect against litigation or damage to institutional reputation rather than acknowledging and remedying unsafe pedagogy. These pressures are simply too great for institutions to be expected to police themselves. The Drake Group believes that only the national governance organization has the power and leadership responsibility to offset these campus-level forces. Unfortunately, to date, the NCAA has not demonstrated a commitment to doing so. We hope this report represents a blueprint explaining why NCAA action is necessary and what those actions should be.”
Five recommendations are proposed to describe how the NCAA should exercise its athlete health, safety and wellness responsibilities:
RECOMMENDATION 1. NCAA Acceptance of Duty of Care.
As a national collegiate athletic governance organization, the NCAA should protect collegiate athletes from physical and mental harm related to their participation in athletics. Specifically, the NCAA should exercise this responsibility through:
- The adoption and enforcement of rules applicable to all member institutions intended to (1) prevent or reduce the occurrence of athletic injury, (2) prohibit physical, sexual, verbal, or emotional abuse of athletes by coaches, other athletes and others, (3) permit athletes to have adequate time to sleep, recover from training, and complete academic responsibilities, and (4) require athletics personnel to meet education, certification, licensure, or other qualification standards;
- The adoption of all such athlete health and protection rules by the Board of Governors upon recommendation of the Chief Medical Officer and the Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports, rather than by vote of any membership, divisional council, or competitive subdivision. These rules should apply to all athletes in all membership divisions;
- The inclusion in such athlete health and protection rules of standards of conduct for athletic department employees that are at least as stringent as the U.S. Center for SafeSport SafeSport Code regarding mandatory reporter provisions, whistleblower protection, required criminal background checks, and completion of code-of-conduct training by all employees who interact regularly with athletes. The rules should also include (1) a mechanism for NCAA receipt of direct athlete complaints related to violations of the code of conduct and (2) investigatory, adjudicatory, and disciplinary powers required to process those complaints;
- The adoption and enforcement of rules prohibiting member institutions from recruiting any high school students or two- or four-year college transfer students to participate in athletics who have been convicted of a sexually violent or other physically violent act or have been suspended from any educational institution for such an act. High school athletes declared ineligible under such a provision should have an avenue of appeal to an independent panel comprised of both youth development and law enforcement experts;
- The adoption and enforcement of rules (1) prohibiting athletic department employees from involvement in campus or external athlete sexual harassment or assault investigations and adjudication processes and requiring that athletes be treated like all other students with regard to such processes, (2) requiring the immediate suspension of the athletic participation of any athlete accused of sexual or other violence until the conclusion of any preliminary hearing, investigation, or adjudication process and, if such misconduct is found, the athletes responsible should be permanently ineligible for participation in practice, competition, and receipt of athletics financial aid at that or any other member institution of a national-collegiate-athletic-governance institution;
- The required participation by all member institutions in the NCAA Injury Surveillance Program; and
- Approval by the Chief Medical Officer and the Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports before consideration of any change in rules of play or any sport-related legislation that may affect athlete health and protection, including an athlete’s time commitment to a sport.
RECOMMENDATION 2. Enforcement of Athlete Protection Rules.
The NCAA should establish the following mechanisms for the enforcement of such athlete health and protection rules:
- A periodic external peer review of member institutions’ athlete-protection policies and procedures, Injury Surveillance Program records, Code of Conduct violations, athlete and employee physical and mental-health-education programs, and employee qualifications;
- An independent NCAA investigation requirement in the case of catastrophic injury or death at any member institution A three-person panel of experts not affiliated with the involved institution, should be appointed by the College Athletic Trainers Society and the American College of Sports Medicine, at least two members of which should be medical doctors, to investigate and produce a public expert report and recommendations for the institution;
- The requirement that all administrators responsible for the supervision of sports programs undergo an NCAA Sports Science Institute (SSI) training program on the identification of dangerous or abusive pedagogy practices in the coaching of sport programs and in the conduct of strength and conditioning programs.
RECOMMENDATION 3. Adequate Insurance Protection and Provision of Uncovered Medical Expenses.
The NCAA should mandate adequate injury insurance for athletes and institutional payment of athletic injury medical expenses not covered by insurance:
- NCAA Bylaw 16.4.1 specifies that only autonomy institutions must provide full medical care to college athletes for athletically related injuries extending at least two years following either graduation or separation from the institution or until the athlete qualifies for NCAA catastrophic injury program coverage. This provision should be extended to athletes in all NCAA divisions, and the NCAA should establish an insurance program and/or special fund for that purpose.
- The NCAA should develop gender- and sport-neutral criteria for the institutional provision of disability/loss of value insurance that does not deplete institutional Student Assistance Fund allocations.
RECOMMENDATION 4. Consolidation of Athlete Health and Protection Best Practices and Rules Obligations.
The NCAA’s Sport Science Institute (SSI) should compile and distribute annually to all member institutions all athlete health and protection “best practices” adopted by the Board of Governors. It should also compile and distribute annually, by sport, all mandated NCAA athlete health and protection rules.
RECOMMENDATION 5. More Aggressive Pursuit of Game and Practice Rules That Reduce Injury Risk.
The NCAA Board of Governors should direct the Chief Medical Officer and the Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports to identify possible competition and practice rule changes designed to reduce athlete injury risk in all sports. The Board should also direct these entities to test the impact of such changes in every NCAA championship sport. Final decisions about the adoption of rules changes should be data driven.
View the full Position Statement here.