PRESS RELEASE – DECEMBER 19, 2019
For immediate release
For more information:
Dr. B. David Ridpath, Ed.D.
The Drake Group
The Drake Group Echoes Congressional Calls for the NCAA to Address Athlete Violence
NEW HAVEN, CT. –
On December 12, Kenny Jacoby of the USA Today Network reported on the Network’s investigation which identified “at least 28 current and former athletes since 2014 who transferred to NCAA schools despite being administratively disciplined for a sexual offense at another college” and found “an additional five who continued playing after being convicted or disciplined for such offenses through the courts.” This is likely to be the tip of the iceberg. Five of every six of the 226 universities receiving public records requests from the USA Today Network to participate in their study by providing data to which they were entitled under open records laws refused to respond; 100 coaches, athletic directors and athletes were asked for comment and only three responded. Jacoby noted that while six of the 33 Division I conferences had limited rules constraining recruitment of violent athletes, the NCAA disbanded its own Commission to Combat Campus Sexual Violence after it recommended that association wide rules be established to tie athletic eligibility to such behavior. The NCAA declined to offer such legislation.
- David Ridpath, President of the The Drake Group stated, “The absence of regulations and the silence of the NCAA and the collegiate athletics community continues to be deafening. This is not new news. In 1997, Kathy Redmond founded the National Coalition Against Violent Athletes after being raped by a University of Nebraska football player and she has continued to raise the public’s attention to the fact that the absence of NCAA rules enables those who would rape. She is right to point out that the absence of an ineligibility deterrent enables the athlete rapist to move on to another “killing field” in which coaches and administrators value a rapist’s athletic skills and contributions to winning contests more than maintaining a safe university environment. There have been numerous additional calls from victims asking the NCAA to act as well as from Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon and eight other senators who have made similar demands in the past, to no avail.”
The Drake Group undertook a comprehensive examination of the issue of athlete misconduct in the form of a position statement entitled Institutional Integrity Issues Related to College Athlete Sexual Assault and Other Forms of Violence. The issue study found that (1) no uniform approach exists at any level of policy making to deal with the issue, (2) athlete sexual and other physical violence is condoned by an unacknowledged collegiate athlete subculture that neither educational sport leaders nor college presidents have addressed, and (3) institutions of higher education are frozen by self-interest, hence unlikely to address such violence unless immersed in a media or legal crisis, in which case they act alone. The paper concluded that neither the NCAA nor other national collegiate athletic governance associations have confronted this issue in a way that will deter such violent athlete behavior over the short or long term and that athletes, especially the most talented prospective and enrolled athletes, must receive the message that violent behavior will not be tolerated. Institutions must impose consistent penalties that will deter such serious misconduct. But we must recognize that as with any other complex issue, there is no simple one rule fix. The Drake Group made the following ten recommendations which should be pursued:
- Establish Title IX compliance as a condition of NCAA and other national collegiate athletic governance organization membership and require regularized institutional reviews of its athletics related sexual harassment and equal opportunity provisions.
- Prohibit athletic department employees from involvement in campus or external athlete sexual harassment or assault investigations and adjudication processes and require that athletes be treated like all other students with regard to such processes. Immediately suspend the athletic participation of any athlete accused of sexual or other violence until the conclusion of any preliminary hearing, investigation, or adjudication process. 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.
3.Institutions should not be permitted to recruit 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 this provision should have an avenue of appeal to an independent panel comprised of both youth development and law enforcement experts.
4.The nation’s top gender violence athlete educators should be convened to establish a national program to deliver gender violence programming to member institutions with participation in such programming required of all coaches, athletics staff, and athletes. Institutions must commit to the delivery of “gender transformative” programming, including the appropriate use of restorative-justice and bystander- prevention elements.
5.National collegiate athletic governance organizations should establish an independent athlete ombudsman office to provide confidential assistance to athletes seeking advice on responding to team situations, and to answer questions about organization rules and other issues of concern to athletes. The office should have access to a wide variety of experts specializing in various health, legal, and other issues.
- Because of the connection between drinking and sexual and other forms of physical violence, member institutions should be prohibited from accepting alcohol advertising and sponsorships and from selling alcohol at athletics contests conducted by member institutions and conferences. National collegiate governance organizations, conferences, and member institutions should initiate a national communications campaign featuring highly visible athletes and coaches addressing the relationship between drinking and sexual violence. Athletes convicted of Driving While Intoxicated (a.k.a. Driving Under the Influence or Operating Under the Influence) should be suspended from athletics participation.
7.Because of the relationship between violence and impaired reasoning or impulse control caused by a head injury, the NCAA and other national collegiate sports governing bodies should act to reduce the risk of repeated head trauma including by (a) prohibiting contact practices in high risk sports during the off-season, (b) limiting contact practices in these sports to two times per week during the competition season, and (c) formally reviewing sports rules and practice activities, preparatory to adopting rules that would reduce exposure to the risk of repetitive head trauma.
8.National-collegiate-athletic-governance organizations should begin regularized collection of data on athlete violence and the athletics subculture, among other research initiatives. All such research efforts should, by policy, make collected individual level data publicly available to researchers. Research studies should also initiate sampling policies that enable comparisons between the athlete and non-athlete populations and between sports.
9.The NCAA should discard or revise its APR metric, which encourages the protection, retention, or transfer of sexual or other physically violent predators.
10.Special “escorts” should be prohibited from participating in the entertainment of recruits during on-campus visits in light of the abuse of such practices, which abuse sexualizes the escorts. Only currently enrolled team members or Admissions Office-trained students who regularly conduct campus tours and orientation sessions for visiting high school students should introduce prospective students to the campus.
Ridpath concluded, “Ultimately leaders in intercollegiate athletics must decide whether winning is more important than protecting students from sexual assault. Unfortunately, to date, we’re getting the wrong answer and it appears winning by any means necessary is still the ultimate goal.” Jacoby, Kenny. Athletes expelled for sex assault find hew home, play at TSU, Austin Peay. And they’re not alone. Tennessean. (December 12, 2019). Retrieve at: https://www.tennessean.com/story/sports/2019/12/12/college-athletes-sex-assault-transfer-tennessee-state-austin-peay/4397662002/  Lopiano, D., Gurney, G.,Porto, B., Ridpath, D.B., Sack, A., Willingham, M., and Zimbalist, A. (2016) The Drake Group Position Statement: Institutional Integrity Issues Related to Athlete Sexual Assault and Other Forms of Serious Misconduct. (August, 2016). Retrieve at: https://www.thedrakegroup.org/2016/09/11/institutional-integrity-issues-related-to-college-athlete-sexual-assault-and-other-forms-of-serious-violence/