NCAA says athletic departments must not interfere in sexual assault cases

McClatchy Washington BureauAugust 14, 2014 

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LAUREN VICTORIA BURKE — The Associated Press

After a Senate survey found 22 percent of colleges give their athletics departments oversight over sexual assault allegations against athletes, the NCAA Executive Committee has issued a resolution saying it expects that practice to stop.

The resolution, approved unanimously on Friday, specified expectations about how college athletics programs should try to prevent sexual violence and handle allegations of assaults.

It called for them to “cooperate with but not manage, direct, control or interfere with college or university investigations into allegations of sexual violence ensuring that investigations involving student-athletes and athletics department staff are managed in the same manner as all other students and staff on campus.”

The survey that found that many athletics departments have been handling the cases was commissioned by U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., a former sex crimes prosecutor. The survey covered range of questions about how schools investigate and resolve sexual assault claims (story here). It was released on July 9.

“You cannot expect the athletic department, which is in charge of giving scholarships, or depends on the athletic prowess of young men or women, that they will be fair, or at least have the appearance of being fair,” McCaskill said at a news conference the day the survey was released.

Later that same day, at a previously scheduled Commerce Committee hearing, McCaskill said she was shocked that the survey showed that among Division I, II and III schools, 30 percent let the athletic departments handle allegations against athletes. She raised the finding with NCAA President Mark Emmert, who was testifying at the hearing. Emmert told her he was “equally dismayed and surprised.”

“I am floored that he’s surprised,” McCaskill said later, outside the hearing. “Because it seems to me that if you were in charge of the NCAA and you were truly trying to provide guidance and enforcement on a code of conduct you would know that a third of your schools are not even allowing their athletes to go through the process that any other student would go through, that they have their own special process within the athletic department. The fact he didn’t know that until our survey is probably an indictment as to how serious they have been about this problem.”

The NCAA Executive Committee is the organization’s highest decision-making body and has oversight over how all the divisions operate. It passed the resolution during a quarterly meeting.

“The Executive Committee recognizes the importance of addressing the abhorrent societal issue of sexual violence, especially when it occurs on our campuses,” the resolution said. “The Executive Committee acknowledges that it is our members’ collective responsibility to maintain campuses as safe places to learn, live, work and play.”

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