The NCAA should act decisively to adopt a strong policy on sexual assaults across all conferences, ensures athletes found responsible for such offenses aren’t able to just transfer and keep playing.
The NCAA tends to act decisively to punish college athletes for accepting improper benefits, but has looked the other way when it comes to sexual assaults.
At least 33 current and former athletes since 2014 transferred to NCAA schools despite being found responsible for sexual offenses while at their previous colleges, according to a USA TODAY Network investigation published last week.
The investigation found that even those facing or convicted of criminal charges, or suspended or expelled from school, were allowed to transfer to other colleges and keep playing. The number is likely higher than 33 because most schools refused to share disciplinary records that they were allowed to release under federal law.
Since 2014, four University of Florida football players who were accused of sexual assaults and suspended from the team subsequently transferred to other schools. One was booted from his new team once the allegations became known, but the others were able to resume playing.
UF, like other Southeastern Conference schools, has a policy against accepting transfers with histories of domestic violence or sexual assault. While a handful of the NCAA’s three dozen Division I conferences have adopted such policies, the USA TODAY Network investigation found that their definitions of culpability vary and most rely on the honor system rather than actual checks to verify recruits.
The NCAA is notorious for punishing college athletes for such violations as accepting money or free meals, while also proscribing penalties for such things as low grades. But its 440-page Division I rulebook lacks penalties for sexual, violent or criminal misconduct.
That has provided a loophole for athletes such as University of South Florida football player LaDarrius Jackson, who was arrested twice in two weeks on sexual battery and false imprisonment charges in 2017. He was expelled by USF, but able to transfer to Tennessee State University and play there while awaiting trial.
The NCAA appointed a commission to combat sexual violence that included Brenda Tracy, who was raped by Oregon State University football players in 1998. It recommended in June 2018 that college athletes’ on-field participation be linked to their off-field behavior.
But at their August 2018 meeting, the university presidents, chancellors and athletic directors who comprise the NCAA Board of Governors disbanded the commission without taking up its recommendation.
Now advocates are lobbying individual conferences and schools to implement what has been dubbed the Tracy Rule. The policy would expand on measures adopted by some conferences, such as by requiring an official from the transfer’s school to state whether the athlete was involved in any sexual misconduct investigations
The NCAA has never shied away from preventing college athletes from competing when they violate rules about accepting improper benefits. It should act decisively to adopt a strong policy on sexual assaults across all conferences, ensures athletes found responsible for such offenses aren’t able to just transfer and keep playing.
This guest editorial was originally published by the Gainesville Sun, a sister newspaper within Gannett.