Drake Group: Higher Education Institutions Must Cease Being Party to Athlete Sexual Assault

Drake Group: Higher Education Institutions Must Cease Being Party to Athlete Sexual Assault

The latest provocative missive from the Drake Group:

On November 16, 2020, USA Today broke a story on nine LSU football players, including two that played key roles on its 2020 national championship team, who were accused of rape, other sexual misconduct and dating violence over a four-year period. Victims’ allegations were either completely ignored or sanctions were woefully inadequate. Sanctions included “deferred suspensions” —a suspension that kicks in only if the student commits a second offense. Athlete sexual misconduct and the complicity of their institutions in covering up such horrific behavior is a continuing disgrace; LSU is simply the most recent example.

Significantly, no concerted and coordinated effort by the NCAA and other national collegiate athletic governance organizations, conferences, or member institutions confront athlete sexual misconduct and physical violence in a way that will meaningfully deter such behavior. Lack of a nationally uniform policy, coupled with the pressure at the institutional level to win at any cost, results in huge disparities across institutions in the way athlete misconduct is treated. Prospective and current college athletes do not receive a clear message indicating that violent behavior is unacceptable. Worse yet, institutions often enable misconduct by supporting athletes who engage in such behavior, helping them avoid normal student discipline procedures, obtaining pro bono legal representation for athletes (but not other students), or pressuring local police or victims not to bring charges. Institutions also continue to recruit, enroll, and allow athletes convicted of or disciplined for sexual or other physical violence to participate in athletics and receive athletic scholarships. And the efforts by institutions that do try to deal directly with such behavior are often nullified by the ease with which accused athletes can freely and quickly transfer to another institution with no penalties.

The Drake Group calls upon national collegiate athletic governance organizations and their member institutions of higher education immediately to enact rules to address both sexual misconduct and physical violence. These rules are necessary due to the scope and seriousness of the problem of sexual misconduct among athletes, the recognition that a college campus should be a safe learning environment, and the failure of the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights and NCAA, NAIA and other collegiate athletics governing associations to sufficiently address the problem. Moreover, uniform rules are necessary to make certain that institutions do not try to game the system and obtain a competitive advantage by allowing star athletes to compete despite their misconduct.

The Drake Group is issuing ten detailed recommendations that seek to protect all parties’ rights in the fairest way possible: victims are protected from further harm; accused are presumed innocent until proven guilty; athletes found responsible are appropriately penalized; and all students are provided a safe educational environment. We recommend sanctions that are unique to athletes and athletic departments in addition to existing penalties pursuant to the respective school’s code of conduct or Title IX.