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NCAA Rules Athletic Departments Should Not Handle Sexual Assault Investigations

The NCAA released a handbook including new policy on how university athletic departments should handle sexual assaults Wednesday, and in it is a directive that casts doubt on its previous lambasting of Joe Paterno’s handling of the 2001 shower incident.

The handbook, titled “Addressing Sexual Assault and Interpersonal Violence,” includes a resolution passed by the NCAA executive committee that says university athletic departments should not handle any college or university investigation into reports of sexual assault.

“Athletic departments must 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,” states the executive committee’s resolution that passed in August. It also says members of athletic departments should “report immediately any suspected sexual violence to appropriate campus offices for investigation and adjudication.”

When Joe Paterno was told of Jerry Sandusky’s actions in a Lasch Building shower by Mike McQueary in 2001, he waited a day, then reported the news to Tim Curley and Gary Schultz.

At a Senate hearing about college sports in July, Sen. Claire McCaskill presented statistics that 22 percent of universities in the country have a policy in which athletic departments are granted oversight to the handling of sexual assault, according to Inside Higher Ed. She questioned NCAA President Mark Emmert himself about the numbers, to which he said, “This is really inappropriate and we need to find ways to make sure that athletic departments are not the ones who are responsible for adjudication of these issues because of all of the obvious concerns that you raise.” 

Multiple requests for comment from the NCAA on how this ruling relates to Penn State were not returned.

The consent decree that Penn State signed to accept the NCAA’s sanctions calls Paterno’s actions “deficient conduct.” And the decree was issued based on the Freeh Report, which said Paterno covered up child abuse doing what the NCAA now says he should do.

Jay Paterno told the Morning Call that this ruling “invalidates” the consent decree:

It invalidates the very foundation of the consent decree and Mark Emmert’s press conference statements that Penn State failed to act appropriately. The course taken by Joe Paterno and the athletic department was exactly what the NCAA recommends.

There is a reason a coach is not to follow up by finding and contacting a potential victim of a sexual assault. Regardless of a coach’s intent, a victim could feel pressured to recant her or his story. They are good guidelines. Because Penn State followed them, the NCAA should remove the sanctions.

Always-quotable trustee Anthony Lubrano put it bluntly.

“I find it ironic that it’s exactly what Joe Paterno did and he was vilified for it by the NCAA,” he said. “The consent decree isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on, and Mark Emmett is a sanctimonious hypocrite.”

Here’s the handbook in full below:

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About the Author

Tim Gilbert

Former Managing Editor of this site, now just makes lots of #content for it from the Phyrst’s Table 69. Senior from Philadelphia. First-generation Penn Stater. I might go to law school after this, but I might not, too. “For the Glory” is in my email signature because I’m a douche. [email protected] is my email if you want to tell me why I suck. Alternatively, you can call me out on Twitter @OlGilb.


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