Come up with a cute name and people will believe anything. It usually involves a phrase that either rhymes or is alliterative, and that’s more than sufficient to get the unduly passionate on board. This time, it was USA Today that came up with the phrase, and Congresswoman Donna Shalala who’s pushing the syllogism.
The NCAA will review its stance regarding athletes accused or convicted of sexual assault, the college sports organization said Wednesday, amid pressure from Congress calling for an independent study of the NCAA’s lack of accountability for such athletes.
Both the congressional call and the NCAA’s commitment to reviewing its policies come on the heels of a USA TODAY Network investigation that exposed how college athletes can keep playing sports even after being found responsible for sexual assault.
One of the core rationales for denying basic due process to male students accused of sexual assault is that the sanctions are “insignificant,” and consequently the denial of due process is no big deal. Of course, the sanctions are very significant, expulsion, loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars of tuition (or student debt assumption), futures ruined, pasts squandered. But enough about that.
As bad as it is for anyone falsely accused and erroneously “convicted” in a process where neither facts, reason nor fairness are valued, the situation is even more egregious for student athletes. First, they are targets for rape accusations, both because of their prominence on campus and the narrative that athletes (like fraternity boys and “A” students) are entitled to women’s bodies. Coincidentally, the phenomenon overwhelmingly involves white accusers and black athletes.
Second, the shelf life of student athletes is limited because of NCAA eligibility rules, scholarships and the potential to go pro. If they’re thrown off a team because of an accusation, that could mean they lose their scholarship and that future of playing pro ball, regardless of shape, is dead. So what if they dedicated their life to making it to the pros? One accusation and, poof, they’re pulled from the roster.
To the extent there is any possibility of surviving Coach Kafka, it’s transferring to another college to play. It’s often not possible, as their names are immediately tied to their accusations and the next coach doesn’t need to be named as the guy bringing an accused rapist to campus. It’s not good for the coach’s career either. But a few were either good enough athletes with weak enough accusations that coaches took a chance. There’s your “predator pipeline.”
A USA TODAY Network four-part series published Dec. 12 called “Predator Pipeline” found at least 33 athletes since 2014 who have transferred to NCAA schools despite being administratively or criminally disciplined for sexual offenses at a previous college.
One of them is Alex Figueroa, a University of Miami football player accused of gang rape in 2014, when Shalala was the university president, a position she held from 2001 to 2015. The university expelled Figueroa, and later he accepted a deferred prosecution agreement for felony sexual battery with multiple perpetrators.
Figueroa wasn’t “criminally disciplined,” obviously. Deferred prosecution means they determined not to prosecute, which USA Today inexplicably conflates with guilty. Yet, Figueroa is their posterboy for a predator. How did that work out?
After two seasons at Garden City Community College in Kansas, Figueroa played another two years at the University of Central Oklahoma under head coach Nick Bobeck. In a previous statement, Bobeck said Figueroa was an exemplary student-athlete while on his team and that a university review during his recruitment determined he was “not a threat to the campus community.”
In the twisted view of USA Today, not to mention Florida Congresswoman Donna Shalala, who was president of the University of Miami at the time Figueroa was expelled, it’s outrageous that this male student athlete was allowed to continue to play and do no harm to anyone.
U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala, D-Florida, wants to change that. She, along with U.S. Rep. Ross Spano, R-Florida, introduced a bill requesting the study on Dec. 19.
Called the Congressional Advisory Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics (CACIA) Act, the measure would establish a two-year independent commission to review, among other issues, “the NCAA’s lack of accountability for athletes who commit sexual assault, other serious misconduct, and the practice of transferring to other institutions,” said Christofer Horta, a legislative assistant for Shalala.
There is “no question” that the NCAA should have a personal conduct policy for athletes and strict transfer regulations, Shalala told the USA TODAY Network.
The critical aspect of this conflation is that it seeks to pile on punishment for athletes “who commit sexual assault,” except that determination isn’t made in a court of law, but a court of marsupials, where the argument is the consequences are so insignificant that there is no need to give the male student half a chance of prevailing and not believing the women and vindicating her pain, whether warranted or not.
This isn’t just about women, but about ending sexual violence, so the argument goes. While this contention remains the primary hurdle in court, where colleges argue that they aren’t biased against men, but against rapists, it’s a position only a blind judge could believe.
National Organization for Women president Toni Van Pelt said in a statement that the CACIA Act “will hold the NCAA accountable and work towards ending a serious predator pipeline.”
“We are finally seeing some hope for change,” Van Pelt said. “NOW strongly supports the demand for the equal enforcement of rules, laws and regulations especially when it comes to Title IX requirements, criminal behavior and violence against women. Enough is enough.”
If there were any legitimacy to the concern or hyperbole, the call would be for sufficient due process in campus sex tribunals to achieve at least minimally valid determinations. Even then, it’s unlikely to suffice, as colleges are remarkably ill-prepared and incompetent to manage “trials” of heinous criminal conduct that destroy innocent lives. When the determinations are “garbage in,” the results are “garbage out” of the “predator pipeline.” But with an alliterative name and Shalala seeing “no question,” what could possibly go wrong?