NCAA member schools will be required to provide yearly sexual violence education for all college athletes, coaches and athletics administrators under a policy announced Thursday by the Indianapolis-based organization’s board of governors.
Campus leaders such as athletic directors, school presidents and Title IX coordinators will be required to attest that athletes, coaches and administrators have been educated on sexual violence.
The policy was adopted from a recommendation made by the Commission to Combat Campus Sexual Violence, which was created by the board last year in response to several high-profile cases involving sexual assaults and athletic departments, including the scandal at Baylor University.
The policy also requires campus leaders to declare that athletic departments are knowledgeable and compliant with school policies on sexual violence prevention, adjudication and resolution.
Brenda Tracy, a rape survivor and activist who speaks to college teams across the country about sexual violence, is a member of the commission. She has called for the NCAA to ban athletes with a history of sexual violence. While this policy falls far short of that, Tracy said she was encouraged.
“It’s not banning violent athletes, but it’s a positive policy that’s going to have a big impact on our campuses,” Tracy said in a phone interview from Amherst, Massachusetts, where she was spending the day speaking to the UMass football and basketball teams.
The announcement from the NCAA came just one day after Youngstown State University decided a football player who served jail time for a rape committed while he was in high school will not be allowed to play in games this season. Ma'Lik Richmond, who served about 10 months in a juvenile lockup after being convicted with another Steubenville High School football player of raping a 16-year-old girl in 2012, walked on at Youngstown State earlier this year. He will be allowed to practice and participate in other team activities.
Tracy has promoted a petition urging Youngstown State to not allow Richmond to play.
“I think that playing sports and playing NCAA sports is a privilege. It is not a right,” Tracy said. “If we’re going to be placing student-athletes in that position of power and influence — to drive narrative, to drive conversation, to affect culture — then behavior matters. Right now, I feel like Youngstown is sending the message that violence against women, rape, all of these things are OK. It doesn’t affect your ability to play sports.”
A move toward an NCAA policy on sexual violence was given momentum by numerous issues involving athletes and athletic departments in recent years. Perhaps the most high-profile example is Baylor, where an investigation found that allegations of sexual assault, some against football players, were mishandled by school leaders.
Two years ago, the Southeastern Conference barred schools from accepting transfers who had been dismissed from another school for serious misconduct, defined as sexual assault, domestic violence or other forms of sexual violence.
Indiana announced in April that it would no longer accept any prospective student-athlete who has been convicted of or pleaded guilty or no contest to a felony involving sexual violence. In July, the athletic director at the University of Illinois said the school was working on a similar policy.
Tracy said the NCAA has not ruled out implementing a policy like Indiana’s.
“The fact that’s still on the table, we’re still having discussions about that, we’re still going to keep working moving forward, gives me a lot of hope,” she said.
In a statement, the NCAA said: “Any discussion of individual accountability beyond the criminal justice system must address the complexities and nuances of different federal and state laws so that it can be consistently applied across the NCAA.”
The new NCAA policy defers to schools to set their own sexual violence education practices, though in 2014 the association set expectations for its members with a resolution and made recommendations in a handbook on sexual assault.
“Schools do different things,” Tracy said. “The NCAA is now saying this isn’t just an option. This is now a policy and a requirement. And not only that, but you need to attest to us every year what it is that you’re doing ... Some schools are doing a great job. Some schools are not doing a great job.”