It’s no secret that the NCAA has a sexual misconduct problem.
Data collected by USA Today showed that in the past five years, Division I athletes were disciplined for sexual misconduct at more than three times the rate of the general student population.
The problem is so severe that it made Congress pressure the organization into changing its policies.
On Monday, it was reported that the NCAA finally did. Under a new policy, athletes must now annually disclose acts of violence that result in an investigation, discipline through a Title IX proceeding, or criminal conviction.
The new guidelines cover a range of crimes such as sex offenses, domestic and dating violence, murder, manslaughter, aggravated assault and assaults that cause serious bodily injury or involve deadly weapons.
In addition to forcing the athletes to be more forthcoming about their past, institutions must now put into place written policies that make staffs gather possible criminal information on new recruits and transfer athletes.
While some may look at the new policy as a step in the right direction, the fact of the matter is the NCAA is still providing a path for athletes responsible for sexual misconduct and a slew of other violent crimes to retain their eligibility.
According to the report by USA Today, even if an athlete is convicted of a violent crime, there are no NCAA rules that prohibit reinstatement. Thus, an athlete convicted of a crime could conceivably continue to play in front of thousands of fans no matter the crime.
Traditionally, the NCAA has left the recruitment of these athletes up to the discretion of individual schools, and have been unwilling to change this new policy.
Athletes found responsible for violent crimes and disciplined by their own institutions can still circumnavigate punishment by simply transferring to another school that cares more about a players’ talent than his/her troubles. Expulsion, suspension, or any other punishment constructed at one institution could be easily ignored by another school more focused on wins and the dollars they generate.
This system has provided many young men and women a chance to redeem themselves after being caught in crimes. Allen Iverson, Randy Moss, and Cam Newton are a few stars that have benefited from the NCAA’s system.
It has allowed athletes second chances. But what happens when those athletes aren’t getting caught for petty crimes but are found responsible for undeniably heinous acts like rape? Or even murder? Should the NCAA still let schools have the final say?
In 2017, LaDarrius Jackson was arrested twice in two weeks on charges of sexual battery and false imprisonment while playing football for the University of South Florida. He pleaded not guilty to criminal charges but was expelled by the school when they determined he had violated the school’s policy against “non-consensual sexual intercourse.”
Yet Jackson still had the ability to transfer to Tennessee State University. He played six games for the Tigers in 2018 as he awaited trial.
While Jackson’s case is jarring, he is far from the only one. He is one of 28 athletes identified in the USA Today report who transferred to another school despite being administratively disciplined for sexual misconduct charges at their previous institution.
The bottom line is the NCAA’s rules are potentially putting students in danger, and this new policy adopted by the organization is probably going to do little in changing that.
The solution is simple.
The NCAA must create a committee that has the sole purpose of identifying these cases of criminal conduct. The committee will assess the facts of each case, and make the decision about whether or not an athlete should retain his or her eligibility.
This way the NCAA can move toward uniformity, and limit the corruption that takes place in the decision-making offices at each member institution.
Athletes like Iverson and Moss could still receive their second chance, and ones like Jackson could receive greater scrutiny.
It’s a no brainer for the NCAA. This aggressive move would allow an organization that has been struggling for any sort of positive publicity a chance to be rewarded for finally doing something right.
The problem is clear and so is the solution. The NCAA can’t sidestep this issue any longer.