'OTL' Releases Findings on College Athletes Accused of Sexual Misconduct, More

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistNovember 2, 2018

FILE - In this Sept. 22, 2011, file photo, flags fly over The Hall of Champions at NCAA headquarters is shown in Indianapolis. The NCAA board of governors has adopted a policy that requires sexual violence education for all college athletes, coaches and athletics administrators. Campus leaders such as athletic directors and school presidents will be required to attest that athletes, coaches and administrators have been educated on sexual violence each year. The move follows a number of high-profile assault cases, including Baylor.(AP Photo/Michael Conroy, File)
Michael Conroy/Associated Press

Research by Outside the Lines showed student-athletes were around three times more likely to be accused of sexual misconduct or domestic violence than non-athlete college students based on information provided by 32 Power 5 schools.

On Friday, Paula Lavigne of ESPN.com reported findings of the OTL investigation, which covers data from the past six years and indicated 6.3 percent of Title IX complaints against students were against student-athletes, who make up 1.7 percent of the total enrollment at the schools that provided numbers.

Although Outside the Lines requested information from all 65 Power 5 schools (53 public and 12 private), just under half provided it, with most citing student privacy concerns or limited resources for pulling data as their reasons for not fulfilling the request.

Brett Sokolow, the president of the Association of Title IX Administrators, told OTL he lamented the lack of details made available about Title IX cases because he believes it could make a difference:

"I want the information as much as anybody else. I think we could learn from it. I think we could prevent things with it. It would be amazing if Title IX offices had the capacity to get out there and say, 'We're having a problem with the tennis team, and we can see that in our data. Let's make sure we direct more of our education policy training efforts to them to see if we can shore that up.' That's very rare."

Of the 12 private schools surveyed, only Baylor provided data for the investigation after its sexual-assault scandal became headline news in 2016 leading to the eventual departure of school president Ken Starr, athletic director Ian McCaw and head football coach Art Briles.

Along with sexual assault and domestic violence, the OTL probe also focused on allegations of sexual exploitation, sexual coercion, stalking and/or retaliation.

While the raw numbers showcase the increased likelihood of accusations against student-athletes, Lavigne noted there's no consensus about why that's the case. Sokolow said around half of the 400 investigations his group becomes involved in each year involve college athletes:

"A lot of it may have to do with the aggressive kind of training and inclination that programs place on athletes to exert aggressive behavior. If that flows over into their sexual lives, you're going to see more complaints coming out of that. When students of any kind, athletes or not, tend to have a lot of consensual sexual opportunities, it becomes more difficult for them to separate out what non-consent looks like, because everything for them tends to seem consensual. And I think if you did studies, you'd see that student-athletes probably have more sex than students who are not athletes, in many cases."

Yet, Samantha Harris, the vice president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, explained 20 percent of 256 lawsuits filed against schools on this subject feature student-athletes arguing they were unfairly treated after being accused of sexual assault or domestic violence.

"There may be a perception out there that this might be a problem of student-athletes because these cases have been in the news," she said. "But I don't think that is generally reflected in the greater prevalence of sexual assault."

Improving the reporting and categorizing of the issue could prove difficult, though. Of 99 Title IX administrators who responded to OTL, 75 percent said they felt their offices were understaffed.