Frightening similarities for school administrations in sexual assault cases.
In 2011, Penn State University found itself in the center of one of the biggest child sex abuse scandals in the United States. Jerry Sandusky, a former assistant football coach for the Penn State team was indicted on 52 counts of child molestation charges. He was charged for sexually abusing 10 boys over a 15-year period, many having taken place in the Penn State athletic locker room showers.
In an interview in 1998, Sandusky admits to showering with a boy naked in the Penn State locker rooms and ‘promises to never do it again’. No charges were subsequently filed. This alone should have garnered a cause for immediate suspension or something that resembled disciplinary action. Instead, the administration, having been in the midst of a successful 9-3 football season, as well as a very dominant program under Joe Paterno’s 43 years of coaching at the university, decided not to pursue any action against Sandusky.
The Athletic Director and President was fired, along with Paterno, after these allegations were made public. Yet, more than 5 years later, the program is back and thriving. The Penn State football team competed in the Fiesta Bowl in 2017, as well as a basketball team that has already equaled their win total from the past two years.
In 2016, the public was made aware of numerous allegations of sexual assaults by the Baylor University Bears football players between the years of 2012-2016. It led to the eventual resignation of the Athletic Director, along with the President and the Head Coach of the football team: Art Briles. The firing was long overdue as they were reported to have covered up sexual assault allegations and not pursue any criminal action against these athletes. One victim was reported to have been “raped behind a shed at a party”. The Wall Street Journal reported that 19 players had assaulted at least 17 women since 2011. Tevin Elliot was one such athlete, who was later sentenced to twenty years in prison on three sexual assault cases. Each case was called an ‘isolated incident’ by the administration when the claims were made. The dichotic transgressions committed are further amplified by the strict Christian values the university is said to hold dear. The football team won numerous games under Art Briles' tutelage. Yet that tutelage also enabled three convicted sexual assault perpetrators to play, and continue to play whilst under investigation.
Then, at the end of 2016, another scandal dominated the headlines. This one revolved around Michigan State University, the university where former Dr. Larry Nassar worked and abused women for 19 years. The administration was reported to have cleared Nassar of any wrongdoing in 2014. This was three months after a recent graduate mentioned that she was sexually assaulted by him during a medical examination. Even after his sentencing, an Outside the Lines investigation finds that former Michigan State basketball players Adreian Payne and Keith Appling were accused of rape by a student at the university, yet there was no charges filed and the men faced zero disciplinary action by the team. The Athletic Director has since resigned, yet coaches for both football and basketball have not.
According to a report by Detroit News, 14 representatives from the Michigan State administration were made aware of at least one of a reported eight sexual misconduct incidents. The football team was 10-3 on the year, with the last 8 years garnering at least an AP poll top 13 position. The basketball team was steadily at the top of their conference for the past decade and have made the NCAA tournament since 1997. The domination from this athletic program was built on a house of cards, with the cards being the victims in vicious attacks by some of these athletes and facilitators.
While these pungent cover-ups should lead to individuals in power being punished, the universities administration are seen to have been more concerned with how the programs are performing on the field/court. It is hopeful that the recent Times Up and #MeToo movements will further investigations into cases like these. A shattered legacy of a school is certainly a necessity if assault cases continue to be covered up.