A day after a report suggested the NCAA could have years ago looked into problems at Michigan State, President Mark Emmert said Saturday that sexual assault allegations against Spartans athletes in 2010 were “widely reported” and already being investigated by law enforcement and the school.
Emmert made the comments in an email to the NCAA Board of Governors and other university presidents. Spokeswoman Stacey Osburn provided Emmert’s email to the Associated Press (see full text below). It was in response to a request for comment about a report by The Athletic that cited a letter sent to NCAA leadership by the National Coalition Against Violent Athletes.
The coalition letter, dated Nov. 17, 2010, and also provided to the AP, detailed what the group described as a “growing epidemic” of sexual assaults by male athletes against women, and used “recent reports” of sexual violence involving two Michigan State basketball players as an example. The letter also referenced an “earlier report of similar violence” involving Michigan State basketball players and “37 reports of sexual assault by MSU athletes” that had been reported in the previous two years.
Michigan State’s handling of sexual misconduct allegations has come under increasing scrutiny since former university sports doctor Larry Nassar was charged with assaulting scores of girls and young women for years. Nassar, who has been sentenced to decades in prison, also worked for USA Gymnastics, where some of the top gymnasts in the sport have accused him of molesting them.
Both school President Lou Anna Simon and athletic director Mark Hollis stepped down in the past week and Michigan State is facing investigations from the state attorney general as well as the NCAA. An ESPN report on Friday about the handling of sexual assault allegations against athletes put football coach Mark Dantonio and basketball coach Tom Izzo under scrutiny as well.
Emmert noted he met with the coalition’s Katherine Redmond and legal expert Wendy Murphy in November 2010. A letter sent by Emmert, dated Dec. 6 and addressed to Redmond and Parker, was also provided to AP. It detailed programs the NCAA was helping to implement on campuses to address sexual violence and student behavior, though it made no specific reference to Michigan State.
As for his role, Emmert told the NCAA board in his email: “The MSU cases were widely reported in the press and already being investigated by law enforcement and university officials. Kathy did not imply that these were unreported cases or that she was acting as a whistleblower to report unknown information to the letter’s recipients.”
Redmond said Saturday she never intended to act as a whistleblower, and she recalled the cases and numbers cited in the letter by the NCAVA were compiled from researching media reports.
Emmert made a point in his email that Redmond’s letter made no mention of Nassar.
“As I often have said, even one act of sexual violence is too many. Yet, it is extremely important to know that in no way was I ever notified of Larry Nassar’s abhorrent acts,” Emmert wrote. “I only learned of his crimes when they were reported by the media in August 2016.”
Redmond said the Nassar case is uncommon, but the goal of NCAVA is to encourage deeper NCAA involvement in a more common problem.
“With regard to athlete violence on a college campus, we see it constantly,” Redmond said.
Emmert’s email to the board laid out numerous steps the NCAA has taken to address sexual violence in recent years, including the 2014 publication of the Handbook on Addressing Sexual Assault and Interpersonal Violence.
“Our work to prevent sexual assault on campuses has much further to go,” Emmert wrote to the board. “There can be no room for this scourge anywhere in higher education. The assertion that I and the NCAA are not reporting crimes, however, is blatantly false. We cannot let stories of this kind deter us from our important work.”
Text of an email sent by NCAA President to the NCAA Board of Governors on Saturday. It was provided to The Associated Press.
You may have seen a report in “The Athletic” and subsequently repeated in other news outlets yesterday evening that infers in the headline I was informed of widespread sexual assault at Michigan State University in 2010. The implication of the headline, which has also been widely repeated, is that I was informed of sexual assaults at MSU by a whistleblower and did nothing in response. Nothing could be further from the truth.
To be clear, Katherine Redmond, a sexual assault awareness advocate, sent a letter in November 2010 to a number of people including the Board of Governors (then called the Executive Committee). It is important to note that the letter was not addressed to me or any individual. Indeed, it refers to me in the third person. In it she expresses great concern over sexual assaults on campuses, particularly those involving athletes (a copy of the letter is attached). She referenced cases of alleged sexual assault at MSU as examples of the broader problem on many campuses. The MSU cases were widely reported in the press and already being investigated by law enforcement and university officials. Kathy did not imply that these were unreported cases or that she was acting as a whistleblower to report unknown information to the letter’s recipients. Quite the contrary, she accurately pointed to the public outcry surrounding these cases. Moreover, never in writing or in discussions did she or anyone else mention the heinous actions of Larry Nassar. As I often have said, even one act of sexual violence is too many. Yet, it is extremely important to know that in no way was I ever notified of Larry Nassar’s abhorrent acts. I only learned of his crimes when they were reported by the media in August 2016.
Far from ignoring Kathy’s letter, within one month of first hearing her concerns, I held a meeting with her and a legal expert she wanted to include, Wendy Murphy. I asked our General Counsel, Scott Bearby, to join me in what was a constructive conversation at the national office for an hour and a half. I took her concerns very seriously, found her thoughts and advice constructive, and subsequently asked her to join an upcoming event we were planning, the NCAA’s first Violence Prevention Summit in April 2011. I communicated in writing to Kathy in early December (see letter attached). National office staff responsible for the NCAA’s educational programming also continued interacting with Kathy and invited her to participate in the Career in Sports Forum and student-athlete leadership development workshops.
Following the Violence Prevention Summit, I encouraged and financially supported the research and development of best practices that the Summit called for. This work led to our first Think Tank in 2012 and the 2014 publication of the Handbook on Addressing Sexual Assault and Interpersonal Violence. Additionally, with my encouragement, in 2014 the Board of Governors issued a Statement on Sexual Violence Prevention and Complaint Resolution based on a unanimous vote. This is the first time the NCAA member schools have stated unambiguously their expectations around the handling of sexual violence on campuses. In 2016, we released the Sexual Violence Prevention Tool Kit which has now been widely praised in the higher education and assault prevention community. During this time, we also engaged with our national SAACs to begin work with the Obama Administration on the It’s On Us campaign, providing guidance and financial support for the creation of student-based efforts at assault prevention. This included recognizing the student projects by running their videos at our national championship events, a program we continue today. The NCAA was praised by the White House for this work.
Most recently, the Board of Governors created the Commission to Combat Campus Sexual Violence that now routinely reports to and brings recommendations to the Board for action. The Commission has developed the recently passed policy requiring annual sexual violence education for athletes, coaches and administrators with annual written verification from the president, athletic director and Title IX coordinator on every campus. Further, the Commission led the first ever Higher Education Think Tank on Sexual Violence involving 20 higher education organizations just last week. In short, a great deal has been done since 2010. I have attached a graphic that more fully addresses the comprehensive efforts by the NCAA in the area of sexual assault prevention.
Our work to prevent sexual assault on campuses has much further to go. There can be no room for this scourge anywhere in higher education. The assertion that I and the NCAA are not reporting crimes, however, is blatantly false. We cannot let stories of this kind deter us from our important work.