Calls for Safeguards Against Abusive Coaches

January 26, 2021

The Drake Group, an organization that advocates for college sports reform, urged the National Collegiate Athletic Association on Monday to establish rules that would prevent and adequately punish college sports coaches for abusing athletes.

A press release from the group said that current NCAA governance does not require member institutions to follow health and safety guidelines, which are published by the association as recommendations on a yearly basis. Professional standards established for faculty and staff members at colleges are not sufficient to monitor and establish expectations for coaches, who have vastly different responsibilities and relationships with students, said a position statement published by the Drake Group in 2019.

The lack of oversight has led to “systemic issues like abusive cultures and toxic environments” in college sports programs, some of which have come to light over the last year, such as the recent allegations of racism made against University of Iowa football coaches, the press release said. Last week, 22 people from within the Purdue University at Fort Wayne women’s basketball program made public their allegations of emotional abuse by the team’s head coach. According to a document listing the allegations, the abuse drove some athletes to contemplate suicide.

“Despite repeated internal investigations that have found systemic issues like abusive cultures and toxic environments, the NCAA and its Board of Directors refuse to require corrective measures to protect the well-being of college athletes and to hold coaches accountable for verbal, physical and/or emotional abuse,” the Drake Group press release said. “They simply pass the trash to offending institutions to clean their mess. And the cycle repeats and crops up at institution after institution -- in women’s and men’s teams, with no sport immune.”

The group recommended that the NCAA adopt a code of conduct for coaches that would require athletics staff members to be “mandatory reporters” who must share knowledge of abuse, the press release said. Whistle-blowers would be protected from retaliation under the code, and allegations would be fully investigated. Findings of wrongdoing would limit coaches’ future employment, the press release said.

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