Baylor University is in deep trouble, the NCAA is again on the hot seat, even if it doesn’t yet know it, and parents like me are increasingly concerned about what their students will encounter when they interact with the top athletes at a Division I school. The conviction of a former Baylor University student-athlete for rape raises serious questions and yet the media is focused on the he said-he said between the Baylor and Boise State University coaches. While such a focus will be a key question in assigning legal liability, it sidetracks everyone from what is necessary to prevent such situations from happening over and over.
Depressed and issues, are two adjectives used to describe Sam Ukwuachu that both sides seem to agree were shared between head coaches. But, as the dispute demonstrates, they are not self-defining and without a searching inquiry are meaningless. In addition, unless Baylor, Boise State, and all other elite sports programs hire their coaches on the basis that their primary job is managing the emotional and personal lives of their players, these two men are being asked in hindsight to do something they were then and are not now qualified to do in the first place. This is not to exonerate them, but to state the problem plainly—College coaches and their staff are not, absent some very unique backgrounds, equipped to conduct the type of inquiry necessary to understand who it is they have recruited and brought onto campus.
Sports Media and Compliance Assurance, Inc. (SMCA), of which ArrestNation.com is a corporate part, can provide that help. Based on analyzing years of NCAA public infraction reports, SMCA has developed an investigative tool that is designed to inform coaches about the backgrounds of the players on their teams and the risks they are susceptible to, so that the coach can develop, along with SMCA and his compliance personnel, a program to effectively manage any athlete. This is critically important because high school coaches, parents, friends, and the many people who stand to gain from a possible professional sports contract have no incentive to expose the weaknesses of elite athletes. And, if the solution is limited to punitive action, one should expect greater efforts to harass and intimidate witnesses and cover-up misconduct. That is why, with the Big 12’s move to join the SEC in prohibiting the transfer to another school of an athlete with a prior history of sexual or domestic violence, better player management is necessary.
The challenge, however, is that no sports program and no inside person can do the task without outside help. The task of preparing a file on a player’s background and personal history that is as thorough as the one that teams build to analyze their athletic ability is simply too much for the Athletic Department to do on their own. In Baylor’s case SMCA would have learned of the athlete’s drinking problem, his anger issues, and how he views others. Before the student-athlete left Boise, people around him knew that he was violent off the field. But until it results in a crime that is reported and sufficient evidence gathered to support an arrest, law enforcement may never know about it. Likewise, if the coach of the team the student-athlete is transferring from does not have a full understanding of the issues his player is dealing with, how can he communicate that to another coach? Finally, as any HR professional will tell you, giving a prospective employer a true and unvarnished review of a current employee may be the quickest way to an EEOC complaint or defamation lawsuit. And in an era when a student-athlete may not leave one program for another without a great recommendation from his current coach—the present coach may determine that it’s in his interest to minimize problems or avoid learning about the full extent of the trouble to open up another scholarship.
We, like most others, focus on praying for and supporting victims of sexual violence and this case is no exception. What we also hope and pray will happen is that Baylor will do more than commit to greater vigilance, but adopt strategies that go beyond what the NCAA requires, but permits, and take steps that will help student-athletes that have challenges make right choices and act with integrity, rather than continue to build up a system that is designed primarily to catch misconduct after it’s already happened.
If you’re interested in talking to us at SMCA, we can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.