Andrew Cooper, from college star to activist: The NCAA doesn’t exist to protect athletes | college sports

TheLet’s be clear – Andrew Cooper is not a fan of the NCAA Collegiate Athletics. A former track and country runner at Washington State University and the University of California, Berkeley, Cooper’s experience as an athlete at America’s top universities provided him with critical insight into how National Collegiate Athletic Association It governs college sports. As a long-distance runner, Cooper had plenty of time to think. He believes that the structure, system, and priorities of American college sports need to be restarted.

Inside the machine Cooper served as chair of the NCAA Student and Athletic Advisory Board at WSU and UC Berkeley. Today, he is an athlete’s rights activist who sees a systemic failure in how universities and the National Collegiate Athletics Authority handle issues related to mental health and sexual assault allegations. Cooper sees patterns.

“The problem is that universities have processes in place and make empty claims about protecting athletes and protecting students,” Cooper says. Universities are entrusted with regulating themselves, but they benefit from covering up sexual assault. There is a crisis in America about self-regulation.

Universities care [about athletes] Even affect their reputation and profits. Once allegations affect a university’s reputation and revenue, they suddenly affect an individual’s job. If your job is dependent on protecting the university’s reputation or revenue, you will make every effort to protect the reputation and revenue of your source of income. Anyone who participates in Policy 101 will immediately realize that the institution will clearly protect its own interests at the expense of workers or students who are negatively affected by an event.”

A lot of income to protect. For example, the Big Ten Conference of 16 universities this summer agreed to a seven-year media rights agreement with Fox, CBS, and NBC. Worth more than $7 billion Each university will receive $80 million – $100 million annually. At the highest level, college sports governed by the NCAA are a huge business.

More than 1,000 universities and colleges are under the administrative control of the National Commission for University Sports. The NCAA has its own regulations and rules for sports on and off the field which often differ from international governing bodies. College basketball’s rules are different from the NBA, and so is soccer from FIFA’s rules of the game (one quirk is a countdown clock). There is a maze of regulations regarding amateurs (athletes are not paid), athlete eligibility, playing time, and image rights exploitation. However, there is no clear overarching policy for reporting allegations of sexual harassment through the NCAA. Universities and colleges regulate themselves, according to Cooper’s view and the experience of many young athletes and coaches (As I recently reported at the University of Toledo), athletes often fail.

Why does the NCAA exist? Cooper asks. “Not to protect athletes. It is meant to exist to protect college athletes and organize college sports. That is why it was founded in 1906.”

Then called the United States Intercollegiate Athletic Association, the NCAA was born out of a crisis. According to the NCAA website, there were 18 deaths and 159 serious injuries during the 1905 college football season. President Theodore Roosevelt called on colleges to address the safety of soccer players and rules were established aimed at stopping deaths on the field among 13 colleges.

Cooper points to the way Michigan State University dealt with now-convicted rapist Larry Nassar as an example of how some institutions have dealt with allegations of sexual assault, sometimes at great cost. Nassar worked as a physician by Michigan State University and as a head athletic coach for the United States National Gymnastics team for 18 years. In 2018, Michigan State University (or rather its insurance companies) agreed to pay $500 million to settle lawsuits from 332 Nassar victims, a list that included many young athletes. in 2014 ex cheerleader Nassar’s abuse reported to MSU officials, but the university initially ruled the doctor’s invasive digital “pelvic floor” treatments It was medically appropriate. The NCAA has cleared Michigan State University of any violations In how it handled allegations of sexual assault, the university said the accusations of covering it up were “simply false”.

“Larry Nassar had one of the largest sexual assault trials in history,” Cooper says. He assaulted hundreds of women. So, what happens when someone in a position of authority sexually assaults a student? Do they account? Is the school responsible? “

In 2021, after a five-year investigation, the NCAA said that Baylor University, a private Christian university in Texas, Has a “campus-wide culture of sexual violence,” After several footballers were convicted of rape following incidents that led to the dismissal of the team’s coach and the resignation of then-president Ken Starr. Starr, who died in September, was the former United States Attorney General who led an investigation during the 1990s into the Bill Clinton case that included his relationship with Monica Lewinsky.

But the NCAA did not sanction the university even after officials failed to report allegations of sexual abuse against football players between 2010 and 2015. “Baylor acknowledged the moral and ethical failures in his handling of sexual and interpersonal violence on campus but argued these failures, with That is egregious, did not constitute violations of NCAA rules,” the NCAA said at the time. The NCAA panel investigating Baylor said it could not issue a penalty because the university’s failures were not limited to athletes and were part of a broader problem on campus.

The NCAA refused to sanction the state of Michigan and refused to sanction Baylor who is actively covering up [crimes]Cooper says. “The NCAA exists simply to protect the universities and higher interests.”

The NCAA did not respond to multiple requests for interviews and comment on how it handles allegations of sexual harassment and assault within college sports. a policy paper Issued by the organization’s Committee on Women’s Athletics, the organization established that “sexual relations between coaches and student-athletes have become a serious problem” and “any emotional or sexual relationship between coaches and student-athletes constitutes a sexual violation”.

“The law is enforced by the government, and policy is enforced by the Human Resources Department,” Cooper says. “If your HR department doesn’t have any protections for speaking out against the organization, it’s basically worthless. Corporate America follows the law most of the time because there are liability risks if you don’t. Universities don’t want to be held liable for damages caused. Students who are sexually assaulted by a teacher or coach [but] There is no supervision. They can do whatever they want.”

It’s not just athletes who claim that the NCAA and institutions don’t always protect student athletes quite as well as they should. NCAA lawyers suggested the same. In setting up a defense against a lawsuit from the family of Derek Shelley, a football player at Frostburg State University who died in 2011. After the collapse into a collegiate practice, the central legal argument of the National Collegiate Sports Authority It has no legal duty to protect athletes. NCAA President Mark Emmert later claimed His legal team employed a “terrible choice of words.” He added, “I am not a lawyer. I will not defend or deny what a lawyer wrote in a lawsuit. I will state unequivocally that we have a clear moral obligation to make sure we do everything we can to protect and support student athletes.”

In November 2012, Roger and Cindy Kravitz and their daughters Rachel and Heather attended a meeting at the University of Toledo with Dr. Kay Patten Wallace, senior vice president for student affairs at the University of Toledo and Kelly Andrews, the university’s senior associate athletic director. Rachel and Heather were a college student and part of the women’s soccer program. They had concerns about football coach Brad Evans’ behavior and believed he was emotionally abusing players. As Roger and Cindy remember, they brought the documents to the meeting and described their concerns. Roger Kravitz recalls Andrews replying that the university received glowing reports about Evans.

Roger Kravitz remembers Andrews saying, “I can show you a box full of it.” “Why are your children still here? Why don’t they leave if it’s that bad?”

Cindy replied, “Because they did nothing wrong.”

For the Kravitz family, there seemed to be little concern from the university about how Evans’ behavior might affect the mental health of students. A few years later, the university received more allegations about Evans, including sexual assault. No charges have been brought against Evans over any of the allegations against him, and the University of Toledo said it had no further comment on the meeting.

“Non-athletes have no concept of what it means to be a high-performance athlete,” Cooper says. “It’s not drama. It feels like life and death. It’s a very small margin between being on the team and not being on the team. Being on a scholarship and not being on a scholarship. The stress that college athletes face is from the multibillion-dollar industry that athletes support. Undergraduates but without any rights or protections whatsoever.”