Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Advocacy or Coverup?

There is a very interesting article in the Des Moines Register on how Universities react to allegations of misconduct by their athletes. It deserves a full reading. Some excerpts:

Iowa City, Ia. - At a time when college football programs like those at the University of Iowa and Penn State are working to put public, off-the-field struggles behind them, others are working behind the scenes to make sure new allegations involving athletes and criminal behavior never make news.

My real successes are the ones you never hear about," said Alfredo Parrish, a Des Moines attorney who is representing former football player Abe Satterfield in the alleged sexual assault of a U of I female athlete last fall. "In my view, I've already lost once something gets into the newspaper."

Parrish and other defense lawyers in Iowa who routinely represent athletes say it's seldom possible to keep arrests out of the headlines, but sometimes they succeed. Advocates say athletes, coaches and university officials in college towns across the country have a vested interest in keeping such damaging incidents quiet. The problem, they say, is that athletes often benefit from their efforts to quietly resolve alleged crimes, and victims don't. . . .

The Iowa Board of Regents has initiated this summer a second inquiry into the alleged sexual assault of the U of I female athlete, after learning the victim's mother had accused athletic department officials of mishandling the case. The out-of-state investigators are expected to report to the regents by the Sept. 17-18 board meeting. . . .

Parrish said cases involving sexual assaults are particularly sensitive, and university attorneys and administrators also have a vested interest in trying to resolve issues discreetly. One reason is the university's own legal liability - a specter that has been raised in the alleged U of I assault because the athletes involved apparently had keys to an empty room on university property where the fellow athlete said she was raped, he said.

Last December, the University of Colorado at Boulder agreed to pay $2.85 million to settle a lawsuit brought by two former students, bringing closure to one of the past decade's more sensational cases of sexual abuse. A federal appeals court had ordered the university to stand trial on charges that it failed to do enough to prevent the rapes of the two students at an off-campus party by high-school recruits that was supervised by CU football players.

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