Tag Archives: Title IX

The Misuse of Title IX in College Football

Colorado defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt is proof that coaches can make the most of second chances. Leavitt helped build the South Florida football program from scratch. In doing so, he led the Bulls to a record of 95-57 from 1997-2009. He was courted by higher profile programs but ultimately decided to remain loyal to the program that had given him his first opportunity as a head coach.

All of that came to end when Leavitt was accused of striking a player in the locker room. This incident resulted in his firing. Much was made of the incident at the time and it was used as justification when some people said he should never coach again.

And for three years after his firing, Leavitt did not coach college football as he spent 2011-2014 as the San Francisco 49ers linebackers coach.

But then Leavitt was given a second chance to coach college football when, in 2015, Colorado head coach Mike Macintyre hired him as his defensive coordinator at Colorado. There may have been a few people who thought it was a questionable hire given what allegedly occurred while Leavitt was at South Florida, but there wasn’t the public outrage that we hear when the possibility of Art Briles coaching again is brought up.

What went on at Baylor and South Florida should not be considered equivalent situations, but the events surrounding the firings of Briles and Leavitt are comparable. Leavitt was accused of punching one of his players while Briles was accused of turning a blind eye to his players sexually assaulting women. Yes, I stand by my assertion that these are comparable but not equivalent situations.

These situations are comparable because each coach allegedly lost control of his program. These situations are not equivalent because Leavitt allegedly lost control of himself and made the decision to allow his actions to become violent. Briles, though, lost control of other people. My point is that Leavitt’s alleged actions were worse than Briles’ alleged actions yet society allowed Leavitt a second chance. And it’s a second chance that I agree with.

So why was Leavitt’s second chance embraced while the thought of a second chance for Briles will have a person shunned? There are a couple of reasons for this.

The first reason is timing. When Leavitt was fired by South Florida, society was much different. We as a society had empathy for others, but we didn’t allow that empathy to be the catalyst for publicly shaming a potentially guilty party. Reason played a much greater role in decision making back in 2009.

The second reason that Leavitt’s second chance was embraced is due to the genders of the alleged assaulted parties combined with the timing of the incident. If Leavitt would have struck a woman, his second chance still would have occurred, but it would have been more harshly scrutinized. We live in a society where a man can be assaulted. Just don’t assault a woman. And that isn’t my way of saying that assaulting a woman should be tolerated. It’s my way of saying that assault is assault regardless of the gender of the victim. Remember, we’re all supposed to be equal.

The elements of timing and gender are being tied together through the misuse of Title IX.  Title IX was never intended to be used as a mechanism to fight against sexual assault. Furthermore, it is stated in that AAUP link that using Title IX in this manner can actually lead to more gender inequality. And that perpetuation of gender inequality is on full display when comparing the alleged misconduct that happened at South Florida and Baylor.

Leavitt was provided with a second chance when he was hired by the 49ers. He seemed to have made the most of that second chance as it resulted in Colorado being comfortable with him being around college players. Leavitt’s success story should be used as an example when contemplating whether or not Briles should coach again.

E-mail Seth at seth.merenbloom@campuspressbox.com or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.

Photo: Wikipedia

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University of Florida is Another Example of Protecting Athletes Instead of Sexual Assault Victims

I am very fortunate to be a Florida Gator and I support our athletics program, but I am also very angry. I am not at all okay with the news that broke this past Friday.

Florida Gator quarterback-turned-receiver Treon Harris and receiver Antonio Callaway had been absent from campus and team activities for months due to sexual assault allegations. The University of Florida appointing a Gator booster to adjudicate a hearing involving a player like Callaway being accused of sexual assault is completely ridiculous. And as I have previously spoken out against other Title IX issues, this one will be no different.

As a Gator student and a victim of sexual assault, though not one involving an athlete, I react very strongly to this entire situation. When I heard the news on Friday, I immediately took to Facebook to ensure that my voice did not go unheard. I have a loud voice that I’d be glad to use to help expose situations like this. The University of Florida should not get away with making such an idiotic mistake, regardless of my allegiance to their sports teams.

Now, for the purposes of this paragraph let’s just assume the allegations against Harris and Callaway are completely true. As a victim of sexual assault, there are already so many obstacles in this woman’s way. She probably looks over her shoulder every time she’s out after dark. She might have had to fend off depression. It could have disrupted her studies. So one thing she should not have to deal with on top of these others is a broken student conduct system that clearly isn’t abiding by Title IX regulation.

Maybe Treon Harris (who already agreed to leave the University of Florida) was the sole aggressor here. Maybe neither athlete is truly guilty of sexual assault. But if Antonio Callaway had any involvement, he better be aptly punished. Screw the Gator football season! Some things are infinitely more important than football…things like the life of another student. Because trust me when I say that if this incident did truly happen, her life will never be the same.

What is especially alarming to me about Harris’ involvement in this situation is that he was also accused of sexual assault in 2014. The lawyers did some digging on that victim and she was essentially put on trial for her personal life. She withdrew her complaint and Harris’ life and college football career moved right along.

But that complaint being withdrawn does not mean that it didn’t happen, especially since she still had the right to pursue those charges in the future. That woman’s story should not lose merit just because this was a battle she chose not to fight. Again, I say this from experience because I chose not to fight a very similar battle myself at one point in time, even though the aggressor all but admitted to his crime. Her life probably didn’t just go on the way Harris’ did.

We won’t ever know what happened either of these nights, but between the 2014 accusations and the ones that have led Harris to agree to leave, he is clearly a total embarrassment to the school at this point. These things don’t just come out of nowhere and for that reason I couldn’t be happier that he’s gone.

Now back to what remains to be seen. I hope for Callaway’s sake that he wasn’t involved in this more recent incident, but we don’t know yet. I also hope the University of Florida, a school I have come to dearly love, is not stupid enough to think forcing this poor woman to have to face somebody who clearly supports the man she claims attacked her is okay. A Gator booster is just not fit to deal with the sexual assault hearing of a football player, period. The fact that the school thinks this is acceptable makes me ashamed to be a Florida Gator at this point. The questions this error in judgment brings up are too serious to ignore, regardless of how much I love watching the football team.

One issue this brings up is the idea that maybe the university has gotten away with this before. In all honesty, they probably have. The same Gator booster could have been appointed to oversee the hearing about another athlete and that victim didn’t think to boycott the hearing. Maybe she didn’t have a lawyer as experienced as John Clune. The fact that this is happening once and the university seems to think it’s okay means that it could’ve happened before. And that might’ve changed the results of those previous hearings. That’s just another Title IX scandal waiting to happen in another big-time college football program.

You know what issue this also creates? Speculation about the legitimacy of the investigation into the incident. Every part of the investigation up until this point is said to be fair and conducted within the guidelines of Title IX regulations, per Florida Athletic Director Jeremy Foley. But now that this last part has clearly been handled in a more careless way, the entire investigation loses merit.

Callaway may very well be innocent. But because Florida did not handle appointing an adjudicator for the hearing correctly, it seems like something else may have been going on all along. Maybe the impartiality was compromised before this stage of things. The entire investigation could have been swayed since it sure seems like the hearing could have been. That means that even if Callaway emerges without any additional disciplinary consequences, many people won’t believe in his innocence simply because Florida looks like it was trying to manipulate the situation.

So what can we as fans of this great sport do? We can hold the schools we dearly support accountable for these kinds of glaring mistakes. While Callaway may be innocent, especially upon hearing state attorney William Cervone’s take, he won’t ever seem totally innocent. Manipulate the student conduct process like this and nobody will believe in the validity of whatever the eventual outcome is. Make errors in judgment that are this ludicrous and nobody should trust you to keep your students safe.

If you want to see more of my opinions or interact with me, be sure to follow me @OGKristenB on Twitter!

Featured image courtesy of Pablo Corredor, wikimedia.

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Saying Goodbye to Art Briles the Right Decision for Baylor

A Little Background Information…

This is one of the moments when writing about current events in college football takes a very dark turn. These dark turns seem to be happening entirely too often lately. So often that it pains me to be a football fan, at times.

I love football and I have for years. I deeply respect and appreciate the hard work and dedication that teams and their staff put into every season. This is where things get complicated.

I also love feeling protected by university and local law enforcement. I love people, both athletes and otherwise, being held accountable for their actions. I love the idea of justice being served regardless of how important an alleged assailant is to an institution’s success. In light of recent events at Baylor University, I find one version of myself at odds with a different version of myself.

As a victim of sexual assault myself, I simply cannot stand by and support, or even respect, an institution or a coach that seems to allow sexual violence. I cannot support a team whose players have been allowed to disregard the safety of the women around them. I can, however, support a Board of Regents that steps up and takes action to investigate this hostile environment their athletic department may have created.

I might add that I am in no way saying any particular individual is completely at fault in this situation. Truthfully, we may never know who is most to blame here, but any silent bystander is guilty enough to be held accountable in a situation like this. This is especially true when that silent bystander is responsible for a team of athletes who clearly were not held to the standards they should have been.

Whether or not Baylor University head coach Art Briles is directly involved in any Title IX violation is not something the public has been made aware of. What we can seem to gather from the findings of fact report from the Pepper Hamilton law firm is that somebody in a position of leadership needs to be held accountable for what happened at Baylor University.

Ken Starr is no longer Baylor’s president. Initially, he remained with the school as chancellor, but he has now resigned altogether, staying on only as a professor. Athletic Director Ian McCaw resigned almost immediately after the hiring of a new head coach. Head football coach Art Briles is no longer part of the staff at the university in any form.

It seems to some that Ken Starr may have caught a break while Art Briles got the short end of the stick. In the end, Starr was smart enough to remove himself from the situation. With Athletic Director Ian McCaw resigning just a couple days ago, the program is now getting a much-needed total overhaul.

Art Briles’ Daughter Said What?

Art Briles’ daughter, Staley Lebby, was quick to defend her father on social media, making it clear she thought he didn’t deserve to lose his job. She referred to this situation as a “media witch hunt” and voiced overwhelming disappointment with the way the university handled the situation. I have a lot of things to say in response to what Staley Lebby posted.

First of all, this was not just some nosy reporter finding out about one incident of sexual assault that went unreported. This was not just a media witch hunt, even if the media did run with the scandalous story. This was an independent law firm doing an in-depth investigation into years of Title IX violations, many of which seem to have involved the football program. Since Briles is the head of said football program, he is the one who is held accountable for how his team is disciplined. And in this case, it has become clear that his team was not disciplined well at all.

Second, how is a failure to properly implement Title IX for years an issue that can be blown out of proportion? Victims of sexual assault go through so many different types of pain and agony, all of which are made worse when justice does not prevail. Is their pain less important than football? Is ignoring their well-being and not taking steps to prevent future violent incidents against women something that can truly ever be blown out of proportion? If one of your friends were a victim, would you be able to say the same thing? Would you tell your friend that the coach’s firing for standing by while his player got away with assaulting her was due to things being blown out of proportion?

Third, Lebby talks about how her father resurrected the program and alludes to this fact as being a reason to fight to keep him. I get it, Briles has been a blessing for the football program as far as success on the field goes. But, does that success on Saturdays even matter when you’re failing the women of the Baylor community? When you’re allowing young men to avoid facing the consequences of violent (illegal) actions, are you truly winning? Where are the football fans who are fathers of daughters that attend classes at Baylor? Those are the kinds of people that should realize his success on the field couldn’t possibly outweigh the safety of the women on campus.

Fourth, Briles’ daughter says Baylor took the “easy way out” in this situation. I may be wrong, but is firing the coach you say has resurrected the football program really easy for them? Not only do they have to explain the decision to get rid of the man responsible for creating a winning atmosphere, they have to replace him as well. If they don’t win without him then things definitely won’t be easy for the administration. Firing such a successful coach for a situation that has yet to be completely revealed to the public is not really the easy way out.

Last, Lebby ends her post by saying that Baylor “did the unthinkable to one that matters most.” You know what “the unthinkable” is to me? Allowing young men to get away with crimes against young women and continue on with their lives like nothing happened. These victims will never be able to go on with their lives the same way. They will never be able to watch another football game, during which the fans are praising their assailant’s name. They will never feel safe on their own campus. That is unthinkable. Firing a man who stood by while this happened on his football team? That makes sense. That is “thinkable.”

Maybe, Briles didn’t do anything directly wrong, we don’t truly know. He did, however, stand by while serious wrongs were committed in his program, wrongs that are actually unthinkable. Some of these wrongs, like those of the transfer athletes he accepted despite their questionable pasts, could have been prevented.

At the End of the Day Baylor Did the Right Thing…

I can try to put myself in Staley Lebby’s shoes here, and if I do then I understand being upset. My dad losing his job after pulling his company from the brink of bankruptcy would upset me, too. (If he had allowed all kinds of tax fraud in the process, though, things might be different.)

What I still don’t understand about Lebby’s post is what else she thinks there was for the university to do in this situation? At this point, all of the members of the leadership have either lost their jobs or resigned. Even if Briles had not been fired last week, he probably would have been forced to join the resigning parade by now.

A winning chapter in Art Briles’ career may have ended, but this doesn’t have to be the end of his football story, by any means. When the entire situation comes to light (like Lebby assures the public it will), then the court of public opinion may offer a new judgment. With what we know now, it is clear that the leadership for the football team, the athletic department, and the university itself should all be held accountable in a way different from how they disciplined their players. With the current information, firing Briles was definitely the right thing to do. Hiring Jim Grobe to replace him? Now that’s a different story.

This is obviously a subject I speak very passionately about, as a sexual assault survivor and as a fan of the game. Feel free to respectfully reach out to me with any opinions to add on Twitter by following @OGKristenB!

Picture from Wikimedia user Djyueng.

Baylor and Art Briles Live Off of Redemption

Baylor Bears football coach Art Briles continues to have problems with his football players and sexual assault allegations. The most recent arrest of one of Briles’ players was Shawn Oakman. Prior to this incident involving Oakman, there were also incidents involving Tevin Elliot, Sam Ukwuachu and Tre’Von Armstead. Elliot’s transgressions were the most serial in nature given the fact that he was accused of sexually assaulting at least six women while at Baylor.

All of these players were eventually released from the football team. However, it is debatable just how seriously Briles and Baylor has taken these situations. As reported by Sports Illustrated, Briles said that he was “concerned” about these allegations involving his football players.

Tevin Elliot was sentenced to up to 20 years in prison for his alleged sexual assault spree and all Briles can say is that he is “concerned.” Amazing. And what is even more unbelievable is the nonchalant attitude that the entire university seems to have taken at Baylor when it comes to allegations of sexual assault.

One woman, who has chosen to go by the name Tanya, was sexually assaulted by Elliot and when she attempted to report the incident and to receive help from Baylor, she was told that there was nothing the school could do for her.

In the linked Outside The Lines report, Tanya described her interaction with Baylor like this:

“They didn’t just not respond; they responded by turning me away and telling me that it was not possible for me to receive help from them…”

Title IX is not perfect, but it does offer sexual assault victims enough protection that the law should be considered to be sufficient. Being considered sufficient should be considered enough, but it does require schools such as Baylor to not only abide by the law but to also take the law seriously. Taking Title IX seriously is something that appears to be a struggle for Baylor.

The Department of Education alerted all schools to their Title IX responsibilities in April 2011. Those responsibilities included hiring a Title IX coordinator. It took Baylor approximately two-and-a-half years to hire their Title IX coordinator. It’s examples such as this that make me question how seriously Baylor takes Title IX. And if the school doesn’t take Title IX seriously then how can they expect any of their coaches to take it seriously? If there is a campus in America that is truly guilty of creating an environment that supports sexual assault, it just may be Baylor.

This is not a “Baylor football thing.” It is simply a “Baylor thing.” And that is not only completely unacceptable but it is also the definition of systemic.

Baylor is not the only school to have had students accused of or convicted of sexual assault. There is the ongoing controversy at Tennessee, the Virginia fraternity story, and prior issues surrounding both the Oklahoma and Missouri programs. However, unlike these other examples of sexual assault on campus, Baylor seems to get off easy in the court of public opinion.

Why is it that Baylor gets off easy?

I’ll attempt to answer this question by quoting myself:

But Baylor football has legitimate smoke surrounding its program and nobody wants to truly dig into the story. Remember that the Duke and Virginia cases were about privileged white boys. But the narrative is different for Baylor. For Baylor, the narrative is that they are a Baptist institution and a religious institution would never allow or tolerate this sort of behavior.

The idea is that this sort of thing would never happen at a school like Baylor because they are built on a foundation of Christian principles. At least that is what their mission statement tells us:

The mission of Baylor University is to educate men and women for worldwide leadership and service by integrating academic excellence and Christian commitment within a caring community.

There is no doubt that Baylor believes in its Christian values, but the fact remains that it has a problem upholding its values at a systemic level. And this isn’t the first time Baylor has had grotesque issues. Do you remember Dave Bliss and his Baylor basketball program? You should.

Bliss was let go by Baylor, but the reasons behind his firing did not prevent Southwestern Christian University from eventually hiring him as their head basketball coach. Sports Illustrated quoted Southwestern Christian’s president as saying:

“Coach Bliss fits well within our mission and culture and embraces what a Christian-based education is all about.”

In the same article, another university representative justified the hiring of Bliss by saying this:

“SCU officials believe in redemption and believe Bliss has been transformed.”

So I will ask this question again. Why does Baylor get off easy in the court of public opinion while other schools are scrutinized and judged? The answer was provided to us by the unnamed Southwestern Christian University representative. It’s about redemption.

Redemption is at the heart of Christian principles and redemption can be an admirable quality. However, it is not admirable in situations like Baylor’s. It is time for the public to judge Baylor and Art Briles as harshly as they have judged Duke, Virginia, Oklahoma and Missouri.

E-mail Seth at seth.merenbloom@campuspressbox.com or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.

Photo: RockIn’Rita/Flickr.

Tennessee Athletic Director, Dave Hart, Makes His Public Statement of Support for Butch Jones and Tennessee Athletics

The potential Title IX issues that the University of Tennessee is dealing with are not specific to Tennessee and I said as much when the decades old story of Peyton Manning resurfaced earlier in the month. Tennessee does find themselves under the microscope of public and legal perception and that is not entirely unfair.

After the 16 head coaches at Tennessee held their joint press conference, the national focus turned back to the relationship between Drae Bowles and Butch Jones. This relationship between the former player and Jones is the focus of a new lawsuit. Bowles’ accusations certainly do not help the university repair an already tarnished image, but there is a reasonable chance that the allegations against Jones and Tennessee will not withstand legal scrutiny.

We all need to give the lawsuit time to play out and to give adequate time for the facts of the case to be presented, but it should not be forgotten that this is not the first time Jones has been accused of intimidating a Tennessee football player. Jones also faced accusations of mistreating players while he was the head coach at Cincinnati.

While it is true that rumors and accusations do not equate to fact, it is also important to acknowledge that Jones has had an elevated level of smoke attached to his reputation. Dave Hart not only has the responsibility of defending the reputation of his Tennessee program but he also has the responsibility of defending Butch Jones to the best of his ability. Jones has already issued a public denial of the Bowles’accusations.

“The assertion that I ever attempted to belittle or demean a young man for taking action to help another person is absolutely false. To the contrary, I did all I could to assist the former student in question. During the course of judicial process, campus officials, as well as the young man’s words, will clearly establish that I have done nothing wrong. I will fight all of these false attacks on my character, and I know that once this process has been completed, my reputation will be affirmed.”

Jones vehemently denies any wrong doing in regards to his treatment of Drae Bowles. While Jones’ defense of himself should come as no surprise, such a vehement public assertion should come as a surprise. I would not have expected such a strong statement from Jones prior to the lawsuit coming to an end. His stance does appear to be in line with Dave Hart’s.

Early on in Hart’s press conference, (which can be found at the bottom of this article) he said that he was proud of the culture that was at Tennessee. Hart went on to say that this is a national problem and that Tennessee hopes to take a leadership role in combating the issue.

Hart does not give the impression that he truly takes this issue seriously at the University of Tennessee. He’s basically saying that this is a national problem, but not one that Tennessee has a prominent issue with.

He did go on to say that Tennessee has many athletes that do a good job of representing the school. This is absolutely true, but should not be used as a way of brushing aside the issues that are present within his athletic department.

As for the problems that Hart does acknowledge, he seems to blame them on drugs and alcohol and the idea that bad things happen at night. This comes off sounding like an excuse. If Hart believes that drugs, alcohol and time of day are to blame for whatever Title IX issues are present at Tennessee, and that those characteristics should give him a mulligan, then his institutional control issues are greater than any of us could have imagined.

And then there was this quote from Hart pertaining to Butch Jones:

This is the statement that could come back to haunt Hart. Like Jones’ statement of denial, Hart is being presumptuous in his public support of Jones prior to the legal process coming to an end. Hart is now tied at Jones’ hip.

I understand that Hart wants to support his coaches, his athletes and ultimately his program. There isn’t an athletic director in the country who shouldn’t want to offer this kind of support to their program, but with pending litigation I do not believe that his comments were tempered enough.

When it comes right down to it, Hart sounded like an athletic director who was saying that other institutions around the country have a Title IX issues, but Tennessee has their act together and his Vols can serve as a mentoring entity for the rest of the country. As i’ve said before, there is not only a legal process that Tennessee will go through but there is also the process of public perception and public perception can eat an institution alive in the 21st century. The protesters were already lining up prior to Hart’s press conference starting. Now that these protesters have heard Hart’s on the record statement, I can only imagine what Hart’s front lawn will look like.

Hart would be wise to allow the University of Tennessee’s legal counsel to make statements not only on his behalf but on behalf of Butch Jones as well. They are each treading on thin ice and the more Hart and Jones speak for themselves, the worse they look.

E-mail Seth at seth.merenbloom@campuspressbox.com or follow him on Twitter @SMerenbloom.

Photo: University of Tennessee/Flickr.