Major College Sports Continue to Drop the Ball on Rape Allegations

Hailey G. Boyle, Arts and Life Editor

Rasheed Sulaimon of Duke University has become the latest college athlete to be accused of sexual assault. He was dismissed from the team earlier this year, but if history shows us anything, he will walk away uncharged.

Sulaimon was dismissed from the team in January, but an article published on March 2 in The Duke Chronicle, the university’s student newspaper, claimed that famed head coach Mike Krzyzewski and college administrators knew as early as March 2014 about sexual assault allegations against Sulaimon. In October 2013, one female student alleged that Sulaimon sexually assaulted her on a retreat. In February 2014, a second female student claimed that the former Duke star sexually assaulted her on a similar retreat. The women did not pursue the case. “The fear of backlash from the Duke fan base was a factor in the female students’ decision not to pursue the allegations, sources close to the women said,” stated The Chronicle. Despite that decision of the female students, universities are required to do thorough investigations when such allegations arise.

Unfortunately, rape and sexual assault cases have flooded collegiate sports in recent years. It seems that every few months The New York Times runs a story about how a university or even local police in some cases have swept sexual assault allegations made against an athlete or coach under the rug. Some cases have gone so far as to smear and punish the accuser to protect the players. A recent article in Mother Jones magazine (a nonprofit publication that specializes in investigative, political and social justice reporting) titled “40 Years of College Football’s Sexual-Assault Problem” lists only a small handful of the cases illustrating the sordid relationship between college sports and rape.

In October 2014, Florida State University was accused of mishandling a rape allegation against star quarterback Jameis Winston. The accuser’s lawyer said that local police tried to dissuade the former Florida State student from pressing charges against Winston, warning her that Tallahassee was “a big football town,” and that the city could turn against her. One article claimed that Seminole fans started a conspiracy theory that a rival school put the accuser up to it. Winston was not charged for the crime.

In 2011, former Penn State University football coach Jerry Sandusky was accused and later convicted of child molestation. Several PSU officials, including the school president, the athletic director and head football coach, allegedly knew of Sandusky’s actions, and were fired for not reporting the crimes.

A Virginia Tech freshman accused two players of rape in 1994. The university dropped the charges when one of the players threatened to sue “because the school’s code of conduct did not explicitly forbid sexual assault,” according to “Mother Jones.” His only penalty was a one-hour educational session with the accuser. The second player was suspended for a year, only to have the suspension reversed when football season returned. The accuser transferred and sued the school for violating the Violence Against Women Act. However, parts of that law were later struck down in federal court. A university spokeswoman reproached the student for coming forward six months after the incident.

Three players from the University of Oklahoma were arrested and two were convicted of raping a student in her dorm room in 1989. Nigel Clay, one of the convicted players, said to the Los Angeles Times in 1992, “Well, speaking for myself and a lot of other people, we felt like we were above the law…like OU would protect us from anything.”

At the University of Notre Dame in 1974, a student accused six football players of rape. A school administrator called the student a “queen of the slums with a mattress tied to her back.” The student then spent a month at a psychiatric hospital. Charges were not filed.

Notre Dame football has a shameful history of sexual assault. In September 2010, 19-year-old freshman Lizzy Seeberg at St. Mary’s College committed suicide just 10 days after she accused a Notre Dame football player of sexual assault. History repeated itself when school officials led a smear campaign against Seeberg, according to They called her “the aggressor,” who was “all over the boy.” They called her “a troubled girl” who had “done this before.”

The list goes on and on.

At top schools like Duke, Notre Dame and Florida State, sports, mainly football and basketball, are huge moneymakers for the universities, collectively earning $871.6 million in 2012, according to the NCAA.

It makes sense for these institutions to want to protect their prized cash cows. They have and will do anything to protect their image to keep the royalties flowing.

Sulaimon has only been dismissed from the Duke basketball team. He is still attending classes and remains in good academic standing with the university. The two women did not file charges, but Duke is still obligated by Title IX to thoroughly investigate all claims of sexual assault. With March Madness just around the corner, who can say how thorough the investigation will be?