Some NCAA bowl game revenue should go to sexual violence prevention and support programs.
This past week the BCS football championship game was held. Football is an extraordinarily profitable part of the college sports season. In 2013 over half a billion dollars in revenue will be distributed to universities fortunate enough to have a top flight football team. In addition, many universities receive substantial support from alumni and through corporate sponsorships. This year, college football’s top teams were Notre Dame and the University of Alabama, with Alabama taking the Coach’s trophy with a dominant performance. Though many fans were disappointed in Notre Dame’s performance in the game, there is a story about the team’s performance off the field that is far worse.
Two players on Notre Dame’s football team have been linked to sexual assault cases in the past year. In one case the accuser, a 19-year-old female student at a nearby school, committed suicide after filing a report with police. Prior to her death she received a series of threatening text messages from a friend of the accused player. Washington Post political writer and blogger Melinda Henneberger recently wrote about the Notre Dame Scandal in this blog piece.
The ethical distortion created by the incredible amounts of money generated by major college football was cited by the Freeh report as one of the reasons the Sandusky scandal occurred at Penn State. Hero worship of (and the financial boon created by) sports programs such as Division I football creates an environment where abuse and trauma are tolerated and excused. To be clear, neither football, nor sports itself, are responsible for alarmingly high rates of sexual and interpersonal violence in our society. However, it is undeniable that young men and women are abused by members of major university football programs at some universities. Oftentimes these survivors are shunned, re-victimized, and ignored by administrators and fellow students who are far more concerned about preserving the “integrity” of a sports program than they are about ensuring the victim of a crime gets the support they need. Exactly the same dynamic, sadly, as occurred at Penn State for decades, thus enabling Jerry Sandusky’s horrific crimes.
And the problem is getting worse, as high school programs (such as the recent case in Steubenville, Ohio) are now struggling to come to grips with their own abuse scandals.
Were the NCAA to exert just a portion of the energy and effort it spends investigating recruiting violations combating sexual violence on university campuses, thousands of victims might be protected from future harm. With hundreds of millions of dollars flooding the coffers of universities with powerful football teams, it is unconscionable that support programs for abuse victims should go begging for funding. It is the height of folly to praise the NCAA for holding Penn State accountable for failing to stop the crimes of Jerry Sandusky when it allows other programs to hide crimes of sexual assault with impunity. There is certainly no shortage of dollars available for the effort to combat sexual violence in all its forms on college campuses.
The NCAA and the major athletic conferences rake in (and then distribute to member institutions) hundreds of millions of dollars in bowl revenue. Next year, when college football moves to a playoff system half a billion (yes, billion) in revenue will be shared among schools that play in the bowls. This year, Notre Dame and Alabama should be required to commit substantial portions of their bowl revenue to programs that will ensure the safety of the tens of thousands of young men and women who come to their campuses every semester. Moving forward, any school that takes part in the new college football playoff system should be required, to commit substantive funding to promoting education, awareness, prevention, and support programs for survivors of sexual assault in their communities. Further, every student athlete (not just the football team) should be receiving mandatory training in sexual assault awareness and bystander training.
College sports have become big, big business in this country. And that is not necessarily a bad thing. Indeed, many professional teams and athletes make a point to devote substantial time, resources, and effort to support philanthropic programs in the communities they play for. But similar efforts to ensure revenues generated by college sports benefit the communities are sorely lacking. We should demand that participants in collegiate athletic programs are held to an ethical standard that prohibits any form of sexual violence. After all how valuable is a crystal championship trophy bought with the silence of victims?
-Article originally published here by MaleSurvivor.org.
–Football Photo: vox_efx/Flickr
–Notre Dame Mural Photo: paul_everett82/Flickr