One of the premier college sports leagues in the US is called The Big Ten, which for the longest time included ten universities. It has since grown to more than ten universities, but they still call it The Big Ten.
Yet, what is terribly concerning and disheartening is four of the more prolific of these universities have two unfortunate similarities. They each had a major sexual assault predator and they each covered up their awareness allowing more students to be impacted. They are The Big Four.
Michigan State University employed a physician for its women’s gymnastics program who fondled young female athletes, sometimes right in front of their mother. The girls later testified they would look at their mother to see if what he was doing was alright. And, by hiding this doctor’s predator behavior, he also moved on to do the same for the US Olympic Women’s Gymnastics team.
Penn State University employed a football coach who would run camps for young football players enamored with Penn State. Sadly, he was a pedophile who preyed on these young boys, sometimes in his own basement den. The head football coach, athletic director and university president knew of his predatory behavior, but largely did not address the problem.
Ohio State University and University of Michigan are huge football rivals. But, each school had a physician who fondled male athletes or did rectal exams when unneeded. You go in with a cold and you would have to drop your pants. And, at each school, coaches were aware of the practice and did nothing. One Ohio State wrestling coach is now in Congress and denies ever being told about this, but six of his wrestlers say they told him. A Michigan player just appeared on Dr. Phil’s show and noted that the coaches would use going to the doctor as a threat.
When I saw the player make that statement, it just infuriated me even more. Coaches (plural) knew the doctor was violating their players and they not only did nothing about it, they used it as a threat? Really? That is not only bad stewardship, that is criminal behavior, in my view.
Let me be brutally frank. Young men, women, boys and girls were sexually assaulted by these men. By not doing anything about it, more young people were sexually assaulted. These universities have paid a price for their culpability, but well after the fact. Yet, if they acted when they first knew about it, they could have saved thousands of young people from being sexually assaulted.
Parents entrusted their kids to the coaches, staff and leadership of these universities. The breach of trust is staggering in its irresponsible nature. It is not unlike the Catholic Church, Southern Baptist convention, British youth football organization or Boy Scouts of America hiding and covering-up for their sexual predators that numbered many more than just a few. All in the name of protecting their brand. Yet, what each entity did was far more harmful to their brands. They valued their brands more than the people who treasured those brands.
I have purposefully avoided mentioning the names of these predators. Preying on young adults, teens and, in some cases, adolescents is inexcusable. But, it is also inexcusable for those in the know who failed to act or chose not to act as they did not want to upset the powers that be. At the end of the movie about a very famous head football coach who did not act, there was a phone call made to a hotline telling them that this victim had raised the issue twenty years before the police investigation said it started. It was chilling that he had let someone know that many years before. And, nothing happened, except more molestation of many more kids.