An athlete who commits domestic violence should pay a price, but that won’t be levied by the NCAA.
The NCAA forbids a player from being immediately eligible if he or she transfers as an undergraduate to another school, but it shies away from eligibility legislation on an athlete who is found to be physically abusive. The governing body places the responsibility of penalizing the athlete with a domestic violence charge on the institutions. The conferences can have their say, and many do but to varying degrees. The SEC appears to be the most proactive and strict while the ACC and Big Ten follow the NCAA’s lead and allows the schools to police their own.
The SEC was the first of the major conferences to adopt a transfer rule that impacts athletes with a domestic violence background. According to a bylaw passed two years ago and then revised last year, SEC schools are prevented from accepting a transfer student with a history of domestic or sexual violence. If the athlete transfers to another conference institution, he or she must sit out two years and not be on scholarship. That effectively makes the athlete go elsewhere.
The Pac-12 and Big 12 have adopted similar transfer policies to the SEC, prohibiting transfers from participating in athletics if they are ineligible to re-enroll at any of their previous universities because of misconduct. The policy applies to issues such as assault, harassment, and academic fraud but not academic performance unrelated to misconduct.
While the Big Ten is standing pat, Indiana made news recently by doing what the SEC, Pac-12 and Big 12 have done with their institutions. The university released a new policy banning any prospective student who has a history of sexual assault or domestic violence from joining any of the school’s athletic programs.
The policy bars the acceptance of any transfer student or incoming freshman “who has been convicted of or pled guilty or no contest to a felony involving sexual violence…, or has been found responsible for sexual violence by a formal institutional disciplinary action at any previous collegiate or secondary school.”
Indiana athletic director Fred Glass told IndyStar that the policy was inspired by the transfer ban instituted by the SEC in 2015. “It’s something the SEC, with their transfer ban, I think raised the issue generally,” Glass told IndyStar. “We’ve been working on that since that time, in trying to put something together that makes sense for Indiana University.”
Indiana’s policy actually takes the crackdown on domestic violence a step further than the conferences, including trendsetter SEC. The conferences do not ban high school recruits implicated in a domestic violence charge. Their legislation only involves athletes who have signed a national letter of intent or financial aid agreement.
Last year, Mississippi State signed a recruit, Jeffery Simmons, who was captured on video hitting a woman. Simmons had not signed with another program. Simmons punishment was a suspension from playing in the Bulldogs’ opener last season. “We took our time and vetted this thing as best we could,” athletics director Scott Stricklin told reporters at SEC spring meetings last year. “The second thing is that we wanted to make sure that we weren’t making our campus unsafe. We weren’t introducing something on campus that would create an issue, which is why we spent a lot of time in his hometown talking to a lot of people.”
Varied degrees of policy enforcement are the result of the NCAA allowing the institutions to police their own. What is alright for Mississippi State is not acceptable at Indiana, or at least it will be perceived that way.
What happens with athletes before they reach college looks like the next debate. Indiana has spoken. Who’s next?