HOOVER, Ala. -- College athletes who break the law and violate university policies should be treated like all students within the university's judicial body, not by the athletic department, SEC commissioner Mike Slive said Thursday.
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) released a report last week that included a statistic that said more than 20 percent of universities allow their athletic departments to oversee sexual assault cases. McCaskill called the finding from a survey to be "borderline outrageous." McCaskill and other senators prodded NCAA president Mark Emmert into assuring he would raise the issue with NCAA leadership to correct.
Slive, who said he had not seen the survey, said: "When students -- and that means all students -- break the law, they ought to be held accountable by legal authorities. If you have violations of institutional rules, that should be handled by the institution's judicial body."
Slive said it's difficult to think of how a conference could play a role.
"We don't investigate any kind of cases," he said. "An institution knows its students and that's the appropriate place for it. What role the conference can play is when we have a new coaches' orientation, they come in and we talk about those issues and try to be of some assistance. But that's a secondary role."
McCaskill's report looked at whether universities in general are fairly handling sexual assault cases as more student victims come forward. The American Council on Education, the main lobbying group for higher education, called McCaskill's report unfair and incomplete.
Ada Meloy, ACE's general counsel, told Inside Higher Ed that colleges were "greatly disappointed" by the report. Meloy described the report as "a blanket indictment that draws unwarranted conclusions and ignores how hard colleges and universities are working to address this serious and complex societal issue."
The US Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights recently released a list of 64 colleges and universities being investigated for possible violations of federal law over the handling of sexual violence and harassment complaints. The list does not mean any college or university is violating or has violated the law. Vanderbilt is the lone SEC school on the list.
The Tennesseean reported in May that the Vanderbilt federal filing included a reference to the rape of an unconscious female student that led to the arrest of four football players. The players were expelled by the university.
Documents filed in the case in April alleged that former Vanderbilt coach James Franklin and then-director of performance enhancement Dwight Galt contacted the victim. The records state they "cared about her because she assisted them with recruiting" as part of a team of "pretty girls" designed for that purpose. Franklin, now Penn State's coach, has denied doing anything wrong.