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Indiana Athletics institutes ban on prospective athletes with history of sexual or domestic violence

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Indiana’s new policy will affect any potential transfer or incoming freshman.

NCAA Football: Southern Illinois at Indiana Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Fred Glass and Indiana have sent a message that should a prospective athlete possess an official record of sexual violence, there is no place for them at Indiana University.

The policy reads as follows:

Any prospective student-athlete -- whether a transfer student, incoming freshman, or other status -- who has been convicted of or pled guilty or no contest to a felony involving sexual violence (as defined below), or has been found responsible for sexual violence by a formal institutional disciplinary action at any previous collegiate or secondary school (excluding limited discipline applied by a sports team or temporary disciplinary action during an investigation) shall not be eligible for athletically-related financial aid, practice or competition at Indiana University. Indiana University Athletics shall conduct an appropriate inquiry into every prospective student-athlete’s background consistent with the due diligence below prior to providing him/her athletically-related aid or allowing him/her to practice or compete.

The policy draws a firm, clear line: if you’re convicted of (or plead guilty / no contest to) a felony involving dating violence, domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, or sexual violence, it’s an automatic ban. The ban only covers felony-level violence, meaning any misdemeanor convictions or felony charges that are later dropped or otherwise resolved without a finding of guilt will not trigger the ban.

That said, since no one actually deals in such absolutes, the policy gives athletes with these kind of records the opportunity to become Hoosiers anyway:

Relief from this mandatory disqualification policy may only be granted by a panel consisting of the University Title IX Coordinator, University General Counsel, and University Faculty Athletics Representative after a review by it of all the pertinent facts available and a finding of compelling exceptional circumstances.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good policy to have. This blog has made their stance about how domestic / sexual violence transgressions should affect one’s candidacy to be a part of Indiana athletics in any capacity. Could the policy go further? Certainly. To me, what the policy demonstrates is a university-wide commitment to Get It Right when it comes to these kind of situations while also acknowledging that certain situations will require more nuanced approach than a blanket ban can provide, and that’s what the panel review can provide. Felony convictions for sexual violence isn’t something that’s going to come up frequently with potential players, but when it does, programs now have clear guidance from the athletic department about what to do.

Finally, the policy also makes it clear that a potential Indiana University athlete can be disqualified for a litany of other reasons, even if such a disqualification is not automatic. The policy goes as far as to say that athletes with “demonstrated unacceptable conduct” should be disqualified

In addition to the mandatory disqualification of prospective student-athletes with records of sexual violence as set forth in this policy, prospective student-athletes may and should be disqualified for other demonstrated unacceptable misconduct. Specifically, consistent with the Student Conduct Policy, IU Athletics will carefully consider whether to recruit any prospective student-athletes with any serious and/or repetitive criminal, school discipline, or other misconduct issues. Also consistent with that policy, the sport administrator for the pertinent sport must approve the recruitment of any prospective student-athlete with any serious and/or repetitive criminal, school discipline, or other misconduct issues.

In sum: Indiana is not going to ignore off-the-field/court/pitch/track/pool conduct in its evaluation of a prospective athlete and, in certain cases, their conduct will be the beginning and end of that evaluation.